LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA – Wearing a golf shirt with a Michigan State logo and a press pass dangling from his belt loop, John Smoltz sure looked retired Wednesday.
Smoltz visited Braves camp in what he said was a research mission for his new role as TV broadcaster. He’s not quite retired, but it’s getting easier to talk about the “R” word.
When asked if he was retired, Smoltz said. “Not officially, but close.”
Closer, even in the last week, Smoltz said. It’s been about that long since Turner Sports and the MLB Network announced Smoltz would be joining their broadcasts this season. That’s helped spur his decision-making along.
“I’m not really ready to say I’m 100 percent committed, done,” said Smoltz, now 42. “As long as there’s a small crack, it’s a small crack. We’ll see what happens.”
That said, Smoltz said he stopped throwing off a mound a month ago. The only work he has planned for his surgically-repaired right shoulder is throwing some batting practice, perhaps, at King’s Ridge Christian School, an Alpharetta school he helped found.
“I’ve been praying for that answer: take the desire (to pitch) or give me the desire,” said Smoltz, who’s spent the offseason somewhere between the two.
Smoltz said St. Louis never came through with an offer he was hoping for after his seven-game comeback with the Cardinals last year, as well as a postseason appearance. He garnered some interest from the Phillies, Smoltz said, but a formal offer never materialized. One that did was from Washington Nationals’ president Stan Kasten, the former Braves president, who wanted Smoltz to start for the Nats and eventually coach.
“I was very honored by the opportunity he was presenting,” Smoltz said. “It just wasn’t the right thing for me.”
Smoltz said Wednesday he no longer has anything to prove on the mound. He’s got Hall-of-Fame credentials, as the first pitcher ever to record 200 wins (213) and 150 saves (154). He’s second all-time to the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte with 15 postseason wins.
He already proved he could come back from the fifth surgery of his career, this time on his shoulder in 2008. After an unsuccessful stint with the Red Sox last summer (8.32 ERA in eight games), he went 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA in the Cardinals’ bullpen.
“I still believed I could come back,” Smoltz said. “Not only could I come back, I could be really good. Well the ‘really good’ part was probably not to the degree I thought, but I did come back. And I had a chance to pitch in the playoffs again.”
Smoltz was ready, though, when the TV opportunity came.
He’ll serve as an analyst on 25 broadcasts for Peachtree TV, three national games for TBS, 10-15 games on the MLB Network and 10-15 pre-game broadcasts for the MLB Network.
“As I look back, it’s had a perfect path,” Smoltz said. “I’m doing exactly what I want to do with who I want to do it with.”
In between broadcasts, Smoltz said he can see himself coaching some basketball and maybe playing in a qualifier for the U.S. Open. He’s no longer waiting for the phone to ring.
“Could I get ready in two months or a month? Yeah, absolutely,” Smoltz said. “But that’s not where I’m at.”