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Biggio visits team event, chats about baseball career

| Monday, January 26, 2015

Notre Dame had a little help kicking off the season at its annual meet the team dinner from recently-named Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Craig Biggio.

“It’s still a little overwhelming and humbling, and we’re taking it all in … we’re really excited,” Biggio said about the recent news of his induction. “The people in Houston are excited, the fans, the organization and obviously my family and I. We’re very honored and humbled.”

Irish sophomore infielder Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, stands in awaiting a pitch during a 2-1 win against Clemson at Eck Stadium on May 9.Michael Yu | The Observer
Irish sophomore infielder Cavan Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, stands in awaiting a pitch during a 2-1 win against Clemson at Eck Stadium on May 9.

“I owe everything to the game of baseball. Everything I have because of baseball. I love the game, I respect the game and I appreciate the game for all of the right reasons. And I’ll never forget it. I was a very lucky man to be able to put on a big league uniform on for 20 years. I just love to play, it was always enjoyable. I would have played it for free.”

Biggio’s two sons, senior outfielder Conor and sophomore second baseman Cavan, watched their father address their teammates and season ticket holders from the podium Monday night as the keynote speaker. Irish coach Mik Aoki said that an address like this is not a rare occurrence for the seven-time all star, just more formal than usual.

“It’s awesome,” Aoki said about Biggio being elected. “But I think what makes it more awesome is that the Biggios are so inclusive with the whole thing. It’s not like Craig is a guy our players are not familiar with. They’re really familiar with him and he’s here a lot. [The Biggios] are just like another family in our program, and this one just happens to be going into the Hall of Fame.”

Biggio was voted into Cooperstown on Jan. 6 in his third year of eligibility alongside three other players, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz, all of whom were pitchers in their first year of eligibility.

“I’m just glad we’re in and that’s all that matters,” Biggio said about making into the Hall. “We’re excited for all of the obvious reasons. Whether it’s the first time or third time, we’re just glad that we’re in. It’s a pretty small group of guys. Only 214 [players] plus four now, and that’s pretty darn special. That’s why we are so humbled by it.”

Biggio spent all 20 of his seasons in professional baseball with the Houston Astros, playing a myriad of positions. Biggio broke into baseball as a catcher, moved to second base and eventually played in the outfield for Houston. He is the only player in MLB history to be named an all star at both catcher and second base.

“I take a lot of pride in doing everything the organization asked me to do,” Biggio said. “It was always about the team and it was always about the organization.”

Biggio — known for his unrelinquishing work ethic, consistency as a player and team spirit — said he passed his baseball advice and experience on to his two sons.

“The game doesn’t really care what your name or number is, it’s how you handle it,” Biggio said. “And you’re going to have good times and bad times and you have to understand that humility is part of the game. Big leaguers always say it’s about remaining even keel and it’s always about the team.”

The five-time Silver Slugger winner said he is thankful for all of the years he was able to play professionally, but it was ultimately family that made Biggio retire.

“I could have probably played a couple more years, but the most important thing to me was retiring for Conor and getting to know him,” Biggio said. “I had four years to spend time with him and get to know him before he went on his own way. We’re enjoying it. We’ve been through a lot as a family, and we’re excited about the path they’re on here and we’re excited about the direction they’re going in their lives.”

Biggio, who was three semesters short of a degree from Seton Hall, said it was important for him and his wife their two sons went to college and got an education. Biggio said Notre Dame was the perfect fit.

“My wife and I, we believe in the college route,” Biggio said. “We believe that sooner or later you’re going to need an education. I understand. I’ve seen guys come to the big leagues, they’re there for a year or two year and that’s it. We understand the importance of having an education, and getting an education at one of the greatest institutions in the country is kind of hard to say no to.”

Biggio said he has had a lot of time to reflect on his career since his retirement in 2007.

“I guess when you retire you start reflecting on a lot of things,” Biggio said. “You reflect on the relationship you had with the fans, you reflect on the relationships you had with your teammates, the guys in the opposing uniforms, the clubhouse guys, the trainers, just everybody involved your life. Twenty years in the big leagues is a long time and that’s a lot of reflection and people to be grateful for and thankful for. But that’s what makes playing in the big leagues a really special thing because of the relationships you have.”

Although Notre Dame had no involvement with Craig Biggio’s career, Aoki said it was special for Biggio to share his momentous honor with the Notre Dame community. Aoki said he hopes his players will learn something from Biggio’s presence.

“He did every little thing that you could possible do in the game,” Aoki said. “He’s one of those team guys that did everything he could possibly do to promote the success of the team.”

Biggio will give his induction speech at the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, on July 26.

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