SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Bengie Molina couldntunderstand why his in-laws wanted to browse in the sporting goods store for solong Saturday afternoon. He couldnt figure out why they suddenly wanted toleave. And when he approached his house, he didnt recognize the carsparked on the street. Thats when I knew, Molina told me.Something was going on.
Hewalked into a surprise retirement party and a room full of former teammates,coaches, trainers and clubhouse personnel. Matt Cain, Barry Zito, JeremyAffeldt and Travis Ishikawa were there from his years with the Giants. Heplayed with Ramon Ortiz and Ervin Santana with the Angels. And there wereothers he never counted as teammates: catchers like Ramon Hernandez and MiguelMontero, and yes, newest Angel Albert Pujols. Thatsthe impact Bengie had on guys around the league, Cain told me. It was great.We had a good time. Its always fun to be around Bengie. He was a great teammate,such a great family guy, and really, a great friend. You know youve got alifetime friend with Bengie. He always cared about all his teammates and itshowed. It showed last night." Molina hasnt playedsince Game 5 of the World Series, when he was the starting catcher for theTexas Rangers -- a team he joined after a July 1 trade that basically freed upthe catching position for Buster Posey with the Giants. Hedidnt play last season but hadnt announced his retirement. The party made itofficial. It was a special night, said Molina, whosesurprise bash was organized by his wife, Jamie. I cant thank enough all thepeople that came. At some point they touched my life and helped me be who I amright now. Molina retires with a .274 average over parts of13 major league seasons with the Angels, Blue Jays, Giants and Rangers. Hesalso the eldest of the history-making Molina clan, joining Jose and Yadier asthe only trio of brothers to own World Series rings. Infact, theyll each own two. Yadier claimed his second ringlast season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jose owns a pair as well; he andBengie were teammates on the 2002 Angels club that defeated the Giants. Josewon another with the 09 Yankees. And yes, Bengie has tworings in his collection. Even though he played on the losing side in 2010, theGiants saw fit to give him a ring for the contributions he made prior to theJuly 1 trade for reliever Chris Ray. Giants vice presidentBobby Evans arranged for one of the Tiffany sparklers to be sent to Bengieshouse. Yeah, I have it with me, Bengie said. Im veryproud of that. Even though I didnt play for them in the World Series, I felt Ihelped those kids. I wasnt part of the winning team, but I contributed in manyother ways. It was a really good feeling when they gave that tome. The Giants are sure to stage many, many reunions andevents for the 2010 World Series champions in the future. Bengie said he hopesto be a part of them. Oh, I would enjoy it with all myheart, he said. You dont have any idea. Ill go back in a heartbeat. Anyday, doesnt matter. Giants fans treated me with respect and gave me theirlove. I have nothing to be ashamed of to go back. I stillcheer for the Giants. All my friends are there. It all depends on whatownership wants. Its common for retiring players toreflect on their careers and appreciate the time that they enjoyed in the bigleagues. Molina didnt need to stop playing to appreciate what he had. Hewasnt drafted, signed for 500 and paid every due imaginable in the minorleagues while proving he was more than an organizationalplayer. In addition to his big league friends, members ofthe Angels front office and clubhouse staff were at the party to congratulatehim. So were his old coach and pitching coach (yes, he was once a pitcher) fromArizona Western College. Im a kid who wasnt supposed tomake it, he said. I was one step lower than everyone else. So Im very happywith what I was able to make and what I did in my career. I wake up every dayand thank God for the opportunities I had. I have no regrets inbaseball. Hes especially happy for the pitchers he workedwith over the years. I always wanted them to be greatpitchers to help us win, but I also wanted them to be able to make a living andbe able to take care of thief families, he said. I look back at a JarrodWashburn or John Lackey, or a (Tim) Lincecum or Cain. They were able to makegood money to support their families. Do you know how great I feel aboutthat? Those pitchers felt just as good about pulling thesurprise on him. It was important to support Bengie becausehes been such a supportive person when he played, Zito told me. Hes one ofthe best teammates Ive ever had. It was important to take time to let him knowI wish him well in the next phase of his life. It can be a daunting thing for aplayer to go to the next stage. This is a lifestyle, not just ajob. Next up for Molina is some traveling, fishing andenjoying time with his wife and two daughters. He wants to take a trip to seethe Olympics in London.Then, in a year or two, he plans to look for a coaching position where he canmake an impact. His late father, Benjamin, was deeply invested in youthbaseball in Puerto Rico until the day he diedof a heart attack in 2008. He was crossing the street with boxes of baseballsin his hands when he collapsed. I want to dedicate myselfto do what my dad did: teaching kids how to play, and also how to be a betterperson and how to love their families, Bengie said. Im going to try to passit on. For now, he has one more message to pass along tofans: They made a difference in my life, he said. Pleasetell the fans, and not only Giants fans, but wherever I played, tell them I saythank you so much for all the support and the cheers. Everything I did, I didfrom the heart. For the Giants, tell them congratulations from me for the WorldSeries, and thank you. And tell them theyve got a youngcatcher theyll enjoy for a long, long time. Buster Posey is a superstar. Hesso serious. He wants to get better every day. Were always texting each otherand hes a great kid. I love him a lot. I think of him as one of my brothers,too.