Former major league All-Star Brad Hawpe, who played for the Colorado Rockies (2004-10), Tampa Bay Rays (2010) and San Diego Padres (2011), is working his way back to baseball's highest level after being sidelined with Tommy John surgery. Deseret News sports writer Dirk Facer recently caught up with the 33-year-old Salt Lake Bees outfielder at Spring Mobile Ballpark. Hawpe, who was a pitcher out of high school and has always had a strong arm, developed his skills as a position player in junior college and at LSU before embarking on a pro career. He suffered stress fractures in his ribs diving for a ball in 2010 but played through the injury at the request of his manager. A year later, Hawpe hurt his arm on an outfield throw — leading to Tommy John surgery.
Q: How big of a thrill was it to win the College World Series while playing at LSU?
A: It was the most fun I've had in baseball. I've been very blessed to play in the big league World Series. I've played in a big league All-Star game and did a bunch of trivial stuff in the minor leagues. But that was by the far the most fun I've had.
Q: What was it like to be a Major League Baseball All-Star in 2009?
A: That was a cool experience. You know what? It's something that would be really neat if every player could experience it once. Obviously, a lot of people get to go eight or nine or 10 times, but it's just such a neat deal the way they treat people — just the three-day experience of just really feeling special and having fun. It's a neat deal for your family. I got to take my kids out on the field during Home Run Derby and do all that stuff. It was a lot of fun.
Q: How has your recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2011 gone?
A: It's not frustrating because you know what, I've been very blessed in this sport — many years in the big leagues and good contracts and great teammates and great memories. So I've been very blessed. As far as coming back, I tried to make the team with the Pirates out of spring training. It didn't happen, but I got a bunch of phone calls when I got home. I wasn't interested. I said, 'You know what? I'm done. I don't want to play. I'm ready to go coach my kids and start home life.' Talking to the Angels (general manager Jerry Dipoto), just somehow, for some reason, I got talked out of it one more time and I thought I'd give it one more shot.
Q: Is this your final shot at returning to the big leagues?
A: Well, yeah. If I don't make it up then it will be. If I do make it up and I go out there and perform like I think I can, then I'd like to play a few more years. But if I can't play in the major leagues then, yeah. I mean, I've been very blessed.
Q: What do you think of Salt Lake City?
A: It's a beautiful city. This is great. You sit here and look at these mountains. I like it so much I just brought my wife and kids out here. I flew them out here yesterday. I'm already booking something to come skiing up here this winter. I mean it looks too cool. We're going to go ski at Deer Valley or Park City or do something like that. It's just a beautiful place. Downtown reminds me a lot of Denver, a real pretty place. I'm real thankful to be here.