Posted at 8:50 AM on April 20, 2006
by David Zingler
Ruben Sierra's 20 years in the major leagues have seen him evolve from one the game's elite players into a seldom used pinch hitter. Like most aging athletes however, Sierra doesn't think he's changed a bit.
"I feel like a superstar, but I don't have the opportunity anymore to play everyday and let other people know that I can be a superstar again," the 40-year-old explained, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. "I have to take what they give me."
Sierra inked a minor league contract with the Twins over the winter and, after recovering from a quadriceps injury, joined the team this week. The Twins plan on using the veteran mainly as a pinch hitter, but he should also see some action in right field and at DH.
"I was working at first base," Sierra commented when discussing his role with his new team, "but I hurt myself at spring training and everything changed. I am going to work on first base in the off season -- play winter ball in Puerto Rico or something."
Despite a long, distinguished career, the four-time All Star is best known for an award he didn't get -- the 1989 AL MVP. Despite leading the league in RBI, total bases, slugging percentage and triples, the then Ranger finished a close second to Milwaukee's Robin Yount on a controversial ballot.
"People still remember me for that," Sierra noted "It happened a long time ago. Sometimes I think about it...it might have turned my career in a different direction. That's the way I see it."
A veteran of five postseasons, including a World Series appearance with the Yankees in 2003, Sierra says a ring would be nice, but it is not what keeps him going.
"Not really," he quipped when asked about the elusive jewelry. "I am glad that God gave me the opportunity to play in the World Series and playoffs...It's good motivation to work hard all season to get to that point."
While Sierra may not have played on a World Series winner, he does have one very powerful ally -- namely the President of the United States, George W. Bush. While part owner of the Texas Rangers in the early 1990s, Bush described Sierra as his "favorite player" and began a loose friendship with the Puerto Rican that still exists today.
"We are still friends," Sierra said of his relationship with the president. "He's busy right now, but when we went to Baltimore last year, I went to the White House and talked to him."
If Sierra has any future political ambitions (he gave no indication), he hopes they stay on hold for a few more years -- at least. "(I want to play) until they say 'no more'," the grizzled veteran proclaimed with a grin.