By age 40, after a long career in the majors, a man ought to know where he stands on the subject of home runs: Is he for 'em or against 'em? But Dante Bichette is making a midlife switch. The four-time Rockies All-Star and one of the most feared hitters of the 1990s came out of retirement last month--to pitch for the Nashua Pride of the independent Atlantic League.
Judging by Bichette's first three outings--he's 0-1 with an ERA of 12.00 in a start and two relief appearances--Mariano Rivera's job is safe. But hurling in the bigs isn't Bichette's goal. "I wanted to see what it felt like to bear down and try to get professional hitters out," he says. After retiring in 2001, Bichette pitched in a pickup league near Orlando. He also took up tennis; he credits his 90-mph fastball to the arm strength he gained working on his serve. When he realized that his youngest son, Bo, 6, had no memory of him as a player, he mounted a low-pressure comeback on the mound. "I told [Pride manager Butch Hobson], 'I'll hit for you if you let me pitch,'" says Bichette, who makes $1,200 a month. Playing mostly first base, Bichette has hit well enough (.331, 16 home runs) to draw interest from a few Japanese teams. But he's eyeing his next start: Hobson has promised him one after the Pride clinches a playoff spot. "It's something I've always wanted to do," he says.
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II/1DEUCE3 PHOTOGRAPHY (BICHETTE)