By Bryan Hoch / Special to MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tears welled in Bret Boone's eyes, his lower lip quivering ever so slightly. Something inside had told him to go home.
Boone's 14-year Major League career came to an end Wednesday in the dugout at Tradition Field. The three-time All-Star pointed to his chest, said his inner fire was missing and announced his retirement.
"Something I've loved my whole life has become a major, major job for me," Boone said. "I don't think it would be fair for me -- or fair to the Mets -- to continue something I've loved my whole life and had so much passion for, and all of a sudden that passion isn't there anymore."
Boone, 37, was in camp with the Mets on a Minor League contract, accepting a non-roster invitation to Spring Training. After batting .221 in 88 games for the Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins last season, Boone said he wanted to leave the game on his terms.
"At the end of the day, physically I think I could still do it," Boone said. "It wasn't as easy as three or four years ago to get out there every day, but to me, I just lost it. I lost the edge."
Mets GM Omar Minaya said that he supported the decision. Boone was absent from camp on Tuesday, when the Mets went through their first intra-squad game, and decided to retire now rather than go through the team's exhibition schedule.
"He did not disappoint us," Minaya said. "It takes a man to make a decision. One of the reasons we brought Bret on board this spring was because of the way he plays the game -- the way he gave in the clubhouse, the passion he brought to the game. That passion was something that was contagious. I fully support his decision."
Boone said a pivotal moment came when he watched 22-year-old shortstop Jose Reyes last week, gleefully coasting through drills even after four hours in the Florida sun.
"He just kind of stared at me with that smile on his face," Boone said. "I said, 'That's what I remember.' Being a kid. He's got so much love right now for this game, and it's right on his sleeve. I know what he's feeling.
"He can't wait to get to the ballpark and go to work, and that's awesome. That's what you need to be successful in this game, and if you don't have that, you're wasting everybody's time."
Boone finishes his career as a lifetime .266 hitter with the Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and Twins. A four-time Gold Glove award winner and a two-time Silver Slugger recipient, Boone compiled 1,775 hits, 252 home runs and 1,021 RBI in 1,780 career games.
Boone's retirement leaves three candidates -- Kaz Matsui, Anderson Hernandez and Jeff Keppinger -- in the race to be the Mets' Opening Day second baseman. Minaya said he is confident the team will fill the position.
"We'll find ways," Minaya said. "We'll find guys to be able to get the job done."