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At this point, it's Hampton's call

Special to

December 7

SUGARLAND, Texas -- It has been five weeks since Mike Hampton sat in the Shea Stadium clubhouse, not believing he wouldn't be facing Roger Clemens in Game 6 of the World Series. It has been five weeks of visits from owners, general managers and managers, and calls from players. It has been so crazy that his first opportunity to have lunch with former teammate Jeff Bagwell finally came Wednesday.

Mike Hampton
Starting Pitcher
Free Agent
15-10 217.2 194 99 151 3.14

"I really want this to be over," Hampton said. "At this point, I can't go wrong. I can't live in a bad place. At this point, we just want to know where that place will be. At this point, I'm thinking we should do it the way we picked (youngest son) Griffin's name -- we put the five names we liked best in a basket and let Michael pick one out."

To get a feeling for who Mike Hampton is, here is the reason he asked his agent, Mark Rodgers, not to fly him around to the 10 or 12 teams that wanted to meet him.

"I didn't want to be away from my family any longer; I'm away from them enough during the season as is, I wanted them to get back here to our home and get everyone settled," he said. "I'm a small-town person (from Homosassa Springs, Fla.) who likes stability. I spent six great years here in Houston, and I'd like something like that for the next six or eight years."

Hampton has been offered an eight-year contract by the Rockies, and seven-year deals by the Cardinals, Mets and Cubs.

"Money is no longer an issue," he said. "It's up to me."

Denny Neagle called him after signing with the Rockies. Darryl Kile and Dave Veres called to sell him on St. Louis. But when Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty asked if Rodgers thought it would be a good idea to have Mark McGwire call, he was told Mike is exhausted from it all and just wants to think it out.

"From day to day, hour to hour, my mind keeps changing," said Hampton. "Fans don't want to hear this, but this gets to be pretty wearing, because while we can't go wrong, there are all those teams that have been so good to us and that I know have great situations."

On Wednesday, one bet might have been Colorado, St. Louis or Atlanta. A lot of baseball people would bet St. Louis.

"The Cubs will not be outspent, they told me that," said an agent.

And Hampton makes it very clear that he loved his time with the Mets.

"I don't think I ever could have been prepared to go through this if the Astros hadn't traded me," he said. "I'd have probably just stayed in Houston and re-signed. But the New York experience was good in all kinds of ways. We lived downtown (61st and Columbus, at Central Park) because my wife wanted to experience Manhattan and go to plays and things like that.

"If I were to go back, I'd live in the suburbs (Todd Zeile and Robin Ventura have called to extol Greenwich, Conn.). But I really liked the players, guys like Johnny Franco and Robin and Todd and Edgardo Alfonzo and Mike Piazza and, of course and especially, Al Leiter. I appreciate getting the chance to play in the World Series. I could be very happy there."

But Hampton could be happy in a number of places, and the teams are all willing to pay him more than $13 million for six to eight years.

"I don't think I ever would have dreamed that it could have gone like this, that people would be so great to me," Hampton said. "Andy MacPhail, Dan O'Dowd, Tony La Russa, John Schuerholz ... it's been incredible. They all knew what it would take to get me to go to their cities, and basically they've all made it possible.

"I can't go wrong. But which one is right is the tough call. I'll be very happy when it's over."

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