LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier approached this offseason with the intent of playing. He took batting practice regularly, worked out vigorously and waited for the opportunity that ultimately never materialized. He told himself that he would give it until April, but February came and Ethier grew tired with the routine. He put down the bat, began playing golf and tennis on a daily basis, and slowly brought himself to this moment, on Friday afternoon, when the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated his retirement.
"It's flattering and humbling to have all this fuss for a guy who was just another player in a long line of great Dodgers," Ethier said, his two sons, Dreson and Retton, seated to his right. "It meant a lot to me to play in L.A. for 12 years and play in front of these fans."
Ethier, 36, is an Arizona product who became a second-round draft pick by the Oakland Athletics in 2003 and came over in the December 2005 trade that saw the Dodgers part ways with Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez, representing the first major acquisition of the Ned Colletti era.
Ethier wound up spending his entire major league career with the Dodgers, compiling 162 home runs, 1,367 hits and a .285/.359/.463 slash line. He won a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award, went to the All-Star Game in 2010 and 2011, and signed a five-year, $85 million extension the following summer.
"If I could do one more thing," Ethier said, "it would be to play one more game with Matt."
The Dodgers were hosting the defending champion Houston Astros, which triggered bittersweet memories for Ethier. His last game came against the Astros last fall. He drove in a run in Game 7 of the World Series at Chavez Ravine, but the Dodgers lost that game and watched the Astros celebrate on their home turf.
"I'm not gonna lie -- I would love to be out there playing," Ethier said. Then he glanced over at Pederson and smiled. "If Joc can get a hit, I can get a hit."
The Dodgers honored Ethier during an on-field ceremony that was emceed by celebrated actor Jason Bateman and included a moving video tribute.
Ethier was part of seven division titles and eight postseason appearances. He produced 14 walk-off RBIs, trailing only Dusty Baker (16) for the franchise record. On the Dodgers' all-time list, he finished third in doubles (303), fourth in extra-base hits (499), sixth in RBIs (687) and seventh in games played (1,455).
Ethier was a productive player as recently as 2015, batting .294 with 14 home runs in 395 at-bats. But he played in only 38 regular-season games over the last two seasons, slowed by a fractured tibia and a herniated disc.
He wasn't quite ready to give up.
"I was honestly geared up and ready to go," Ethier said about the possibility of playing in 2018. "The business side, you just start to realize there's not a market. Markets just don't develop. I had been joking a lot that if you can't find a job, then I guess you retire. That's what happened."