J.D. Drew considers life after baseball

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When J.D. Drew was a collegiate baseball player at Florida State University, professional scouts from all 30 big league teams were sent to watch him play in order to get a full understanding of the complete player.

Drew's abilities made him one of the most highly touted players at the time. He eventually signed his first pro contract with the St. Louis Cardinals after they selected him in the first round (fifth overall) in the 1998 draft.

"I was sent there to watch what a complete, five-tool player looked liked," said one American League scout.

That was then.

This is now.

The 2010 season will be Drew's 13th in the majors, and he's under contract with the Boston Red Sox until the end of the 2011 campaign. The 34-year-old outfielder has accomplished many things in his career, and prior to the first day of full-squad workouts for the Red Sox on Wednesday at the Player Development Complex, Drew discussed with ESPNBoston.com the possibility of hanging up the spikes when his contract expires.

"I think every player has a mindset that one day it'll be enough," he said. "It'll be 14 years in the majors for me when this contract runs out. As things kind of go you get mixed emotions. I want my kids to see the game a little bit, and kind of remember the game. I know my son will, and my daughter will probably a little bit as well, but there are on-going mixed emotions."

The idea of retirement isn't something that he just recently thought of. Drew has discussed it in the past with his wife, Sheigh, and there's a real possibility it could happen sooner rather than later.

Drew says there are many reasons why he would be able to just walk away from the game. He's financially secure and could end his career with earnings roughly reaching $100 million. He's been an All-Star and has won a World Series. And being with his children (his son Jack just turned 4 and his daughter Ella is 2) as they grow up is very important for Drew.

"My calling is to play this game, but now that I have two small kids there are things I look forward to do outside of baseball that you can't do because of the eight-month season. Do I stick around for a year or two more? Do I finish up strong and see where I'm at? That'll be an on-going battle during the last year of my contract, for sure, and what direction I want to head."

If Drew decides to continue his baseball career after 2011, there's only one place he wants to play -- Boston.

"I've had a great run. I've been often criticized in different areas, and often praised in some areas -- that's baseball," he said. "I think the big key for me is as long as I feel like I've given the game, especially for a team [like the Red Sox], the best I can both defensively and offensively, [I'll be happy]. It would be hard for me to leave and transition to a new team. Sometimes the business side of the game takes you from different team to different team, but I've got a good thing going with the front office and my teammates."

If he does decide to call it quits, Drew says he wants to travel and perform missionary work.

He grew up in the small town of Hahira, Ga. It's the kind of town where boys work the farms with their fathers. It was in that town where Drew learned to love the game of baseball with his two brothers -- Tim and Stephen, who also played professionally.

Now Drew finds himself at a different kind of crossroads. The kind where he'll have to make a life-changing decision once his contract expires. Until then, however, his plan is to produce and help the Red Sox win another World Series.

While the rest of his teammates were participating in the first full-squad workout of the spring, Drew was in the clubhouse as he continues his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery, a procedure to remove bone spurs. He said he's feeling good and he's expecting to be 100 percent in time for Opening Day on April 4 against the New York Yankees.

"The more he's on the field, the better team we are," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He understands that. It's my responsibility, our responsibility, if he needs a day off to give him one before it turns into four.

"He gives us a certain amount of flexibility and he can hit anywhere in the order," added Francona. "There are a lot of things that he brings that maybe do go unnoticed by the regular fan base that maybe we appreciate more than other people."

Whether or not Drew decides to retire two seasons from now, he would have already made his mark in the big leagues, certainly in Boston.

His talk of retirement isn't Manny Ramirez-esque. Drew is genuine and serious.

"God's timing is perfect and he'll pull me one way or the other," he said. "That's where my heart is. We pray about a lot of stuff to make sure we're going in the right direction, so if it's another year or two of baseball, that's what I'll do. If I'm at peace with shutting it down and doing other ventures in life, we'll do that, too."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.