TAMPA, Fla. -- CC Sabathia, the left-hander who is entering his 19th major league season, formally announced Saturday that he'll be calling it quits at the end of 2019.
"I just wanted to make this announcement that 2019 is my final season," Sabathia said at the start of his news conference at the New York Yankees' spring training complex.
Fighting to contain his emotion, the 38-year-old credited his mother -- "I owe her the world" -- and wife for their support at multiple stages of his baseball life. He also reflected fondly on his late father, remembering a conversation shared at the outset of Sabathia's big-league career.
"He always told me I'd play for the Yankees," Sabathia said. "And when I was in Cleveland, I'd be like, 'No, no chance. I'm going to be an Indian my whole career.' He always said, 'When you're a free agent, the Yankees are going to come get you, and you're going to win a World Series with the Yankees.'"
In 2009, Sabathia's first year in pinstripes, the Yankees won their 27th championship. He's hoping to be sent out this year with No. 28.
"For me to be able to live out that dream for him is great, but I just wish he would have been here," Sabathia said.
So why retire now? Recent knee trouble and a desire to be home with his wife and growing children were major motivating factors. He wants to attend the dance recitals and youth-league tournaments he's missed over the years. A mid-winter health scare also added to his urgency to leave after this season.
"I didn't want to overstay my welcome or anything like that. I wanted to be effective and be able to go out and feel like I have a chance to help the team win," Sabathia said. "I feel like I'm still able to do that.
"Being able to go out with my last year and just giving everything, hopefully that'll turn out good for me and not trying to save something for 2020 or years after that. This is it. This is the final year."
The only legacy Sabathia said he was ever concerned about was to be a good teammate.
As he made his retirement plans official, Sabathia was seated at the podium next to his wife Amber and three of their four children -- the fourth was playing in a basketball tournament and was unable to attend.
Numerous Yankees players who had already reported to spring training also were present.
"He's like a big brother, man," center fielder Aaron Hicks said. "There's certain conversations we'd have, whether it's talking about just life in general or enjoying playing baseball.
"He really tried to tap into your inner talent and being able to dream big and think big. It's just awesome for me to have him as a resource."
Similar sentiments have reverberated throughout the Yankees' clubhouse since Sabathia came to New York. Even players who have spent comparatively little time with Sabathia have felt his impact.
"A guy who's done as much as he has, to be successful and still be as good a guy as he is -- kind, funny and obviously he has a presence about him," said fellow Yankees starter J.A. Happ, who began playing with Sabathia last July. "That combination of things is what a person should look like."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who also played with Sabathia in Cleveland, joked about the six times he faced the lefty during his playing career. Boone recalled the lone hit in those six plate appearances was an infield hit.
Boone also remembered the night of July 13, 2001. That evening, at old Cinergy Field in Cincinnati, Sabathia, a rookie, struck him out three times.
"The third time I went down, I fell down swinging," Boone said.
Sabathia's retirement comes after he spent recent seasons adjusting his pitching style in order to continue being effective. A noted high-strikeout flamethrower when he first debuted for Cleveland, Sabathia has been more of a finesse pitcher the past few years.
Injuries, noticeably flare-ups with arthritic inflammation in his right knee, have also slowed Sabathia since 2014.
Despite that, the strikeouts have still come. He's just 14 strikeouts away from joining the 3,000-strikeout club. He's also four wins away from becoming the 14th player with 3,000 career strikeouts and 250 career wins.
"Between his knees, you just [wonder] how much longer can this go. Then he just follows it up with another he-finds-a-way type of year," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "And I'm hoping he finds a way this year."
Cashman and the Yankees re-signed Sabathia to a one-year contract in November.
"CC has been a great ambassador for our game, and we are proud that he has represented our organization for the past decade," Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement. "His competitive spirit is matched only by his devotion to family and his relentless philanthropic pursuits. CC has always been a pillar in our clubhouse, and we look forward to him further cementing his impressive legacy this season and contributing to our championship goals."
Along with statements from Yankees-related officials and former players, the team also received statements about Sabathia's retirement from other athletic and pop-culture icons such as LeBron James, Steve Kerr and Fat Joe.
Bob Sampayan, the mayor of Vallejo, California, even weighed in on the city's beloved native.
"CC has been loved by Vallejo for many years and has been highly respected by the residents of Vallejo as a role model for our young people to follow," Sampayan's statement said.
Just before Christmas, Sabathia was unexpectedly had to undergo a heart procedure after complaints of short breath after a throwing session at Yankee Stadium. He has since been cleared to return to baseball activity, although he hasn't yet thrown off a mound.
Before signing with the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia pitched for Cleveland and spent half a season with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"I had the pleasure of competing against CC and also with him, and have always considered him one of my favorite teammates," former Yankees shortstop and Miami Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement. "... CC embodies what it means to be a professional athlete and has been an incredible ambassador for baseball. He has an unwavering commitment to success on the field and an even greater desire to give back through his foundation work off the field."