Rice says big leaguers self-absorbed

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Jim Rice's advice to Little Leaguers: Don't use today's major leaguers as role models.

Speaking to players before the start of the Little League World Series, the new baseball Hall of Famer said today's major leaguers are too focused on individual goals and getting big contracts.

"You see a Manny Ramirez, you see an A-Rod [Alex Rodriguez], you see [Derek] Jeter ... Guys that I played against and with, these guys you're talking about cannot compare," Rice said to Little Leaguers gathered in the cafeteria.

The former Red Sox outfielder played 16 seasons in Boston, batting .298 with 382 homers before retiring in 1989.

"We didn't have the baggy uniforms. We didn't have the dreadlocks," Rice said. "It was a clean game, and now they're setting a bad example for the young guys."

New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi responded to Rice's remarks before his team played the Red Sox Friday.

"Do players in today's game make a nice salary? Of course they do," Girardi said before New York's game with the Boston Red Sox. "And have players from the past made sacrifices for that? Yes. And I still think players try to grow the game today just like players in the past."

Asked later at a news conference to list current players worthy of the Hall of Fame, Rice suggested Seattle Mariner outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Ken Griffey Jr., and Chicago White Sox slugger Jim Thome.

He said he believes current Hall of Famers who did not cheat don't want players who took performance-enhancing drugs to join them in the Hall.

Flexing the muscles in his right arm, Rice said, "That's all the steroids you need . . . It's called God-given talent."

Rice's talk to Little Leaguers was part of his first trip to Williamsport since playing minor league baseball in the central Pennsylvania city in 1971.

He urged players to have respect for their coaches, teammates and parents, and to concentrate on improving the weakest part of their game. Rice said he had to put in extra work to improve his fielding.

Rice's appearance was part of a promotion by Allstate Insurance Co. He got a standing ovation from players and coaches, though some of the 11- to 13-year-old players were yawning or had their heads in their arms on the table about 15 minutes into the talk.

When asked later about Rice, most of the Little Leaguers said they were only vaguely familiar with the outfielder. "He went back to old school and how he played," said Trey Maddox, Georgia's 12-year-old third baseman.

Texas shortstop Steven Cardone said Rice inspired him.

"And he was right about how major leaguers do more for show and money than for the love of the game," the 12-year-old said.

Rice wasn't the only notable name at the complex Friday. Retired New York Yankees pitcher Mike Mussina, a central Pennsylvania native who is on Little League's board of directors, watched the Staten Island game, along with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.