Garciaparra thinking charity, baseball

Garciaparra thinking charity, baseball

LOS ANGELES -- Nomar Garciaparra hasn't decided whether to retire from baseball, using an unusually slow free-agent season to ponder his playing future and focus on charitable endeavors with soccer-star wife Mia Hamm.

The 35-year-old has re-rooted in Southern California with his wife and twin daughters, a key factor in the local native's homecoming signing with the Dodgers three years ago.

His stint with the club has been a mix of emotional highs and physical woes. He's now resigned to dealing with an often-painful "compartment syndrome" condition in his calf because his body produces excess scar tissue. To continue playing, he must undergo periodic and painful therapy sessions to break up scar tissue.

"I'm addressing it now," Garciaparra said. "I know what I have to do to stay on the field. There was a chance for surgery, but the doctors didn't like the percentages that it would provide me relief. I just have to weigh everything."

Garciaparra's bat showed more life in 2008 than in '07, but he missed 90 games with injuries and hit .264 with eight homers and 28 RBIs in 55 games. He also made an impressive return to shortstop in July and August, but couldn't stay on the field.

He said a few clubs have expressed interest and his agent has maintained communications with the Dodgers, but nothing beyond that. The Dodgers signed free agent Mark Loretta as a utility infielder, but still could use Garciaparra's veteran right-handed bat for pinch-hitting as well as his defensive versatility.

"Right now," he said, "I'm just waiting to see what the options are."

For the next week, Garciaparra will set aside that uncertainty and join with Hamm to promote their second annual charity celebrity soccer challenge, to be held Saturday at 1 p.m. PT at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Proceeds from the event benefit bone marrow transplant patients and their families.

The event raised more than $150,000 last year, split between Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and the Mia Hamm Foundation. Last year's lead sponsors -- Nike, Gatorade, WMG, AEG and Stanford -- have been joined by Starwood Hotels, Mission Product, Athletes' Performance and The Century Council.

Last year's event, according to Garciaparra, netted an even more rewarding benefit than the fundraising. It might have saved a life.

"We have a booth set up where people can be typed for bone marrow match, and we had 200 people register last year and we actually found an unrelated match," said Garciaparra. "Raising money is wonderful. But to give somebody a chance to save a life, you can't put a price on that. It was huge. And it speaks volumes about what we can do."

Celebrities expected to participate include skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and young gun Ryan Sheckler, U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Kerri Walsh, NFL great Marcus Allen, Zachary Levi of the Chuck television show, Jimmy Jean Louis of Heroes and Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, as well as current and former members of the U.S. men's and women's national soccer team.

At halftime, patients who were suffering from leukemia, lymphoma and other life-threatening diseases will be introduced in person for the very first time to their bone marrow donors.

"It's pretty powerful," said Garciaparra.

General admission tickets for the Celebrity Soccer Challenge are $20 and are on sale through Ticketmaster or directly through the Home Depot Center Box Office.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.