Less than five months ago, Aaron Boone was much more concerned with recovering from open heart surgery than playing professional baseball.
On Monday night, the Houston Astros third baseman was fit and ready to return to what he loves doing best.
Boone went 0-for-2 and made a couple of plays in the field during a five-inning rehab appearance in the Corpus Christi Hooks' 4-3 loss to the Midland RockHounds at Whataburger Field, taking an important first step in his return to the Major Leagues.
"For the first day, it went pretty well," said Boone. "I wasn't overly emotional. The crowd gave me a nice hand. It was part of the process, part of the journey I'm on to hopefully making it back in a few weeks. I think if I
were to play in the Majors, it would be more emotional for me. It felt like a [Spring] Training game."
Best known for his pennant-winning home run for the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series against the Boston Red Sox, Boone underwent the heart procedure on March 26 after doctors discovered a congenital defect in his aortic valve.
The 36-year-old son of former Major League catcher Bob Boone and grandson of big league infielder Ray Boone is determined to get back to Houston when rosters expand on Sept. 1.
"I'm free and clear," Boone said. "I check my blood pressure and things like that, but it's go-get-'em. We'll see tomorrow how I feel getting up, but I didn't feel tired in the heat. I could have easily gone back out there."
Batting second in the Hooks' lineup, Boone popped out to first base on the first pitch he saw in the opening frame and hit another infield fly to shortstop in the third. He had an unassisted putout on a fielder's choice in the third and threw out Jemile Weeks, younger brother of Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks, on a grounder in the fourth before being replaced by Jhon Florentino in the top of the sixth.
"I had some nerves and excitement," Boone admitted. "It felt OK, though it was a little overwhelming facing a real pitcher. I'm in shape and ready to do this, and it was very
rewarding to be back out there."
This was Boone's first action in the Houston organization after batting .241 with six homers and 28 RBIs for the Washington Nationals last year. He is expected to sit out Tuesday before playing five innings at first base for the Hooks on Wednesday against visiting Arkansas.
Boone, whose brother Bret also spent 14 years in the Majors, will play approximately seven games for Corpus Christi in the next 10 to 12 days before spending a week with Triple-A Round Rock. He hopes to join the Astros in Arizona for their Aug. 28-30 series against the Diamondbacks.
A career .264 hitter with 126 homers and 555 RBIs during his big league career with Cincinnati (1997-2003), the Yankees ('03), Cleveland ('05-06), Florida ('07) and the Nationals ('08), Boone is hoping to bolster the Astros' push for a playoff spot down the stretch.
"That would obviously be icing on the cake if I could come back and be a part of a pennant race in September," Boone said. "Hopefully we play good these next few weeks and put ourselves in position."