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Garvey pays visit to Albuquerque

Steve Garvey, as ever, remains in a committed relationship with baseball, even if he gives more back to it these days than he takes from it.

“Those of us who were blessed to be able to play this game and have careers, after those careers are over, we have to be ambassadors for the game,” Garvey said. “Pass the torch.”

These days, Garvey, and those still prodigious forearms, is still active in the sport. He is, for all intents and purposes, a baseball lifer.

“I love it. It’s been my life,” he said.

He is also a former Albuquerque Duke, and on Wednesday he was back on familiar ground, Isotopes Park, which was built over the site of his old haunts, the Albuquerque Sports Stadium.

Garvey, 65, a 10-time All-Star and former National League MVP, was in town as part of the 2014 Mobil Super “Go the Distance” Baseball Tour. It will visit 55 games in 18 states over a four-month period.

Steve Garvey signs a glove for Vincent Sparks, 8, of Rio Rancho. Sparks plays first base for the Crushers; Garvey used to play first for the Dodgers. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Steve Garvey signs a glove for Vincent Sparks, 8, of Rio Rancho. Sparks plays first base for the Crushers; Garvey used to play first for the Dodgers. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

The affable Garvey spent two hours before Wednesday’s Isotopes game against Round Rock signing autographs, and also caught the ceremonial first pitch.

When he played here in 1969, that was the first year of the Sports Stadium, with its one-of-a-kind lava rocks and drive-in viewing area.

He later enjoyed a stellar career in Los Angeles and San Diego. Garvey comprised one quarter of one of the most iconic infields in baseball history. He, second baseman Davey Lopes, shortstop Bill Russell and third baseman Ron Cey spent nearly a decade together, an altogether impossibility in today’s game.

The four appeared in four World Series over an eight-year span with Los Angeles.

“It was a very different mix and equation,” Garvey said during a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview with the Journal on Wednesday afternoon at his hotel. “I’m quite sure it’s the longest longevity of an infield. I’m sure that record will never be broken.”

Garvey was also among those trying to buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt; his group’s failed bid of $1.4 billion (the figure cited by Garvey) was well short of the sale price of over $2 billion.

“We thought $1.4 billion was the top end of the value of the franchise,” Garvey said.

He was fired from the Dodgers when he openly called for McCourt to give up the team. Garvey had been serving in a part-time job in marketing and community relations.

But he’s focused on other things nowadays. Garvey’s son, Ryan, a corner infielder, is working his way through the Colorado Rockies organization.

“A much bigger arm than his dad,” Garvey said. “High baseball IQ.”

Garvey also hit on some other topics, as he compared eras. One interesting note: Even during the height of his career, Garvey said, he took a second job outside of baseball, with Pepsi-Cola. He graduated from Michigan State and was already pondering a life outside of baseball.

Best player in baseball?

“Over the last two years,” he said, “you’d have to say (Miguel) Cabrera.”

Pete Rose? Belong in the Hall of Fame?

“Yes,” Garvey said. “But don’t allow him to work in baseball.”

On playing in the Dodgers organization?

“You can feel the history, you can feel the jersey,” Garvey said. “You develop a culture.”

Toughest pitcher he ever faced?

“I faced 14 Hall of Famers,” Garvey said. Then he paused.

“Phil Niekro.”

On the passing of former teammate Bob Welch, who died earlier this week:

“A great individual, a great father and husband,” Garvey said. “A consummate professional.”