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Kent retires after 17 seasons

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Kent always kept his emotions bottled up
during his outstanding, 17-year major league career. He couldn't
put a cork on them Thursday, when he tearfully announced his
retirement.

His watery, red-rimmed eyes and frequent pauses to collect
himself were in stark contrast to the gruff public demeanor Kent
maintained for years, which led to his image as a surly sort.

He attributed that to his competitive nature.

"I don't get how you can go up to an opposing starting pitcher,
give him a hug and say, `How you doing?' and then go out there and
try to hit a gapper," Kent said. "I tried to separate the
emotions from the game.

"If you allow yourself as a player to get emotionally involved
in every little thing that happens, I don't think you can stay as
consistent as you ought to in this game. I wanted other people to
perceive me as a guy who was level emotionally."

But that facade came undone during a farewell news conference at
Dodger Stadium, especially when Kent looked over at his wife, Dana,
daughter Lauren, and three young sons. His 12-year-old daughter
wiped her eyes at times.

"We're glad to see him home," Dana Kent said.

At 40, retirement beckoned because Kent said he'd grown tired of
life on the road and being away from his family in Austin, Texas,
for much of the year.

Kent leaves as the career home run leader among second basemen
with 351 -- 74 more than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg. A five-time
All-Star and the 2000 NL MVP, Kent made his only World Series
appearance with San Francisco in 2002, when the Giants lost to the
Anaheim Angels in seven games.

"Being a Game 7 loser is the worst feeling that I've ever had
as an athlete, but the participation in those games and being able
to play alongside my teammates have put to peace any resentment of
not being a World Series winner," he said. "I'm OK with it."

Kent had a .290 career batting average with 377 homers, 1,518
RBIs and a .500 slugging percentage. He was drafted by Toronto in
1989 and also played for the New York Mets, Cleveland, San
Francisco and Houston.

"Half of my playing career I was able to get on a team and then
make the playoffs, and what a special feeling that is to be part
of," he said. "The reasons why I was able to do such things is
because of my teammates."

Former Dodgers shortstop Jose Vizcaino stopped by to wish Kent
well, along with team owner Frank McCourt, general manager Ned
Colletti, former Dodger greats Duke Snider and Don Newcombe, and
much of the team's front-office staff. Messages from some of Kent's
former teams were read.

Colletti described Kent as "a no-nonsense player, someone you
will never see lead a talkathon, but whose 1-on-1 counsel was
invaluable."

Kent's famous intensity led to clashes with teammates, including
Barry Bonds when they played with the Giants from 1997-2002, and
the two once scuffled in the dugout for all to see. In 2005, Kent
tangled with then-Dodgers teammate Milton Bradley, who claimed Kent
couldn't deal with black players.

"Those two guys were teammates of mine and we won," Kent said.
"I had run-ins with other teammates. Was it me having a run-in
with those guys or them having a run-in with me? It doesn't matter,
we were all teammates."

Kent said he was proud of his integrity in baseball, although
that was called into question in 2002, when he claimed he injured
his wrist while washing his truck. It later came out that he got
hurt while riding his motorcycle, which violated the terms of his
contract. The injury landed him on the disabled list to start the
season.

Kent criticized players who used performance-enhancing drugs
while endorsing improved testing.

"The integrity of the game has been jeopardized for so many
years and I'm just so embarrassed about the steroid era," he said.

Kent thinks the sport has made great strides against steroids.

"Baseball has created a drug policy that is on the right path,
that has brought the game to a better level playing field than it
ever was," he said.

Kent said he applied a motto to his career that his police
officer father taught him: If you're going to do a job, do it
right.

"More than likely I would've been a cop when I grew up, hence
the mustache," he said, drawing laughter. "Yet when we were kids,
we fantasize about being an athlete. I wanted to be a baseball
player. For 17 years, I got to live a fantasy and I'm truly, truly
grateful for that."

Kent thanked the fans because, he said, "without them, I
wouldn't have a job."

"I've learned to love and appreciate the fans and even the Jeff
Kent haters out there most of all," he said. "Those are the
people who motivate you."

Kent hit .253 during the first half of last season, improved to
.353 in August, then injured his knee on Aug. 29 and had surgery
four days later. He returned to make the postseason roster, but was
relegated to a bench role. He went a combined 0-for-9 with four
strikeouts during the two playoff series and became a free agent in
November.

He'll be replaced at second base by Blake DeWitt, who took over
when Kent was sidelined.

Kent plans to oversee the three motorcycle shops he owns in
Austin, and he just bought a golf course there.

He said he walks away with no regrets.

"I believe I've played this game right and I believe I'm
leaving this game right," he said.