HOUSTON (BVM) – Whether it’s baseball or any of the four major sports, a player sticking with the same franchise for 15 years is rarely seen anymore. However, for Jeff Bagwell, he has been committed to the Houston Astros throughout his entire career.
It ended up being a good one, as the four-time All-Star was a staple at first base for some quality Astros teams. Since calling it quits in 2005, the Hall of Famer has remained an integral part of the organization’s tremendous success over the last handful of seasons.
Jeff Bagwell’s early life, college career
Born in Boston, Bagwell ended up moving to Connecticut where he took up the game of baseball. With his dad being a former college player at Northwestern, Bagwell had the right bloodlines, and displayed his talent in not only baseball at Xavier High School, but soccer and basketball as well.
While soccer was actually his main sport, Bagwell accepted a scholarship out of high school to play baseball at the University of Hartford under former MLB pitcher Bill Deheny. There, he became a two-time Eastern College Athletic Conference Player of the Year as he etched his name into the Hawks’ record books, finishing his career as the program leader in home runs (31) and RBIs (126) while batting .413 across three seasons.
Prior to his MLB career, Bagwell would also play in the Cape Cod League with the Chatham A’s, making a league All-Star appearance as a third baseman in 1988.
Jeff Bagwell’s Astros career
In the 1989 MLB Draft, Bagwell was selected in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox. After moving up the ranks in Boston’s minor league system to the Double-A level with the New Britain Red Sox, Bagwell was involved in one of the most infamous one-sided trades in MLB history, as Boston traded him to the Houston Astros in exchange for relief pitcher Larry Anderson who played just half a season for the Red Sox.
#MLBTradeDeadline Best (or worst) #trade in #MLB #history: @astros acquire prospect Jeff Bagwell from #Redsox in '90 for Larry Andersen. Bagwell debuted in '91 and landed in HoF. His @sabr bio https://t.co/k2fGiD2JvB pic.twitter.com/XD1uVT6J55
— SABR BioProject (@SABRbioproject) July 31, 2019
While the move was difficult for Bagwell considering he was a lifelong Red Sox fan, it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to him. He impressed in spring training in 1991, and with the Astros looking to move him to first base to fill a hole, the 6-foot, 195-pound Bagwell made the team’s roster out of camp without ever playing Triple-A ball.
The Astros’ decision was proved right by their new star in 1991 as Bagwell hit .294 with 15 home runs and 82 RBIs on his way to becoming the first Houston player to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors. Bagwell continued to display a powerful bat over the next two seasons, but it was 1994 when he truly blossomed.
Despite a strike-shortened season, Bagwell hit 39 home runs with a league-leading 116 RBIs. He also led the league in runs (104), slugging percentage (.750), OPS (1.201) and total bases (300) in ‘94, batting a career-high .368. As a result, Bagwell would make his first All-Star appearance and earn the NL MVP award.
10/27/94 Jeff Bagwell becomes the first Astros player to win the National League MVP Award. He was the third NL player to win unanimously. pic.twitter.com/wk3LSMonPc
— Mike Acosta (@AstrosTalk) October 28, 2021
After signing a new contract with the Astros following the MVP season, Bagwell’s production declined a bit as he suffered a broken bone in his left hand for the third straight season in 1995. Part of this came from Bagwell’s truly unique batting stance in which he spread his feet very wide and crouched in a position to the point where it almost looked like he was sitting down, exposing his left hand to the plate.
However, the first baseman would return to All-Star form in 1996 and 1997, hitting a combined 74 home runs with 255 RBIs across the two seasons. Bagwell also stole 31 bases in 1997 and another 30 in 1999, joining Barry Bonds at the time as the only players to hit 40 home runs and steal 30 bases in multiple seasons.
Bagwell would get even better in 1999 and 2000, hitting over .300 in both years with 40-plus home runs, and finishing second in MVP voting in ‘99. His 152 runs in 2000 were the most in a single campaign since 1936.
In 2001, Bagwell made it a third straight season with 126 RBIs or more, tallying 130 as the Astros won their fourth NL Central title in five years. This also marked Bagwell’s sixth straight season of 30 home runs, 100 RBIs, 100 runs and 100 walks.
The power hitter did hit 31 or more home runs over the next two seasons, but his numbers began to tail off in the early 2000s. As he continued to set career milestones, the only thing missing from Bagwell’s resume was a World Series title. Although he missed a majority of the 2005 season due to a chronic arthritic condition in his shoulder that limited his throwing ability, Bagwell returned for the Astros‘ stretch run into the postseason.
Despite starting out just 15-30 in 2005, the Astros rallied to make the playoffs and beat NL Central rival St. Louis in the NLCS. However, the White Sox would sweep Houston in the World Series, which would end Bagwell’s career despite a comeback attempt in 2006.
Pairing with fellow Astros legend Craig Biggio to form the “Killer B’s,” Bagwell had a legendary MLB career in which he batted .297 with 2,314 hits, 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs. The four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger award winner ended his career at or near the top of several Astros and MLB single-season and career record lists.
Jeff Bagwell’s involvement with Astros since retirement
Bagwell returned to Houston in 2007 to watch his good friend and former teammate Biggio earn his 3,000th career hit. A couple of months later, Bagwell became the eighth Astros player to have their number retired.
In 2010, the first baseman was hired by the club to become the team’s hitting coach. But after Houston finished last in the league in that department, Bagwell was let go.
He was invited back to a role with the club by former manager A.J. Hinch in 2015, serving as a guest instructor at spring training. He has continued to join the Astros at spring training through the years, assisting the team along with Biggio.
Bagwell has also been a member of the Astros’ broadcast booth, and has called multiple games on Houston’s radio and television broadcasts this season. He is opinionated as a color commentator, evidenced during a broadcast earlier this year where Bagwell called the Oakland Athletics’ infamous “Moneyball” concept “a farce,” believing anyone could have won with the teams the A’s had in the early 2000s.
Jeff Bagwell…not a fan of Moneyball pic.twitter.com/3l6jAelVh8
— Brandon Contes (@BrandonContes) May 25, 2022
In addition to being a color commentator, Bagwell has also settled into a role in the Astros’ front office as the organization’s community outreach executive. Through the role, the former slugger makes appearances throughout Houston, acting as an ambassador for the franchise.
Jeff Bagwell’s achievements
In addition to having his number retired by the Astros shortly after his playing career, Bagwell has also been honored by his alma mater, as he became a member of the University of Hartford Alumni Athletics Hall of Fame. He has continued to support the Hawks throughout his retirement.
Just a @MLB Hall of Famer with his @hartfordbase #AEBASE Championship shirt! Always great to catch up with Jeff Bagwell in the Lone Star State! 👕⭐️🏆#ForeverAHawk #CapitalCityTeam pic.twitter.com/DWQKBEKTcJ
— Hartford Hawks (@HartfordHawks) July 16, 2018
However, Bagwell’s biggest honor came in 2017 when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Ivan Rodriguez, Tim Raines, Bud Selig and John Schuerholz.
— Houston Astros (@astros) January 18, 2017
Considering Bagwell was a power hitter during baseball’s steroid era, some questioned if the former Astros star would get in. However, there have never been any confirmed reports of steroid use when it comes to Bagwell, and he became the second Houston player to be inducted within a three-year span, following Biggio who made it in 2015.
Jeff Bagwell’s net worth, personal life
Bagwell married his first wife, Shaune, in 1992. He later had two kids, Blake and Bryce, with his second wife, Ericka. Bagwell is now married to his third wife, Rachel.
Despite all his success, Bagwell has faced some demons over his life, particularly from alcohol. In 2020, Bagwell revealed that he was a recovering alcoholic at an annual luncheon at Archway Academy in Houston – a school that helps teens with addiction. Through his story, the Hall of Fame member revealed he had many interventions over the years with his wife and kids, and finally sought help through AA meetings. Bagwell has not had a drink since October of 2017 and continues to live a healthier, alcohol-free life.
Despite some ups and downs on and off the field, Bagwell will go down as one of baseball’s greatest success stories, and one of the best power hitters Major League Baseball has seen. The Astros took a chance on the now 54-year-old in 1990, and three decades later, Bagwell is still contributing to the franchise’s success.