MLB.com Columnist

Tracy Ringolsby

Selig having fun in his farewell tour of ballparks

Commissioner helps oversee major changes become key elements of game

Selig having fun in his farewell tour of ballparks

DENVER -- When Braves third baseman Chipper Jones made his farewell tour two years ago, opposing teams and fans relished the opportunity of his final visit to each city to recognize his storied career.

Last year, it was Yankees closer Mariano Rivera who bid adieu.

This year, it's Yanks shortstop Derek Jeter.

And don't overlook that it's also Commissioner Bud Selig this year, although his final tour of Major League cities is less about fanfare and public adoration, and more about a career baseball man getting a chance to visit the 30 Major League ballparks for one final time in an official capacity.

Selig has announced he will retire in January, more than 22 years after initially taking the job of Commissioner on an interim basis.

"I said a few months ago that in my last year, I want to visit every team," Selig said Friday as he made his stop at Coors Field, where the Mets and Rockies were playing. "A day like this makes me really feel I need to see every team."

Selig is having fun in his farewell. It's a far cry from the situation he walked into when baseball's owners dismissed Commissioner Fay Vincent in September 1992 and appointed Selig, at the time the owner of the Brewers, to fill the position until a permanent replacement could be hired.

"The '90s were difficult," Selig said. "We had a lot of headaches. We lost the 1994 World Series. That was a sad thing. … But history has proven that set up the next 21 years of labor peace."

And today?

"I can say the sport has never been more popular," said Selig. "In the last 10 years, we have had the most attendance ever. We have a labor peace that was unheard of. When I took over, the game's revenues were $1.7 billion. They are now $8.5 billion.

"People refer to the post-war era as the Golden Age of Baseball. Any way you look at it, this is the Golden Age of Baseball."

Selig took his time at Coors Field to praise the Rockies, a team born of expansion for the 1993 season, along with the Marlins.

"[Colorado] is a franchise I am proud of," he said. "It has been good for baseball in every way."

Selig met with club employees during the day, and he stood in foul territory, greeting players and coaches during batting practice, scanning Coors Field and proclaiming "it is such a beautiful place."

Opened in 1995, Coors Field is the third-oldest ballpark in the National League, behind only Wrigley Field and Dodger Stadium.

As well as things have gone, Selig does have some unfinished business, including the Oakland A's, who are in need of a stadium and are hoping to resolve their situation with the San Francisco Giants for approval to move the franchise to San Jose.

"I am completely comfortable they will eventually solve that problem," said Selig.

Selig has seen major changes become key elements of the game, including the advent of the Wild Card, Interleague Play and a restructuring of the divisions in the American League and the NL so that there are five teams in each of the six divisions.

"When we passed the Wild Card in 1993, you would have thought I defiled motherhood," Selig said.

Selig even laughed when he remembered the introduction of the designated hitter in the AL in 1973, which has become strongly supported in AL cities while NL fans remain staunch supporters of the pitcher hitting.

"It was the only thing [former A's owner] Charlie Finley ever wanted that I voted for," Selig said.

While there were rumblings about the D-backs and Dodgers playing a two-game series in Australia to officially open the Major League season, Selig pointed out that every home opener sold out, and that baseball benefited by adding to its international exposure.

Selig said he felt expanded replay has been a success, and he was pleased that the parties involved were willing to make adjustments to alleviate problems that were uncovered in April.

"Other sports have replay, and they are far from right," Selig said. "I feel very good about our situation."

And Selig shook his head at the suggestion that baseball is not appealing to younger people.

"In 1959, the sports editor of the Milwaukee Journal said baseball was moribund, that it has lost the younger generation," Selig said with a smile.

And here the game is, 55 years later, stronger than ever.

It's the legacy Selig will leave his successor next year.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.