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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Boggs Eyes 3,000 Hits As Career Nears Finish

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Wade Boggs is wearing an unfamiliar, shiny black uniform and standing in a line of hopeful infield prospects and fading veterans at the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays' strikingly bland training complex.

Boggs is barely an hour from his north Tampa neighborhood, and he is happy. He loves playing for the new hometown team, and he loves even more the idea of shooting for his magic 3,000th hit the year he turns 40.

It is all so symmetrical for the man who knows numbers almost as well as he knows hitting. Two-hundred hits will give him exactly 3,000. It is no surprise that Boggs believes he can do it this season. He has not had a 200-hit season since 1989, when he was 31. Yet Boggs is undeterred.

"It's a nice number, 200," Boggs said. "I've done it seven times. Paul Molitor did it when he was 40. You can put a man on the moon, so anything's possible."

Sometimes, Boggs' comments make him appear a tad spacey. Five years ago, when he first went to the New York Yankees and spoke about 3,000 hits as if it were a foregone conclusion, everyone looked at him as if he were from another planet. He was coming off a .259 season and being forced on a reluctant Buck Showalter, who was as skeptical as the rest that Boggs could reinvigorate himself after a horrid final season in Boston.

Boggs rules nothing out. How about a batting title?

"Ted Williams won a batting title at 40," Boggs said. "Anything's possible. You don't listen to your skeptics. You just play the game."

Anything is possible. It must seem that way for Boggs, who may make Cooperstown, even though he lacks great power or speed and started out as a flawed fielder, even though his career didn't really get under way in earnest until he was 27 years old.

"I would never bet against Wade Boggs," Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar said. "He's been an overachiever all his life, a player who always felt the need to continue to prove himself."

Boggs never wanted to leave the Yankees. Club officials recall how Boggs wept openly when he was packing his gear to leave Yankee Stadium the final time as a Yankee after the playoff defeat to Cleveland. They say he was so overcome with emotion he practically had to be helped to his car for the final drive away. He knew the Yankees wouldn't pick up the $2 million option on his contract.

Boggs would not say which cap he would wear into Cooperstown. But with the Boston Red Sox all but eliminated by 11 years of bad feelings, Yankee people believe Boggs will weigh his five consecutive winning seasons in the Bronx and ultimately honor the sport's most honored team.

Boggs hit only .240 in the first half last year, but then .362 in the second to reach .292. That big finish is another reason he believes 3,000 hits are a certainty someday.

"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.