Mike Napoli, who became a fan favorite in Cleveland after clubbing 34 home runs and leading the Indians to the World Series in 2016, announced his retirement from playing following a 12-year career in the majors.
Tribe fans will fondly remember the Hollywood, Fla. native as much for the “Party at Napoli’s” T-shirts that became popular during Cleveland’s playoff run as they will his his tape-measure home runs.
Napoli, who was playing at Class AAA Columbus in the Indians farm system when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in April, did not make it back to the big leagues after playing 2017 with the Texas Rangers. He announced his decision in a heartfelt post on Twitter.
An All-Star in 2012 with the Rangers, Napoli won a World Series title with Boston in 2013. He finishes his career with a .246 batting average including 267 home runs and 744 RBI. He had a career .821 OPS and stuck out 1,468 times.
Napoli made his major league debut for the Los Angeles Angels on May 4, 2006, against Detroit, hitting a home-run in his first at-bat against Justin Verlander. His solo homer against Verlander in Game 3 of the 2013 American League Championship series proved to be the only run in a 1-0 Red Sox win.
Napoli thanked his family and his agent and mentioned the clubs with which he made his three World Series runs: Texas (2011), Boston (2013) and Cleveland (2016).
“Most importantly, I am proudest of positively affecting peoples’ lives and putting smiles on peoples’ faces by simply being myself, reflecting the way I was brought up in South Florida,” Napoli wrote. “I played through many injuries as well as major surgeries and I would do it all over again the exact same way.”
This past winter Napoli went unsigned until the Indians brought him to spring training on a minor-league deal. Manager Terry Francona and the rest of the organization thought highly of Napoli and wanted to give him a chance to come to camp and prove he could still play. The Indians didn’t have a spot for him but they wanted to give him an showcase for other teams.
When spring training ended, Napoli agreed to go to Columbus, the Indians' top farm club, but he struggled there. On April 17, he tore a knee ligament trying to catch a foul ball in a game for the Clippers.
Following surgery in June, Napoli said that he wanted to stay in the game after his playing days end. He said it was gratifying to hear that people think he has what it takes to be a manager some day.
“It’s something I want to do,” Napoli said. “This is what I know. I’ve done this for a long time now, so, whether I play or not next year, in my future, I see me being on a staff somewhere and being able to give back and helping any way I can.”
That opportunity could present itself this offseason as the Indians have openings on their minor league managerial staffs. Triple-A manager Chris Tremie was recently hired by the Reds to serve as their major league field coordinator. That could open up a potential spot for Napoli on the club’s Single-A or Double-A staffs.
Napoli specifically mentioned Francona and his relationship with the Tribe skipper in sounding hopeful that there could be a place for him to do so within the organization.
“To be able to manage people and get the best out of people, I know the game,” Napoli said. “I’m pretty sure that in this organization I’d be able to start somewhere from the bottom up and try to move my way up and be able to do that.”