SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Carlos Delgado officially gave up Wednesday on coming back from a hip injury, announcing his retirement from baseball two years after he was sidelined with 473 career home runs.
The former New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman announced his decision at a news conference in his native Puerto Rico.
"There comes a moment when you have to have the dignity and the sense to recognize that something is not functioning," the 38-year-old said. "You can't swim against the current."
The two-time All-Star played 17 major league seasons and finished with a .280 career batting average. He played for the Blue Jays from 1993-2004, went to the Florida Marlins for a season and finished out his career with the Mets from 2006-09.
Delgado stopped playing in the majors in May 2009 and had two hip surgeries in nine months. He signed a minor league deal with the Boston Red Sox in summer 2010 and played five games for Triple-A Pawtucket, going 3 for 13 with no extra-base hits and six strikeouts.
Dressed in a navy blue suit and a bright green tie, Delgado remained jovial throughout a speech that drew tears from many in the audience, including former teammate Carlos Baerga.
The pain that usually struck every training session was too much to endure, Delgado said.
"And this coming from a man who had nine operations," he said. "It is a sad moment as a human being and athlete that some of your abilities aren't what they once were."
Delgado won the Hank Aaron Award in 2000, the Silver Slugger Award in 1999, 2000 and 2003, and the Roberto Clemente Award in 2006.
Delgado had one of his best seasons with Toronto in 2003, hitting .302 with 145 RBIs and 42 home runs to finish second to Alex Rodriguez for the AL MVP award. His only postseason appearance came in 2006, when the Mets lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL championship series.
Delgado, who received a rocking chair with a plaque that read: "Puerto Rico Home Run King," said he will dedicate the next six months to his wife and young son and daughter before becoming involved in baseball at a local level.
Lou Melendez, vice president of international affairs for Major League Baseball, said he was looking forward to working with Delgado.
"I have a partner who will help me promote baseball in Puerto Rico," he said.
Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells played with Delgado in Toronto from 1999-2004.
"I think it's unfortunate, just because he's so close to 500 home runs. I would have liked to see him get to that number. It's one of the harder ones to get to. To be part of the 500 club would have been special to him," Wells said Wednesday before the Angels played Cleveland.
"If not for the amount of time he played and the strain that you put on your body, he'd have been way past it. But I think he's proven everything he needed to prove, as far as being one of the best power hitters of his generation. He had some of the most impressive pop that you'll see in a ballplayer — to all fields. And when he hit the ball, it wasn't coming down."
Wells credited Delgado with his rise to becoming an All-Star in the majors.
"He was instrumental in me getting going in my career and helping me becoming the player I am now. He taught me pitchers' tendencies and different things," he said.
"Once I was playing every day in 2002, we started to develop a relationship where we could talk about anything and everything," Wells said. "He didn't talk much about himself. I think that started with his dad and his upbringing. He loved to play the game and you never heard a bad thing about him. He always had a smile on his face and he was a good person to be around."
Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez has known Delgado since the star was in high school.
"At this point and under the circumstances, I think it's good for him to concentrate on the other aspects of his life," he said before the Marlins played in Atlanta. "One thing for sure, he's one of the guys who stayed clean his whole career. That's a plus."
AP Sports Writer Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.