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Saturday, December 9
Hampton feels Rockies make perfect fit for family

By John Torenli SportsTicker Staff Writer

DALLAS (Ticker) -- A good night's sleep for himself and his family proved to be one of the main factors in Mike Hampton signing with the Colorado Rockies. The richest contract in baseball history certainly did not hurt matters.

At today's news conference to officially announce his unprecedented eight-year, $123 million contract, Hampton and agent Mark Rodgers both pointed to a very special meeting with the Rockies' braintrust and their deep, peaceful slumber afterwards as the main reasons for choosing Colorado over four other potential suitors.

The much sought-after free agent lefthander, his wife Kautia and their two children told Rodgers Thursday morning that they had enjoyed their best night's sleep in a long time and certainly the best since the arduous negotiating process began.

It was then that Hampton, 28, told Rodgers that the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets and Atlanta Braves were no longer in the picture.

"Thursday morning, Mike and I spoke on the telephone and he told me that he and his wife and his children had had the best night's sleep they had ever had," Rodgers recounted. "And I knew then and there where he was going to go."

Rodgers and Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd continued their talks and by Friday, Hampton was the highest paid player in baseball -- for the time being.

"We've added a horse. We've added a No. 1 starter," O'Dowd said. "We're very happy that Mike and his wife and their family have chosen to live in Colorado."

In order to get Hampton to pitch in the rarified air in Denver, the Rockies offered the Houston native the longest pact for a free agent pitcher since Wayne Garland signed a 10-year contract with Cleveland before the 1977 season.

The lone out-clause in the deal, as explained by Rodgers, has to do with a potential change in ownership, something that would interfere with the "vision" Hampton and the Rockies discussed in looking at the ballclub's future.

Hampton was 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA for the Mets last season. The loss is a major blow for the National League champions, who were hoping to retain a pitcher who is 63-33 over the past four years and earned NL Championship Series Most Valuable Player honors last season.

But Hampton indicated that although he enjoyed his time in New York and was treated like "royalty" by the Mets, his 5-year-old son's entry into school and his family's desire to live somewhere all year long made the decision for him. He also indicated that his father and the remainder of his family would also be making a move to the Rocky Mountain region.

"After that meeting on Wednesday, I knew that (the Rockies) were our kind of people and Colorado was our kind of place," Hampton said. "I will be sending my children to school there and we will live there for the next eight years and maybe 20 or 30."

Uncomfortable in cold weather after pitching in the Astrodome for six seasons with the Houston Astros, Hampton apparently was willing to put aside some of his desires for the comfort of his family and bank account.

His deal pays him more than Los Angeles' Kevin Brown, who inked a seven-year, $105 million deal two years ago. And although sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez will likely both sign bigger deals in the very near future, Hampton will enter the 2001 campaign as the highest-paid pitcher in the major leagues.

Hampton spurned three playoff teams from a season ago in the Mets, Cardinals and Braves but affirmed his belief in the Rockies as a legitimate contender for the NL West Division title.

"I think the most miserable human being in the world would be Mike Hampton if he was the highest-paid player in the game but yet was on a losing team," said Rodgers, who has been with Hampton since the lefty was 18.

The Rockies have revamped their pitching staff once again, hoping to find the right mix for their hitter-friendly ballpark.

On Monday, Colorado sent shockwaves through baseball by signing lefthander Denny Neagle to a five-year, $51 million deal. The Rockies also picked up hard-throwing but erratic lefthander Ron Villone from Cincinnati and will boast a rotation that will likely feature four lefthanders and Pedro Astacio. Brian Bohanon is the other southpaw.

Hampton joins his third team in three years and leaves the Mets with nothing to show from their trade with Houston last December. In that deal, New York sent promising righthander Octavio Dotel and outfielder Roger Cedeno to the Astros for Hampton and outfielder Derek Bell, who was not offered arbitration on Thursday.

With Hampton and Mike Mussina, who signed with the New York Yankees last week, off the market, attention figures to turn to free agent righthanders Kevin Appier and Darren Dreifort.

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