It was over 10 years ago when the Cardinals made the decision to acquire Mark Mulder from the A's for a package deal of Daric Barton, Kiko Calero and young, 6'5" reliever, Danny Haren. 153 wins, 131 losses, a career 3.75 ERA and three All-Star appearances (one with the A's in 2007) later, Haren officially announced his retirement from baseball on October 22, 2015.
It barely seems like any time has passed since those days when shaggy-haired, surfer-dude-looking Danny Haren with his laughing blue eyes would tag along with Barry Zito, spending hours learning everything he could from his new mentor. Zito taught him everything from the technical aspects of pitching to how to flaunt yourself like you're on every day, even on days when you're off. The two have still remained close through the years, and ended up retiring at the same time.
Congrats to my man Barry Zito on being back in baseball. He was my mentor, and here's some proof.... http://t.co/hpo2wJf6Go— dan haren (@ithrow88) February 17, 2015
Haren has never been one for velocity, instead choosing to focus on precision and control. His fastballs ranged from 87-92 mph during his career with the Athletics. (This is what coined his now-Internet-famous Twitter handle.) He also put a lot of emphasis in his windup, a slow, controlled motion with a slight pause in the middle that he could change depending on what the situation needed. Haren also hated giving up walks, throwing primarily strikes to each batter he faced.
In addition to his pitching approach, what else do you remember most about Haren? Okay, actually probably more memorable than his pitching approach: That hair (which he hates washing). And later on, the scraggly beard (and okay, maybe the eyebrows, too), which coined one of his nicknames, Geico Caveman. Which he fully adopted and used as the name for his fantasy football team.
In fact, Haren at one point had an interest in playing actual football (confusing, considering there is now a Dan HERRON playing professional football) but decided to go all-out in baseball after his freshman year in high school. Though it wasn't until his freshman year at Pepperdine University that Dan started pitching.
Dan has two pugs named Bernie and Tucker, whom he acquired from late teammate, Joe Kennedy. They're really cute. #puglife
The A's of the mid-2000's had a fondness for video games, which provided for some off-the-field friendly competition, especially when it came to the Street Fighter machine in the clubhouse. Former teammate and fellow Street Fighterer, Nick Swisher, cited Dan as the club's champion of the arcade classic.
Haren used to run a blog on MLB.com titled "Haren's Heat," which was mostly thoughts of baseball happenings, things about Barry Zito and his constant plight of keeping up with Lost while on the road. This was many years before he took the Twitter world by storm.
He enjoyed being a part of the A's commercials during his time with the team. We enjoyed watching them.
Characters are fun to watch, and Dan was definitely a character throughout his career on a team especially full of characters during his time with the A's.
And then there was that time the Nats guys talked about Haren's religious debates. Haren, though he was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic high school, has an open mind and an interest in knowledge and science, and likes to pick peoples' brains.
Now that he's retired, Haren has had a lot of fun with the Twitter world, from posting video of Jared Weaver dancing at a J Lo concert to messing with Donald Trump to ... deep insights. Then there was the time he got bored on the exercise bike and tweeted a string of musings about his career.
Haren worked hard for everything he got, which was part of what kept him humble. He was always self-deprecating (in his sense of humor and in the way he spoke of himself) and critical of himself, striving to make the best out of himself from every mistake. This never went unnoticed.
Never played with a more self-aware yet self-deprecating teammate than @ithrow88 Guy poured out every ounce he had for his team each start.— AJ Ellis (@AJEllis17) December 11, 2014
I've never met Dan, but I know people who have, and they've told me he's one of the nicest, most humble people you could want to meet. Happy retirement, Dan! May you continue to inspire people like you have for me for the past decade.
Being an out-of market fan, I saw Haren pitch twice ... exactly 10 years apart. The second was this year after he was traded to the Cubs, only a few months after I moved to Chicago. This is probably my favorite personal memory, because it was so emotional for me. What's your favorite Haren story or memory? Doesn't have to be during his time with the A's, could be any time!
Author's note (aka "feel free to skip reading, it's sappy"):
It's funny what athletes can mean to us. I say 'funny' because we don't know them, we may never meet them (or meet them for more than a handshake and a photo, if we're lucky) but they mean something special to us. They're our buddies, even if we may not get along with them if we knew them personally. They've unknowingly been there through the trials and tribulations of our own lives, always there for us to turn to for inspiration or entertainment. Some players will stick with you for a season or two, some stick so hard you have to follow them for their whole career. Some players inspire us because their performance is so mind-blowing, some because their personality draws us in, some because their work ethic and determination spur us on in our own endeavors. Some just make us smile.
When you're young, you know players retire, you see it all the time, but when that one retires that's been with you since you were a teenager, it somehow feels like you've lost something. Someone that has been there since you were a kid isn't coming back next season. The whole notion is a little silly, but it's what makes us human. We've all had that player.
Whether your favorite athlete inspires you to pursue the sport yourself, inspires you in your own athleticism or inspires what else you do, that's important. Hold onto that. Everyone needs motivation. And whether your favorite player retired thirty years ago or three or is still playing, everything they've unknowingly done for you is still there. Cherish that.