Hey, former All-Stars! Welcome to Camp Last Chance

Hardly a day goes by at a baseball spring training complex

without a fan doing a double-take.

Hey, there’s Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez taking

grounders at first base on a back field. Yes, it is slugger Andruw

Jones all alone in the batting cage. Wow, that’s one-time ace Mike

Hampton pitching late in a game, long after the regulars headed for

the showers.

It’s a roll call of former stars hoping to land any role at


Welcome to Camp Last Chance.

”We all enjoyed being at the top of our game and being one of

the better players in the game,” Chavez said at the New York

Yankees’ camp in Tampa, Fla. ”You come out here and do what you

can do, really. You let it all hang out and the type of player you

are, it is what it is.”

Take a look this spring training and you’ll find a bunch of big

leaguers giving it one more shot. There’s Bartolo Colon, Mark

Prior, Chavez and Jones with the Yankees, Hampton with Arizona and

Dontrelle Willis with Cincinnati. Garrett Atkins, Mike MacDougal,

Jeff Suppan and Gabe Kapler are in camps, too.

Whether it’s because of injuries or age, these fan favorites

have seen their skills diminish to the point where they are no

longer in demand.

The offers of mad money are long gone, but the desire to compete

is still there.

”Ever since I was little I wanted to play this game and I’m

just not ready to give it up,” Hampton said in Scottsdale, Ariz.

”This is what I do. I mean, I don’t do anything else.

So despite having just 10 wins in the last five years, the

38-year-old lefty who once signed a $121 million contract is giving

it another try.

The Yankees have an unusually large group of cheap signees with

a pedigree. Freddy Garcia is among the players they signed to a

minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

The moves make sense. All have already handled the demands of

stardom, making it more likely they will be able to withstand the

scrutiny of the New York glare better than a rookie. The financial

risk is low and there is no doubt of their talent – when


Between Colon, Garcia, Prior, Chavez and Jones, they have 16

Gold Gloves, 10 All-Star selections and one Cy Young Award. But

only Jones’ contract is guaranteed, a modest one-year major league


”You’re pulling for them. A lot of them had injuries. You hate

to see that,” Yankees captain Derek Jeter said. ”You just hope

that they’re healthy and pull for them.”

Jones burst onto the baseball scene with the Atlanta Braves in

the 1996 World Series, hitting two homers in Game 1 against, yes,

the Yankees as a 19-year-old. He hit 51 homers in 2005 and was

runner-up in NL MVP voting. Three years later he went deep only

three times in his one injury-ruined season with the Dodgers. Last

year he had 19 homers for the White Sox but batted only .230.

Perhaps the best center fielder of his era, Jones won 10

straight Gold Gloves from 1998-2007.

”Deep in my mind I still thought I could play every day a

little bit. I kept working out this offseason to get to that point

again,” said Jones, who’s only 33. ”You got to come into camp and

show teams that you can do that.”

Chavez is also 33, right at the end of a player’s prime years.

But five operations on his shoulder and back have taken from him

the lightning-quick hands and rocket arm that earned him six Gold

Gloves. Sitting in front of his locker, one spot away from Jones,

his scars are visible for all to see.

On most days he can be found over at first base, taking

grounders, getting tips from Gold Glover Mark Teixeira. He knows

being a versatile backup is his best way to make the team,

especially with Alex Rodriguez, who 2 1/2 years older, locked in at

third base.

Prior was an All-Star at 22, out of the big leagues at 26. He

and Willis played prominent roles in the 2003 playoffs. Prior was

four outs away from pitching the Cubs into the World Series when

fan Steve Bartman got in the way of history. Willis and his Marlins

went on the beat the Yankees in the World Series.

Only 30, Prior hasn’t thrown a pitch in the majors since 2006

because of right shoulder trouble.

”I understand the situation I’m coming into,” said Prior,

who’s looking to land a spot in the Yankees’ bullpen. ”I

understand that, one, everybody is concerned about my health and,

two, if he’s healthy what’s his stuff like. Those are two things

I’ve got to go out and prove.”

Garcia and Colon have a very good chance of making an impact on

the Yankees. The opportunity is there with the Nos. 4 and 5 spots

in the rotation available.

Colon last pitched in the majors in 2009. He won just 14 games

since going 21-8 with the Angels and winning the 2005 AL Cy Young

Award, and he came into training camp admittedly well over his

ideal weight. But the Yankees are impressed so far with his


”The bottom line is if you can pitch you can pitch,” Yankees

manager Joe Girardi said. ”Weight only becomes an issue when

you’re not doing well.”

The 35-year-old Garcia won a total of five games for the

Phillies, Tigers and White Sox from 2007-09, all injury plagued.

After rebounding with 12 wins for the White Sox last season, he

felt he still had something to offer and accepted a minor league

deal from the Yankees, setting aside any anger he had at not being

offered a guaranteed contract.

”Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. Maybe they don’t

think I can help them out,” Garcia said. ”I don’t think about

that. Right now I’m thinking, ‘Be 100 percent and win a spot in

this rotation.”’

Girardi sees something in all of them, something that made them

stars in the first place: an impressive work ethic.

”I think they’re determined to be as good as they can be,”

Girardi said. ”Now, where that lands them none of us really know

because we know that before the injuries they were really


”But I think they’re willing to put it all out there,” he


Colon was home in the Dominican Republic, his career almost

over. Chavez said twice last year that if his body betrayed him

again that he was going to retire. Prior was relegated to the

independent leagues.

Why then are they putting themselves through it one more



”This is what I was born to do. I’m a baseball player,” Chavez

said. ”I’m not going to be able to do it a lot longer in life and

I just want enjoy it and try to finish it out as best as I


AP Sports Writer Bob Baum contributed to this report from

Scottsdale, Ariz.