"I was probably one of those players that every single day of every season, I would at least have a few beers," Boone said. "And I went from that to nothing [now]. I did it not only for myself, but for my family, my kids. I got to a point where I could tell the difference in myself and I wanted to get it before it became an issue."
Boone's problems started in a more subtle matter, but it got to a point where he would drink 12 to 15 beers after a game. At age 32, for example, Boone recalls drinking heavily after a game and then going 3-for-4 the next day. But as he got older, Boone's stats declined and he lost the passion for baseball.
"For me, it was an alcohol thing," Boone said. "It wasn't to the point where I was down and out. But it was to a point where I could see it was going there.
"I don't want to make a big deal about it, but I was at a point where sometimes it was more important to me to go to a hotel bar after a game. At the end, it takes away your passion and everything inside that makes you tick. I'm not proud of it. I'm proud I took care of the situation before it got to a point where it could have."
"I [sought treatment] not only for myself, but for my family, my kids. I got to a point where I could tell the difference in myself and I wanted to get it before it became an issue."
-- Bret Boone
Boone didn't go into rehab until the following summer. He stayed in the facility in San Diego for 26 days. Boone acknowledged that he didn't want to be there at first.
"You are sitting there going, 'I'm Bret Boone. What am I doing here?' That's you initial reaction," Boone said. "But I'm sitting there with big-time successful people, who are having the same issues. It was a personal decision and I'm not embarrassed by it. I'm proud that I did it. I went through it and took the step to cut this thing off."
Boone said that he is not the first member of the Boone family to have drinking problem. His grandfather, Ray, a successful big league player in his own right, had difficulties with alcohol, but Bret said that Ray, who passed away in 2004, was sober the last 40 years of his life.
Bret's father, Bob, who is the Nationals' assistant general manager, declined to comment for this story. All Bob would say is that he is proud of his son for seeking help.
Now that he is free of alcohol, Bret said that he has the passion to play baseball again. The Nationals gave Boone a Minor League deal to prove that the passion is back. The original plan was to have Boone work with the Minor Leaguers in the accelerated camp, but he reported to work in such great shape that general manager Jim Bowden decided to let Boone play with the Major Leaguers.
So far, everybody has noticed that Boone's bat speed is still there and that he hasn't lost a step with the glove. But Boone admits that the big test will come when the exhibition games begin.
"I know the bat speed is there. It's just a matter of fine-tuning it -- seeing pitches," Boone said. "The defense comes to me pretty easy. I'm not worried about that. It's going to be the hitting and the timing."