Zeile On Center Stage Again

PHILADELPHIA -- Todd Zeile swears that he's headed home to California when the final pitch of this season is thrown. But if Zeile keeps producing nights like this one, the Mets may have to beg him to stay. <P> The 38-year-old Zeile once again starred in his ongoing farewell tour around the Majors, slugging a game-tying home run and a go-ahead RBI single, helping boost the Mets to a 4-1 victory in ten innings Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

On a night when Al Leiter threw five scoreless innings in a return from the disabled list and Vance Wilson slugged his first career pinch-hit home run, a two-run shot off of Tim Worrell in the 10th inning, it was Zeile who took the bows on center stage.

Zeile homered in the eighth off of Rheal Cormier to deadlock a pitcher's duel at 1-1, then contributed a great piece of situational hitting in the tenth, protecting Kaz Matsui on a hit-and-run by throwing his bat – literally – at a Worrell cutter. With Matsui safe at second on a stolen base, Zeile then knocked in the go-ahead run, a line drive single to center for his third hit of the night.

However, Zeile's Philly fun didn't come to an end there. He also turned in a sparkling defensive play in the bottom of the tenth, charging a bouncing ground ball and gunning down Pat Burrell at first for the first out of Braden Looper's scoreless inning.

"The way I was playing today, I figured for 9-1/2 innings, things were going my way," said Zeile, who raised his average to .270. "I told myself, charge it and see if it sticks, and it did."

"That was a big-league play," said Mets manager Art Howe, whose team has won the first two games here in Philadelphia. "I don't know how many third basemen make that play."

Considering how Zeile has looked through the first two months of the season, the Mets probably wouldn't mind if he emulated that chopper and decided to stick in New York.

After all, Zeile was considering retirement after finishing up last season with the vagabond Montreal Expos – he only agreed to lace up his spikes for one more year with the Mets, with whom he said he had the best two years of his career in 2000 and 2001.

But even with Zeile's production pumping and the Mets clearing room for him in the lineup at any available opening - New York has been using Ty Wigginton at second base just to keep Zeile in the lineup - there's no chance of a return engagement here, Zeile says.

Asked why, exactly, he was retiring, Zeile said: "Because I have a family at home who's waited 16 years for me to spend some time with them."

It's a solid reason and a promise that Zeile, a father of four, fully intends to keep, even though he says he feels as good now as he has in years. He says that there's no chance of a Roger Clemens-esque (wink-wink) 'comeback,' and that he believes having come to terms with his upcoming retirement has actually helped him.

"I think part of the reason I'm able to have fun and enjoy this is that I know it's coming to an end," Zeile said. "This is it for me. I can go out and feel at peace."

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