St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman told FOX 26 Sports on Thursday if he chooses to retire this offseason, he has a plan in place which includes returning to Rice University to finish his degree and work as a student assistant for Owls baseball coach Wayne Graham.
Berkman, who will become a free agent after this season, has already reached out to the academic advisor for athletics at Rice to help him get ready for his return to college for the first since time 1997 should he choose to go that route.
Berkman is considering retiring because of a chronically sore right knee.
His immediate goal is to get as healthy as possible and help the Cardinals make the playoffs.
"If I do decide to retire my next move is going to be to enroll at Rice and to be a student assistant for the baseball team," Berkman said.
While playing for Rice In 1997 he was named the National College Player of the Year.
Graham has told Berkman he would welcome him back to Rice Owls baseball with open arms.
"That's very flattering to me that he would have that kind of trust in my knowledge of the game," Berkman said. "I mean you're talking about one of the true legends of baseball, especially in the Houston area, and for him to want you to be a part of his program is an honor and I would be excited about it because I'm passionate about that age group.
"The best time I ever had in my life playing baseball was when I was at Rice. To be able to help those kids that are in that situation that I was in 15 years ago,is exciting to me."
Berkman said it makes sense for him to return to Rice once his baseball career is over.
"We make our home in Houston," Berkman said. "I went to Rice. The program did a lot of for me. I would love to do something for the program.
"All of those things make it sort of a no-brainer on my end. I'm just happy Coach Graham feels like that I would be enough of an asset to come in and try to help that team win.
"And really in a lot of ways it's more exciting that trying to continue my own baseball career."
Berkman said working as a student assistant for Rice baseball will help him decide what he wants to do in the future after he retires from the game.
"It would be a good transition for me from a playing career to seeing if I want to purse a coaching career while I'm earning my degree and being able to help Coach Graham," he said.
Berkman was recently activated from the disabled list and is doing what he can to help the Cardinals.
"My knee is not 100 per cent, nor do I think it ever will be, barring some sort of a pretty intense program that can only be undertaken in the offseason," Berkman said.
"The thing about that is, you have to have a meeting with yourself, to borrow a phrase from Coach Graham, and see if I still have the will to put myself through that to try to get back where I feel like I can compete at an elite level.
"If I feel like that I don't have that willpower then I'm going to hang them up because I'm not going to do something half-hearted."
Berkman points out he still has some big decisions to make.
"My primary focus right now is to try to be as good as I can be for the next month plus the playoffs, hopefully, for the Cardinals," Berkman said.
"All of the decisions on retirement, the decisions on what happens next year, I'm going to leave those for the offseason.
Beyond the issues with his knee Berkman said the things that will go into his decision, on whether to retire or not, include which teams still have an interest in him and at what level financially.
"Like I told the (St. Louis) Post-Dispatch, if you put a gun to my head today and asked me what I was going to do 'I'd say I'm not going to play anymore', but certainly I deserve the right to change my mind on that.
"I don't want to get into a Brett Favre-type situation where I say I'm going to retire and then I don't. I want to make sure I'm making a good and wise decision with the available information."
As for his goal of getting his college degree, Berkman said he still needs about three semesters to graduate.
His original college plan had him getting a degree in coaching and teaching.
However, that degree plan is no longer offered at Rice.
So he has some to work to do there as well.
"I've talked to the academic advisor at Rice, Julie Griswold (associate director of academic advising for athletics), and she's kind of helping me put some thoughts together about how to go about it," Berkman said.
"She's talked to the administration about 'can I continue and just go ahead and get the coaching and teaching degree even though that's not a current (plan)?'
"In other words was I grandfathered in on that or am I going to have to pursue another degree, which I already have a lot of the hours required for a kinesiology degree for example.
Hopefully I can just get grandfathered in and keep going. If not, it's not a disaster."
In the meantime Berkman wants to help his Cardinals win some games.
"I'd love to win another World Series and I think that the Cardinals team that we have right now is capable of doing that and I want to be a part of that," Berkman said.