Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/AP

Ryan Howard’s last five seasons in Philadelphia made him a poster child for the dangers of a long-term, back-loaded contract. Watching him at the end was almost painful—struggling to keep his OPS over the .700 mark, a decade after he crushed 58 home runs as MVP.

But he’s still trying! And it’s still a little painful to watch. Howard waited all winter for a major-league call that never came before ultimately signing a minor-league deal with the Braves at the age of 37. A new interview with the Associated Press makes it achingly clear that he’s not sticking around for any simple love of playing in and of itself, but because he truly believes he can still make it in the big leagues.

“I’m a little behind bit the curve as far as not really having a spring training, so you’re trying to get your work in, trying to work on things, and at the same time, you’re also going out there trying to be competitive.”

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Howard hasn’t had a particularly exciting start to the year in Triple-A, going 6 for 34 in his first nine games. (For some perspective—that’s only a tiny bit worse than his major-league line of .196/.257/.453 last year.) But he really, earnestly believes there’s a payoff: “There’s more in the tank. If you walk away, don’t walk away with something still left in the tank. Then you’re wondering like, ‘Man, what could I have done?’ When I’m done playing, I want to leave it all out on the field.”

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However sad the results may be, he’s at least doing that.

[Associated Press]