But the 38-year-old lefthander simply didn't feel the competitive fire anymore. "My heart's not where it needs to be," Pettitte said Friday at Yankee Stadium in announcing his retirement.
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Of the family he talks so often about and plans to spend most of his time with - his wife, Laura, and children Josh (16), Jared (12), Lexy (10) and Luke (5) - only Luke wanted him to retire.
"They wanted me to play," Pettitte said. "[The kids] were like, 'Dad, we're used to you being gone. Let's do it one more year.' . . . It was all me. I just didn't think I could be fully committed to it the way I needed to be."
With his wife at his side on a dais and members of his Yankees family in the audience - including general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi and former teammate Bernie Williams - Pettitte explained his struggle to make a decision.
But he started working out in December, feeling an obligation to the Yankees after Cliff Lee chose to sign with the Phillies, and started throwing last month. He said as recently as two weeks ago, he told Laura he was going to play, but after going by himself for the eight-hour round-trip drive to his ranch in South Texas, he concluded he was done.
"I didn't want to come back and be bad," he said. "I didn't want to come back and not be sold out on it and be a bad teammate. When I thought about putting myself up here, with the team and stuff like that, I just didn't feel like I was going to be completely there. That's really the ultimate decision. The desire to compete is not where it was. And if that's not there, that just kind of overrided everything."
Girardi and Cashman said they didn't try to pressure Pettitte this offseason, though the pitcher smiled when recounting some of their conversations.
"Obviously, I knew they wanted me back," Pettitte said. "When me and Joe talked . . . Joe had my schedule all figured out already. And Alex [Rodriguez] was lobbying pretty good for me to come back. For the most part, everyone was like, we want you to do what's best for you." He laughed. "With Cash,'' he said, "every conversation ended with 'I'm expecting you to be back.' "
Pettitte added, "It was an easy decision, but it wasn't an easy decision" - and one in which he finally felt secure after exchanging text messages with Tino Martinez on Thursday. "Tino said, 'Andy, if there was any hesitation at all [on returning], you're making the right decision,' " Pettitte said. "For me, that was huge. It verified it for me."
Pettitte, 240-138 with a 3.88 ERA in 16 seasons - 13 with the Yankees - and the all-time leader in postseason wins (19), said he doesn't consider himself a Hall of Famer, adding: "I feel honored people are talking about it."
Pettitte said that although he's looking forward to watching his kids play sports and coaching them, he'll also "have one eye on the New York Yankees."
Though he said he will miss the competition and clubhouse camaraderie, he said he is "100 percent" he won't pitch this season. He didn't completely shut the door for 2012, but he sounded far from someone preparing to emulate Brett Favre. "I feel like God's given me a great peace about it. I feel like it's the right thing," he said. "I wouldn't do this if I didn't think it was the right thing in my heart.
"Everybody keeps asking me, are you sure you're done? Yeah, I do. Because the way I feel right now, I feel like I'm done. I don't feel like I'm torn up. Am I going to miss it? I'm going to miss it. Am I sad? I'm sad. When I walked into this tunnel, when I walked into the clubhouse, that's sad. But when you feel like it's the right decision, you have to feel good about that, and I feel good about it."