It took me only three days to find out that people look at me differently now that I've broken Roger Maris's record. I was shaking hands with some kids and adults sitting near the field before our game against Houston at the Astrodome last Friday night, and I kept hearing some of them shout, "He touched me! He touched me!" That blew me away. Two months ago nobody said that. That tells me people have changed their perspective on me, and it's something I'm going to have to deal with.
I hope people don't think, Well, he's a different person; look what he's done. I'd rather they think, That's just Mark McGwire; he did something historical, but, hey, he's just like us.
The way people across America have treated me this year, it's almost as if we broke the record together. People told me, "I can relate to you." Well, they did because I'm just a normal guy, because I show emotion and because I care about other people, especially children. So just because I broke the record, please don't lose sight of the fact that I am still all those things.
This is what I wish: that when I go home to Southern California after the season, my life will be the same as what it was before the record. I want to walk into the same public gym where I've always worked out, say hello to some friends, get my workout in and go home. Is that possible? I hope it is.
I know the opportunities for endorsements and appearances are pouring in. The day after I broke the record my adviser and good friend, Jim Milner, told me, "There's no way I can handle all of this." So we had to hire a public-relations firm just to field all the calls. But I told Jim, "Don't even mention a thing to me until a week or two after the season." Then I'm going to be very, very careful about what I consider.
I'm not going to allow any opportunities to take my vacation time away. I realize you can get caught up in all the commitments, and the next thing you know you're in spring training. I don't want that to happen. I want to relax. I want to play some golf. It's the sport I played first, since I was five years old—my handicap's 10 now, because I haven't been playing much, but it's been as low as four. My golf swing actually comes more naturally to me than my baseball swing.
I really want to enjoy being with my son, Matthew. My birthday is Oct. 1; I'll be 35. His is three days later; he turns 11. For the past few years we've taken a vacation together to celebrate our birthdays. Last year we went to Mexico. This year we're going to a special place, which I'll keep quiet. I'm very sensitive about Matthew's being in the public eye. I understand people are going to look at me differently and place more demands on me. But, please, leave my son alone. Let him be a child.
Last Thursday was Matthew's first day of school. When Kathy, my ex-wife, drove him there, she found a crew from a tabloid TV show waiting for him with cameras rolling. That's not right. It's a shame, and I hope nothing like that happens again.
It's only been in these past few days after breaking the record that I've realized the impact I've had on people's lives. I've received telegrams, letters and phone calls from Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Cal Ripken, Jack McDowell, Brett Favre, Greg Norman, many of my former Oakland teammates and so many others. Ken Griffey Jr. hired an airplane to pull a banner saying congratulations when we were in Cincinnati. It's incredible.
See, I knew I had support, but I was so focused on what I was doing that I didn't realize it affected people the way it did. I was given a talent to play this game. I have the utmost respect for everybody who plays it, and to get that back in return, and to hear what people inside and outside baseball are saying, that means so much to me. It's unbelievable. So, thank you to everybody from the bottom of my heart.