Rafael Palmeiro isn’t ready to give up his comeback attempt yet.
Even though no teams have shown much interest with full squads reporting to spring training next week, Palmeiro remains hopeful that a team will give him a chance to resume his playing career at age 53 and after a 13-year layoff.
“I’m still pursuing it. I haven’t changed my mind,” Palmeiro said on Friday. “I’m still working out and doing everything to be ready.”
Palmeiro said his agent has spoken with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles about the idea of a return. The Rangers have made it clear they aren’t interested, and the Orioles haven’t jumped at the opportunity, either.
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“Nothing yet,” said Palmeiro, a Colleyville resident.
Palmeiro said he is not discouraged from the lack of interest up to this point. Hey, even though the Rangers aren't interested, they are giving 44-year-old Bartolo Colon a chance in camp. Palmeiro hit two of his 569 career home runs off Colon.
Palmeiro didn’t discount the idea of training in Florida with unsigned free agents at a camp hosted by the players’ union, but the MLB players' union said only current players are eligible to participate.
Either way, Palmeiro remains focused on returning to the game in which he left a disgraced star.
“At times, it gets hard to stay motivated, but I’m still doing it,” Palmeiro said. “I can only do so much. I can’t sign myself. So it’s tough at times because no one has taken it as serious as I am.”
Palmeiro has been training with his sons. His oldest, Patrick, is committed to play in the independent leagues against this season with the Sugar Land Skeeters. His youngest, Preston, is a prospect in the Orioles’ organization and will report to their camp this weekend.
Palmeiro has posted a few videos of his training on social media of him hitting off a machine. A simulator has shown him go deep a couple times.
“People are saying they could’ve hit balls off the machine, too, but the thing they’re missing is the machine is not lobbing pitches up there,” Palmeiro said. “We’ve set the machine to where it’s throwing in the low 90s mph to try and simulate what a game-time fastball is.
“This is what I did in the off-season and even during the season. I’d go in the batting tunnel to take some swings. I always set it at that speed. My thought process is I’m still reacting and seeing the ball as good as I did back when I played.”
As stated, Palmeiro is still holding out hope to get an opportunity to make it back to the big leagues. If that isn’t a possibility, then he’d consider joining a team such as the Skeeters.
Palmeiro doesn’t think going overseas to play in Japan is realistic because his goal is to get back to the majors. In Japan, he’d likely have to sign a year-long contract.
“But I’m not going to rule anything out,” Palmeiro said. “I’m still hopeful, man. I’m going to stay optimistic. Hopefully someone will give me a chance to do this and play baseball again.
“I know I can do it and I know that I can play at a high level and I know I can help a team.”
Palmeiro likely would have been a lock for the Hall of Fame as one of just five members of the 3,000-hit, 500-homer club over a 20-year career with the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles.
But his legacy is tarnished as being one of the poster boys of the steroid era. A failed drug test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2005 proved to be the end of what had been an illustrious career.
Palmeiro fell off the Hall of Fame ballot four years ago, receiving less than the necessary 5 percent of the vote in his fourth year of eligibility. He has maintained – and continues to maintain — that what triggered the failed test was a tainted injection of vitamin B-12, a legal supplement, given to him by an Orioles teammate.
Other players from the steroid era such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds have gained momentum in their Hall of Fame quest in recent years.
“I look at Clemens and Bonds and they’re getting closer and closer,” Palmeiro said. “They’re going to hit that threshold at some point. I don’t know where I’d be or how close I’d be since I went the other way. Clemens and Bonds deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. I’m not on the ballot, so I really try not to think about it or worry about it too much.”
Instead, he’s thinking about what he needs to do to get another chance.