Texas Rangers

Former MLB slugger Rafael Palmeiro resumes career at 53

Rafael Palmeiro postgame

Rafael Palmeiro expects timing to return
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Rafael Palmeiro expects timing to return

If nothing else, Rafael Palmeiro will get a chance to play professional baseball with his son.

The former major league All-Star made his professional debut with the Cleburne Railroaders Friday night. The Railroaders are an unaffiliated team playing in the American Association independent league.

Palmeiro, 53, went 0 for 4 with two ground outs, a fly out and a strikeout as the Railroaders won 3-2 with a walk-off win in the ninth.

“It was about what I thought. My timing is off, obviously, but I felt good,” said Palmeiro, who weighs 195 pounds, 10 pounds lighter than when he last played in the majors. “It felt good being in the dugout. The crowd was into it and we won the game so all the way around it was a good night. It’s fun being in the dugout with the team and my son.”

Palmeiro last played in the majors in 2005. The last time he played at any professional level was one game with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters at the end of the 2015 season, which was a chance for him to suit up with his eldest son Patrick.

This time, however, Palmeiro is seeking to prove — mostly to himself — that he can still play at a high level.

When he announced his intentions to attempt a comeback this winter he hoped to be invited to a major league spring training camp. But when nobody called, including the two clubs he’s most known for, the Rangers and Orioles, he decided on the Railroaders for its proximity to his Colleyville home and a chance to play a whole season with his son.

“I didn’t think it would go in this direction but it’s OK,” Palmeiro said before Friday’s game. “This is fine. I’m playing with my son, it’ll be fine.”

Palmeiro, who would be in the Baseball Hall of Fame if it weren’t for his connection to performance enhancing drugs, said that had nothing to do with his desire to return.

“People are thinking that it’s the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t matter anymore. That’s over and done with,” he said. “The only chance I have now is the Veteran’s Committee, I think. It’s not about the Hall of Fame. I might be doing this even if I was in the Hall of Fame.”

He also said it’s not about ending his career on his own terms, which despite playing 20 seasons, was cut short after the PED scandal.

“That would be nice if I ever got a chance to do that, but now it’s about this and seeing what I can do,” said Palmeiro, who is one of six players to collect at least 500 homers and 3,000 hits in his career. “We’re going to take it one step at a time.”

Mainly, he said, his return is about a love for the game.

“I do miss it. I’ve been watching from the stands for a long time as a parent. I’ve always missed it but I miss it more now,” he said.

Does he expect this to lead him back to the majors?

“Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t know what this is going to lead to,” he said. “If I do well enough and I show that I can do it, I might get a chance. I’m sure I’ll have to go to the minor leagues and that’s fine. We’ll see what doors open up after this.”

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