Thirteen years after declaring the six words “I have never used steroids. Period,” while wagging his finger at an MLB congressional committee, Rafael Palmeiro is back running the bases, for the Cleburne Railroaders of the American Association.
Palmeiro, who is now 53, spent 20 years in the Major Leagues after being drafted in the first round of the 1985 MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs. After further stints with the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles Palmeiro became one of just six players in MLB history to hit over 500 home runs and have 3,000 hits.
But after being accused of steroid use in 2005, Palmeiro’s career came to an abrupt end, as the Orioles told him not to return to their clubhouse. The left-handed slugger ended his career as a four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner.
That looked to be the end of his baseball-playing days until he signed on with the Railroaders last month.
“It’s good,” Palmeiro said on Saturday, ahead of the Railroaders’ game against the Kansas City T-Bones at T-Bones Ballpark. “It’s been a long time since I’ve done it, but it feels like it did before, actually. It feels like I didn’t take 13 years off actually.”
Palmeiro’s stint with the Railroaders is the first professional baseball he’s played since 2005, with the veteran taking up his old position at first base. To make things all the more sweet for Palmeiro, his son Patrick also plays in the infield for the Railroaders.
“I try not to think about it too much,” Palmeiro said. “It’s baseball, we’re focused on the game, we’re focused on beating the opponent, and preparing for the game through batting practice, so I try not to get caught up in that.”
But he still can’t help himself coaching Patrick once in a while during games — he has been both his father and coach for the past 28 years, after all.
“He thought I was crazy,” Palmeiro laughed. “I didn’t do it to play with him, I was doing it to make a comeback, and it just happened that we ended up on the same team together.”
The elder Palmeiro is showing he’s still got the timing, bat speed and power that he was known for throughout the 90’s. Since making his debut on May 21, Palmeiro is batting .263 (15 for 57) with two homers and seven RBI, heading into Saturday’s game against the T-Bones.
During Saturday's game, a 5-4 victory for the T-Bones, Palmeiro went 1 for 4 with a walk, with his only hit of the night being an RBI single to center field in the top of the first inning.
And while Palmeiro’s career may be tainted due to his alleged steroids use, which he said he takes full responsibility for, he has come to terms that that’s how his career will be remembered.
And even after receiving less than 5 percent of votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, Palmeiro is determined to at least make sure that his sudden exit from the major leagues is not the last chapter of his career.
“Well maybe,” Palmeiro said on rewriting the end of his career. “That may be something that I would love, to finish the opportunity on my own terms and maybe not rewrite it, because that’s already been written, buy maybe finish it with a good chapter.”