When 53-year-old Rafael Palmeiro announced his return to professional baseball this month, expectations were understandably low.
Based on his debut with the Cleburne Railroaders, an unaffiliated team in the independent American Association, the former 20-year major leaguer might have a long way to go just to meet those lowered expectations.
Palmeiro, who last played in MLB in 2005, went 0-for-4 Friday night. He struck out once, grounded out twice and flew out as Cleburne defeated Winnipeg 3-2.
Undeterred by his uninspiring performance, Palmeiro told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he felt good. He also admitted that his timing was off, which is to be expected after a long layoff.
“It was about what I thought,” Palmeiro said after the game. “My timing is off, obviously, but I felt good. … 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 made a one-game appearance with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters in 2015. Aside from that, he’s been on the outside looking in following a career in which he netted over 500 home runs and 3,000 career hits. He’s one of only six players in MLB history to reach both lofty milestones, along with Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Alex Rodriguez and mostly recently Albert Pujols.
Despite his massive career numbers, Palmeiro fell off the Hall of Fame ballot in 2014. That can be attributed to his positive test for PEDs in 2005.
Palmeiro says the main motivation behind his return is to see if he can still cut it in professional baseball. He elected to sign with the Railroaders to play alongside his son, Patrick, who signed with them on the same day.
That part is pretty fun. And let’s face it, all comebacks of this nature are at the very least intriguing. We’ll keep an eye on Palmeiro to see if he can defy the odds and find his classic swing again.
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