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Callers ringing up Palmeiro include one fan named Bush

Sun Staff

SEATTLE - The morning after securing baseball immortality with his 3,000thcareer hit, Rafael Palmeiro was in his hotel room playing telephone operator.

He said he received "40 to 50" calls and voice-mail messages from friendsand family offering congratulations.

His elderly parents in Miami called and said they were proud. So did formerteammates Ivan Rodriguez and Kenny Rogers. But the one he'll remember most wasa five-minute chat at about 11 a.m. with former Texas Rangers owner andcurrent defender of the free world George W. Bush.

"It was a great honor. I have known President Bush now for most of mycareer because he was with the Rangers when I first went to Texas," Palmeirosaid. "We had a nice conversation. He was very proud for me to reach thatmilestone. He talked about me coming from Cuba and that it has been a longroad, and he asked about my kids."

Bush, who also called Palmeiro after he hit his 500th home run in May 2003,invited the Palmeiro family to the White House when they get back toBaltimore.

"With the things that are going on in the world right now, with all thecrazy stuff and with him being so busy, for him to take time out to call meand congratulate me, that means a lot to me," Palmeiro said. "It was veryimportant for me."

When Palmeiro got back to his hotel room Friday night, he said he watched areplay of his historic hit - a one-out RBI double to left against the Seattle Mariners' Joel Pineiro in the fifth inning - on ESPN.

He watched it again yesterday morning, reliving the moment and thesubsequent celebration at second base when he was mobbed by his teammates andhis two sons, Patrick, 15, and Preston, 10. Preston, who moments before hadtaped the event from the dugout, was lifted into the air by his dad.

"I think that was the most emotional, when I picked up my youngest,"Palmeiro said. "I gave my oldest son a hug, too, but I think when I picked upthe little one was when it hit me."

Preston called it "really awesome." He admitted his eyes welled up "maybe alittle bit," something his older brother quickly razzed him about.

"I saw a little tears in his eyes," Patrick taunted his brother. "Oh, it'sOK, boy."

The youngest Palmeiro wasn't the only emotional one on the field Friday.

"I don't cry, because you know you have to stay tough," said Orioles thirdbaseman Melvin Mora. "But, man, you don't see that many times. Yeah, I was[emotional], especially when I scored the run when he hit his 3,000th."

The biggest moment for most of the Orioles was when they ran onto the fieldand encircled their first baseman. It was an unusual response in a visitingballpark, but the Seattle fans and players applauded the scene.

"We were on the road, so it was a tough situation, but this doesn't happenvery often," outfielder Jay Gibbons said. "And so we said, `We are going outthere and make them kick us off.' And the umpires were great and Seattle wasgreat. They knew how big it was."

Years down the road, it's a moment few involved will forget.

"That was probably one of the coolest things I've ever seen," said catcherSal Fasano. "You realize what he did was just an absolute feat. You're almostin awe. Everybody was on the top step. I was cheering my tail off like it wasthe seventh game of the World Series."

With the double, Palmeiro became just the fourth player in baseball historyto collect 3,000 hits and more than 500 home runs - joining Hall of FamersHank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.

"I just think people don't appreciate what this guy has done in his careerand maybe they will after this," Gibbons said.

It was especially poignant, Palmeiro said, because he shared it with histwo sons.

"I wanted them to be a part of that so one day they can really appreciateit," he said. "I think they are too young to really understand it completely.But when they get old enough and they look at the videos they willunderstand."

He said he also couldn't grasp the magnitude of what he accomplished Fridaynight. He said the moment was "more magical" than when he hit 500 homers. Buthe's glad it's over with, and the spotlight can again be focused on his team'spennant chase.

"When the season is over with, maybe it will sink in," he said. "But rightnow we've got to get back to getting out there and trying to [win]."

Sun staff writer Roch Kubatko contributed to this article.

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