The shaggy-haired teen lines a pitch into the outfield, and the ping from his aluminum bat echoes throughout an empty Camden Yards.
The slightly graying, 40-year-old man
on the pitcher's mound offers encouragement
and throws again, prompting another
unnatural baseball sound from
15-year-old Patrick Palmeiro's bat.
Rafael Palmeiro, whose bat has been
making the noise. He's the one who
joined an elite baseball fraternity Friday
night at Seattle's Safeco Field with a double
in the fifth inning with one out
against the Mariners to record his
3,000th career hit.
Palmeiro is best suited in a batter's
box, exhibiting the butter-smooth lefthanded
swing that has helped him become
the fourth player in Major League
history to collect 3,000 hits and more
than 500 homers, joining Hank Aaron,
Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.
Yet standing on a mound tossing batting
practice to his two sons is where he
truly belongs, where he is most comfortable,
where he will be for years to come.
Out of the public eye with a baseball in
his hand. Teaching the sport to his children.
Admonishing them for bad habits.
Pushing them toward excellence.
And, with each instruction, paying
homage to his own father, the no-nonsense
Cuban refugee who made the Orioles
first baseman what he is today.
To understand Palmeiro, to comprehend
where this road to baseball immortality
began, it's best to know what happened
when he was 6.
Unfortunately, he can't guide
you step by step through those
days; they were too long ago.
The person who can is off-limits.
It's one of the few requests the
soft-spoken Palmeiro makes of
the media: Don't bother his father,
Jose, 76, who lives in an upscale
home in Miami that his famous
son purchased for him.
There have been past interviews,
and Palmeiro wasn't
happy with the results. Besides,
Palmeiro knows what his dad
will say: "He'll be like, 'That is
his deal. He's the one doing it. I
don't want any part of ' " the
So, the ballplayer's interpretation
will have to do.
Jose Palmeiro, an ice-creamstand
owner in Cuba, disagreed
with the communist policies of
Fidel Castro. In 1971, with government
permission, Jose Palmeiro
took his wife and three of
his sons, ages 7, 6 and 3, and left
Havana for Florida.
That one act defined a family.
And made an indelible impression
on a boy.
"It takes a lot of courage, I
think, to leave your country,"
Palmeiro said. "To leave everything
you worked for, all your
money, all your possessions, all
your clothes, everything behind.
And going to a foreign country
with three little kids, without a
job, without money, without
knowing anyone. I think that
takes a lot of courage."
The Palmeiro family settled in
Miami and the father took a
construction job, working hours
upon back-breaking hours for
The boys had little -- except a
mother who smothered them
with love, a baseball diamond
within walking distance and a
dad who burned to teach America's
"He'd come home at 4:30 every
afternoon from being out in the
sun working in construction,
and he'd come in, drink a glass
of water, eat a sandwich and
we'd go to the ballpark," Palmeiro
said. "That takes a lot of
dedication and love for your
This is how Palmeiro's story
grew, from roots of poverty and
struggle into hope.
Watching the Orioles
As a kid, Palmeiro and his
brothers would watch Murray,
Ken Singleton and other Orioles
take batting practice before
spring training games at Miami
Stadium. They'd wait for home
run balls to leave the park, then
they'd chase them down and use
the balls for their own games.
From Sunday's Sun
A strong work ethic and a sweet swing -- both instilled by his father -- have helped Rafael Palmeiro join one of the most exclusive groups in baseball.
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.
The Baltimore Sun encourages civil dialogue related to our stories; you must register and log-in to our site in order to participate. We reserve the right to remove any user and to delete comments that violate our Terms of Service. By commenting, you agree to these terms. Please flag inappropriate comments.