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.

Recently, it has been that older man, 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 glory.

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 survival.

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 pastime.

"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 kids."

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.