"A lot of the other kids would get balls and sell them for 50 cents or a dollar when the fans were coming into the games," Palmeiro said. "But I never sold a baseball. I never took one either; the only ones I took were the ones that came over the fence."
That's Palmeiro's story anyway.
Even when he wasn't playing,
Palmeiro was working toward
baseball goals. He developed his
quick wrists by squeezing tennis
balls while watching television.
And all of the Palmeiro boys
swung bats daily to keep sharp.
This wasn't just pressure from
the family patriarch. This is
what was inside Palmeiro, said
his wife of nearly 20 years,
"I think some of it comes from
what his dad instilled in him,
but I also think that is just his
personality makeup," Lynne Palmeiro
said. "Even though
Rafael's dad pushed him and expected
and demanded a lot, I
think with Rafael, that's also his
nature. He expects a lot of himself."
On to college
Ron Polk influenced Palmeiro's
career. But the legendary
Mississippi State baseball coach
acknowledged that he had little
to do with the sweet Palmeiro
"His dad and mom are great
people, and his dad is the reason
for that great swing," Polk
said. "He'd work him night and
day. His dad was tough on him.
He could be a bear."
Polk said he wasn't sure he
was going to land the Miami
schoolboy star in 1982. He had
the feeling Palmeiro wanted to
get out of Miami. But he also
sensed the shy kid was scared to
be too far from home.
The University of Miami, however,
wanted Palmeiro to sit out
a season and use the year of eligibility
later, whereas Polk gave
Palmeiro the chance to start in
left field as a freshman. And
when Palmeiro took his recruiting
trip to Starkville, Miss.,
he watched the Bulldogs play
their rival, Mississippi.
"I was like, 'I want to be a part
of this. I don't want to miss out
on this,' " Palmeiro said. "It is an
event. It is almost like a football
Palmeiro spent three years at
Mississippi State, earning All-
America honors each season before
being drafted as a junior in
the first round by the Chicago
College was where he met his
wife, a native Mississippian. It's
where he started dealing with
the media and the public's elevated
expectations. It's where
his pro baseball aspirations
leapt toward reality.
Originally, though, Palmeiro
had a backup plan. He loved
drawing and was fascinated by
architecture. He considered becoming
an architect before an
initial meeting with the college's
architecture department head.
He was told he'd have to give up
baseball in the summers to concentrate
"We walked out of there, and I
said, 'I guess you're not going to
be an architect, Raf,' " Polk said.
Instead, Palmeiro became an
art major -- and one of the
school's best players ever.
In the shadows
Palmeiro excelled at Mississippi
State, yet by the end of his
junior year he had been edged
out of the spotlight by his teammate-
turned-rival Will Clark.
Before they battled for free agent
funds in the majors, they
were called Thunder and Lightning.
Thunder struck first in the
pros. Clark, picked second overall
in the 1985 amateur draft by
the San Francisco Giants, made
his debut the next April, and
Palmeiro was selected 22nd
overall in the same draft and debuted
in September 1986.
From Sunday's Sun