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, Lynne.
"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 swing.
"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 weekend."
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 Cubs.
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 on internships.
"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.