CLEBURNE (CBSDFW.COM) – Friday is opening night for the Cleburne Railroaders, and they are starting the season with a big name on the roster. Rafael Palmeiro joins the team at 53 years old. The former Texas Rangers slugger is set to take the field alongside his 28-year-old son, who is also on the team.
“It’s a very exciting day, opening night is upon us,” said Brad Allred, the broadcast voice of the Railroaders. “Rafael Palmeiro is going to put on the Cleburne Railroaders uniform for the first time along with this son, Patrick, and you can expect a lot of excitement tonight here at The Depot.”
During the winter, Palmeiro indicated a desire to make an MLB comeback, but it did not go as he had hoped. “Nobody gave me a chance to go to spring training, so I will just take this path,” Palmeiro said. He joined the Railroaders, an independent minor league team in their second year.
“I know that I can do it, and I was looking for an opportunity,” Palmeiro said.
Palmeiro played in 20 big league seasons, including 10 with the Texas Rangers. His career ended with the Baltimore Orioles in 2005 following a positive steroids test. Palmeiro has stated that a tainted vitamin shot caused the failed test, and that he never took any banned substances intentionally.
The drug scandal kept Palmeiro from reaching the Hall of Fame. He dropped off of the ballot four years ago after receiving less than 5 percent of the vote, which is necessary in order to remain eligible. The three-time Gold Glove first baseman and four-time All-Star is one of just six players in MLB history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
“He’s going to hit,” Palmeiro’s son said. “He was born to hit.”
Palmeiro knows that people will think that he is crazy, but added that he actually feels better physically then when he was playing in the MLB. “I’m doing it because I love the game, first of all,” he said. “I want to get back to proving to myself that I can do this.”
“Rafael Palmeiro’s going to just bring some extra excitement, some extra electricity,” Allred said.
The Railroaders start the season on Friday with a three-game series against the two-time defending American Association champion Winnipeg Goldeyes. The first pitch is at 7:06 p.m. and tickets are still available. “We’re going to expect a packed house here tonight,” Allred said. “There’s going to be a lot of excitement, a lot of families.”