MLB: Tim Raines embracing spot in Hall of Fame lineup

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  July 29, 2017 at 9:22 PM
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Nobody knows what Tim Raines will be feeling on Sunday afternoon more than his best friend in baseball, Andre Dawson. And Dawson knows there's nothing he can say to Raines to properly prepare him for the task of delivering a Hall of Fame acceptance speech that will serve as the culmination of his career in baseball.

"With Tim, I'm sure it's going to be a lot of humor and some fun to it," Dawson said following an autograph signing Friday. "I just hope he's not too impacted by what he sees when he steps out at that podium."

Raines and the rest of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017 -- fellow former players Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez as well as former commissioner Bud Selig and former Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz -- will all be uncertain of what to expect in a familiar environment Sunday, when they will be inducted in front of a crowd expected to number more than 30,000 at the Clark Sports Center.

Raines, who will be the third Hall of Famer to represent the Montreal Expos, attended the inductions of his predecessors -- Dawson in 2010 and the late Gary Carter in 2003. He knows watching Dawson and Carter speak will be nothing like actually stepping to the microphone himself.

"I kind of got a chance to get a feel for that, what it's like being up there," Raines said during a press availability Saturday afternoon. "It's definitely a different kind of feeling when you're on the other side. I'm certainly looking forward to that."

Rodriguez appeared at nearby Doubleday Field with the Texas Rangers -- whose hat he'll sport on his plaque -- in the 2000 Hall of Fame game, an exhibition between major league teams that used to cap Hall of Fame weekend but ceased operations following the 2008 edition.

Bagwell attended the 2015 ceremonies, when his best friend and fellow lifelong member of the Houston Astros, Craig Biggio, was inducted.

"He's like everybody (else saying) just enjoy it, it goes quick," Bagwell said. "Unlike what you see on TV looking at it, a player's (perspective), it's pretty interesting. So just going to enjoy it."

Nobody is more familiar with the Cooperstown surroundings than Selig and Schuerholz. As commissioner from 1993 through 2014, Selig was seated in the front row for 22 consecutive Induction Sundays. But does he have any idea what it will be like to reside in a seat on the stage reserved for one of the Hall of Fame's newest members?

"Everybody asks me that and that's a very fair question," Selig said. "I'll let you know afterward. Quite emotional."

Schuerholz said he has been to Induction Sunday "15 or so" times -- sometimes to see former players such as George Brett, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz get inducted, other times to just enjoy the ceremony as a fan in Cooperstown, which he calls " ... the most beautiful little city I've ever been to. Looks like Norman Rockwell designed and built it.

"I've never been sitting up (on) stage looking out over the podium and to the audience -- I've always been in the audience, looking up at the podium in awe and admiration," Schuerholz said. "This'll be a new seat, with a new perspective and probably a few more nerve endings and excitable moments for me. But I'm excited about being excited about it."

Raines, who earned enshrinement during his 10th and final year of eligibility and has reveled in the buildup to Sunday like few impending Hall of Famers, said he's going to bask in the environment -- nerves and all -- because he knows next year, it'll be his turn to relax and warn newcomers of what they can't possibly expect.

"Next year, there's going to be another crop of guys coming in, and I wouldn't say (people will) forget us, but we'll be in the back of the stage instead of in front of the stage," Raines said with a grin. "I'll be able to come here and play as much golf as I want and do pretty much whatever I want."

SELIG STUMPING: Selig, who was the longest-serving commissioner in baseball history before retiring and being replaced by Rob Manfred in January 2015, sounded as if he were still speaking in that capacity during his press availability, when he lauded baseball's PED-testing program, praised the viability of Montreal as a baseball market and a labor peace that will be more than a quarter-century old by the time the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2021 season.

"Twenty-seven years of labor peace," Selig said. "How much would you bet against that in 1995?"

"The house," answered a reporter.

"So would I," Selig said.

HAVE THEY INVENTED CLONING YET? Rangers executive vice president of communications John Blake wished he could have been in two places at once Saturday.

Blake, in Cooperstown as part of the Rangers' contingent accompanying Ivan Rodriguez, is in danger of missing the Hall of Fame candidacy-sealing 3,000th career hit by the player most likely to represent the Rangers next in Cooperstown, Adrian Beltre, who entered Saturday two hits shy of the milestone.

Blake will rejoin the Rangers on Monday, but the red-hot Beltre -- who entered Saturday hitting .457 in his last nine games -- hasn't recorded one hit or fewer in a two-game span since he went hitless in consecutive contests July 15-16.

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