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Selig makes 'overwhelming' pre-induction visit

MLB.com @RichardJustice

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- At some point, the whole thing became almost more than Bud Selig could get his mind around.

"I didn't think anything could overwhelm me," he said. "But this is overwhelming."

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- At some point, the whole thing became almost more than Bud Selig could get his mind around.

"I didn't think anything could overwhelm me," he said. "But this is overwhelming."

Memories came in waves, a lifetime of them. Like when Selig slipped on a pair of white gloves and held one of Babe Ruth's bats in his hands.

"You couldn't dream about this," Selig said.

• Complete 2017 Hall of Fame coverage

Selig had a couple dozen moments similar to that one on Thursday as he became the last of this summer's five inductees to make a pre-induction visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Mostly, this trip was about taking care of business, with Hall of Fame officials answering questions, assisting with logistics and outlining his schedule for induction weekend, July 28-30.

Selig has visited the Hall of Fame countless times over the years, including participating in every induction ceremony during his 22 years as Commissioner.

Video: Bud Selig brought baseball back to Milwaukee

This time, though, the visit was different, because this induction weekend will be about honoring Selig, along with John Schuerholz, Tim Raines, Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez.

For Selig, this is an appropriate honor for nearly a half-century in the game that began with the simplest goal a fan could have: He wanted his hometown of Milwaukee to have a team.

From acquiring the Brewers in 1970 at 35 years old, Selig rose to the highest level of Major League Baseball and led a reshaping of the entire sport that opened the door to a historic era of growth and prosperity.

"This is hard to describe," Selig said. "I've never been short of words, but this takes your breath away. This is history. This is baseball. This is societal. It sets you to thinking. It's just a great honor."

Video: Selig reflects on career and his election to the HOF

Selig's tour on Thursday included a visit to the basement archives, where Erik Strohl, the Hall of Fame's vice president of exhibitions and collections, displayed a table of artifacts of particular interest to Selig.

There was one of the very first baseballs with his signature as Commissioner on it, and the pitching rubber from Major League Baseball's first Interleague game -- one of Selig's initiatives.

There was a baseball from the Brewers' first game in 1970, and also an early Brewers hat. Only it wasn't a Brewers hat at all. It was made for the Seattle Pilots, but when Selig acquired the franchise a week before Opening Day, an imperfect "M" replaced the "S."

Tweet from @baseballhall: Three months before #HOFWKND, Bud Selig makes his Orientation Visit to the Hall of Fame: https://t.co/LkZIKQ4IuD #HOF2017 pic.twitter.com/zWzyioLrPT

Selig was handed a baseball thrown by Warren Spahn, one of his heroes, during a no-hitter in 1960. That one made him smile.

"Oh boy," he said.

Selig saw the cleats worn by one of his favorite players, Paul Molitor, a former Brewer, when he collected his 3,000th hit while playing for the Twins.

Finally, on his way to autograph the spot where his Hall of Fame plaque will be placed on July 30 -- his 83rd birthday -- Selig was stopped by Strohl.

Video: Selig reacts to being elected to Hall of Fame

"I think this guy is special to you," Strohl said, pointing at Hank Aaron's plaque.

Of all the players Selig has known over the years, none is more special to him than Aaron.

For a moment, Selig said nothing.

"He's one of the greatest men I've ever known," he said, "and also, obviously, one of our greatest players."

Video: Gammons reflects on career of Bud Selig

Selig stopped at Robin Yount's plaque and then at Don Sutton's, both players who played for Selig and are special to him. Finally, he came to the place where his own will be displayed.

In the two and a half years since Rob Manfred took over as Commissioner, Selig has busied himself teaching history classes at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He tells the students that teaching history is the thing he aspired to do when he graduated college, and then along came baseball, which has led him to this special place.

"My students ask me why, if I wanted to be a history teacher, which I did, how did all this happen?" he said. "I just say you couldn't write a script like this. It wouldn't be believable."

Selig recalled an evening in Washington, D.C., a decade ago, when he and Aaron were taking a walk after dinner. During their chat, Aaron stopped and began to chuckle.

"Bud, when we first met in Milwaukee, who could have imagined where we were headed?" Aaron said. "That I'd break Babe Ruth's record [for home runs] and you'd be Commissioner."

Selig smiles as he recalls the conversation and adds, "It's been a pretty special journey."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. You can follow him on Twitter @richardjustice.