Palmeiro primed to attempt comeback at 53

Slugger discusses desire for closure with Talking Baseball podcast

January 20th, 2018

In this week's Talking Baseball podcast with Ed Randall, the host interviews 20-year Major League veteran Rafael Palmeiro, who at the age of 53 is attempting a comeback.
Randall talks with Palmeiro about reports that he used steroids, asks if he thinks he'll ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame and delves into what motivates him to attempt a comeback. An excerpt of the interview is below, beginning with Randall asking about Palmeiro's infamous testimony in front of Congress in 2005, in which he vehemently denied using performance-enhancing drugs, only to test positive a few months later.
Listen to the full interview here If you had to do a do-over about that day in Washington, D.C., would you still wag your finger at [Congress]?
RP: If I had to go back, I would definitely not do that. Those were my attorneys giving me advice about what to say and what to do and how firm I needed to come across, and that wasn't who I was at the time, that wasn't really my intent, but they insisted on it and I did it and I wish I could go back and do a lot of things differently, but that's one of the things that I regret most back in those times. You have always maintained that you never used steroids, do you still feel that way?
RP: I never did, so it's not a matter of feeling, it's a matter of fact. Whatever was in my body was there unintentionally. Do you think you'll ever get into the Hall of Fame, and what do you have to do to get in?
RP: If I do have a chance to come back and play, it's not to reset the clock for the HOF. I think I mentioned that to Ken Rosenthal or someone locally. It's not about that. Let's just go ahead and get that out there. This is not for me to get anything towards the HOF, and I think my time for that came and went, and I guess something else is coming up with the Veterans Committee at some point down the road, but this is definitely not about that. How long has this comeback you've hoped for been percolating inside of you, would you say?
RP: It's been a while. It's been for several years now. My kids always talked to me about it. It's always kind of in fun. It's never serious, but this time around they started talking about it. I have never stopped, because my two boys play. I've been hitting with them, throwing with them. I've been running. This time, around three or four months ago, is when everything started clicking for me, believing that, "OK, I know I can do this, given the opportunity." What's your motivation for the comeback?
RP: I just miss the game, I miss playing. I love baseball, I feel like I have a lot to contribute on and off the field to some of the young players on a team. If things go well -- I have no doubt they will -- maybe people will look at me differently. People that doubted me or people that don't believe what happened to me or think that I was lying. Maybe they will think twice, if he can do it at 53 years old and he's clean, then there's no reason for him to have done it when he was 39, 40 or 41. So, if I could change some minds, maybe it will end on a good note, and I can have a press conference saying goodbye, thanking everyone that I never got to thank. What do you say to people who look at Rafael Palmeiro and say, "My goodness, the guy is 53 years old, this has got to be some kind of joke or publicity stunt?"
RP: It's not, I've said it in many interviews here in the past, it's not a publicity stunt. I'm not looking for publicity. I just want a chance to prove myself, to make a team better, to help a team win, and I've challenged myself here and I want to be able to have an opportunity to prove not only to myself, but to all the people, that age doesn't really matter. How is that going? Have you heard from any ballclubs, or are you just casting your reel looking to bring someone in so you can get that opportunity?
RP: Well, I talked to the Rangers a little bit, but at this point they're not interested. You know, obviously, it would be good to do it here [in Texas]. I played here the longest, I played here for 10 years. Baltimore was the other team I had in mind, but at this point I'm not sure. Pete Rose, Carlton Fisk, Omar Vizquel, Tim Wakefield and Roger Clemens played at age 45. Randy Johnson, Tommy John, Charlie Hough, Jesse Orosco and Nolan Ryan played at age 46. Phil Niekro pitched at age 48. Julio Franco was 49 when he became the oldest position player to play regularly, and he was 4 years younger than you are right now. There are some huge names on that list, but you're older than all of them and a lot of people have a sense of, "If he can do it, God bless him, but 53?"
RP: I actually feel better now than at the end of my career, because I'm taking care of myself a lot better now. To me you can reverse it. I feel like I'm 35, now that I'm 53. When I was 40, I felt a lot older than 40. Age is just a number. It's how you feel, it's what you have in your heart, it's your desire and your pride and I feel young at heart. I know I can do it. Are you looking for redemption and also for closure to go out on your own terms?
RP: Well, I'm not sure if I'll get redemption, no matter what I do. Closure, maybe. Maybe it's one more chapter that I haven't lived through yet and it could be a good ending to what I worked so hard for my entire life. Maybe closure -- that would be good. How much time do you give this dream of yours?
RP: A while, I don't know. I haven't thought about that. I just live it day to day, and as long as I have the desire, I'm going to keep doing it.