FORT MYERS, Fla. – City of Palms Park is a beautiful little ballpark, surrounded by palm trees with a view of the Fort Myers high-rises in the distance behind the outfield wall.
City of Palms serves as the spring training home for the Boston Red Sox and the Sox’s matching-socks logo adorns the top of the dugout roofs. The logos of the other Major League teams are also displayed around the ballpark.
All of those references to the big leagues might seem like pretty heady stuff to some of the young prospects who were at City of Palms Park Tuesday for the 2011 Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, an event for the country’s top players who will be either juniors or sophomores in high school in the fall.
Not so much for 16-year-old Preston Palmeiro from Colleyville, Texas.
Palmeiro is the son of former Major League great Rafael Palmeiro, who played 20 seasons in the big leagues, 15 of those with the Texas Rangers. Preston spent much of his youth hanging out at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the club’s home stadium, and also visited other Major League stadiums and clubhouses.
“I spent as much time as I could at ballparks when I was growing up,” Palmeiro said from one of the City of Palms dugouts Tuesday morning. “Now I don’t get to do that, and my mom (Mary Lynne) always told me that ‘one day you’re not going to be able to do that, so go as much as you can.’ So that’s what me and my brother (Patrick) would do.”
Hanging out with his father, his dad’s big-league teammates and his brother – now a junior third baseman at the University of Alabama-Birmingham – Palmeiro picked up a lot of baseball knowledge. He has developed into a top prospect in his high school class of 2013 and credits his dad for giving him solid instruction and even more solid bloodlines.
Rafael Palmeiro retired from baseball in 2005 with a .288 career batting average, 3,020 hits and 569 home runs. He is one of only four players in history with more than 3,000 hits and 500 home runs –Henry Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murphy are the others.
“My dad taught me everything I know about the game, and he still has so much knowledge to give me that I don’t even know yet,” Preston Palmeiro said. “That’s what’s awesome about having him as my dad – when I mess up in a game or do something wrong he can teach me the right way to do it. Even if it’s just like something with a cut-off that I do wrong, he knows the right way to do it and he can tell me.”
Rafael Palmeiro wasn’t able to be with Preston in Florida on Tuesday, so wasn’t available to comment on his son’s talents.
This is the first time Palmeiro has participated in any kind of Perfect Game event, be it a showcase or a tournament. He came into the PG Junior National intent on showing the college coaches and professional scouts in attendance – and there were dozens – the best side of this game.
“I’m going to try to do my best, and that’s what I was doing out there, throwing as hard as I can,” Palmeiro said after participating in the outfield throw workout. “I want to show something, show what I have.”
The presence of so many influential eyes watching from the stands doesn’t seem to faze Palmeiro. He faces enough good-natured “scouting” from his many friends who are also at the PG Junior National.
“I don’t try to think about it that much,” he said. “I’ve got my friends here who are watching me and judging me, but I really don’t think too much about the scouts or anything like that.”
Palmeiro’s preferred position is third base, but he also plays right field and first base. He plays third for his high school team and right field for the D-Bat Mustangs, which is the summer travel ball team he plays for. He and D-Bat will be playing in the PG WWBA 16u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., in July.
Palmeiro’s Colleyville Heritage High School team advanced to the third round of the Texas Class 5A (big school) playoffs but fell short of a state tournament berth. He was the team’s starting third baseman as a sophomore.
“I think we should have at least played in a state (tournament) game because that’s the type of team we had,” he said. “We didn’t play well at the right time, so that kind of hurt us.”
Palmeiro hasn’t made a college commitment, but counts LSU, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas among the schools that have shown interest. And when he comes to an event like the PG Junior National and sees how much talent is out there, it makes him marvel to the point of awe at the talent level his dad and other Major League players achieved.
“You come out here and you see guys like this – all these kids are so good and you wonder how many more that are this good are out there,” Palmeiro said. “And eventually it keeps going down to the big-leaguers and then you think how many of them there are.”
Even against those long odds, Palmeiro aspires to one day follow his father’s footsteps into the big leagues.
“That’s my ultimate goal and I definitely think it’s something I can do,” Palmeiro said. “If I didn’t think that way it probably wouldn’t happen, so that’s what I have to strive for.”