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Be­fore the start of Sun­day’s Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame in­duc­tion cer­e­monies, there were some fa­thers and sons play­ing catch near the back of the field be­hind the Clark Sports Cen­ter, far from the stage.

It’s the way base­ball dreams start for young boys. Jeff Chit­wood re­calls play­ing catch as a boy in his back­yard in New Franklin, Mo., and asking his father Jack if there was a really good player — a fast player — in the ma­jor leagues. His father, a diehard St. Louis Car­di­nals fan, said Tim Raines of the Mon­treal Ex­pos.

“Of course, we grew up around (Car­di­nals star) Lou Brock, so this was after that,” Jack re­called be­fore the start of Sun­day’s cer­e­mony, say­ing Jeff was about four years old at the time. “He said: ‘OK, I’m Tim Raines.’ So from then on, when we played in the yard, he was al­ways Tim Raines.”

On Sun­day, Jeff got to see his favourite player in­ducted into the Hall of Fame. He brought his father, wife Pam and two daugh­ters — Josie, 6, and Cal­lie, 8. While Jack was wear­ing a Car­di­nals shirt, ev­ery­one else in the family was wear­ing Ex­pos jer­seys.

“Play­ing in the back­yard, I was al­ways Tim Raines,” Jeff said. “I re­mem­ber be­ing out back play­ing and al­ways pre­tend­ing I was him … wear­ing a Mon­treal Ex­pos hel­met.

“I al­ways said the first time I would come up here to Cooperstown was when Raines would be in­ducted.”

Dur­ing his in­duc­tion speech, Raines said his love for base­ball started by watch­ing his father Ned play for the semi-pro San­ford Gi­ants in Florida.

“I was a proud lit­tle three- or four-year-old kid watch­ing my dad roam in cen­tre field,” Raines said. “He showed me base­ball for the first time.”

Raines also re­called his father com­ing home after work­ing 10-hour days in con­struc­tion, ready to race against him and his four brothers.

“My dad was a pretty fast run­ner back in his day,” Raines said. “Tommy, Levi, Ned Jr. and my­self and Sam used to go out on the side of the house and we would com­mence to race to see who could beat Pops. It took us a while … well, it took them a while. Fi­nally, that one day came I had my mind made up that he wasn’t go­ing to beat me to­day and, sure enough, we took off and I was able fi­nally to beat my dad in a race. That was the last time he raced us. He taught me to com­pete.”

Raines also re­mem­bered his mother Florence al­ways be­ing there to watch him com­pete, whether it was in base­ball, foot­ball, bas­ket­ball or track.

“She pushed me … not in a way by say­ing do this or do that,” Raines said. “But she al­ways made me smile and that smile made me go out and do the things that I was able to do.”

Four bus­loads of Ex­pos fans made the trip from Mon­treal Sun­day for Raines’s in­duc­tion cer­e­mony, but they weren’t the only ones cheer­ing for him.

Jody Yer­don, who is from Water­town, N.Y., was also in at­ten­dance wear­ing an Ex­pos jersey with Raines on the back.

“When I was a child, my par­ents took me to Canada’s Won­der­land and I just as­so­ci­ated Canada as a fun place,” Yer­don said. “I was 3 or 4 at the time. The Blue Jays be­came my Amer­i­can League team and the Ex­pos were my Na­tional League team. Grow­ing up, Tim Raines was al­ways a favourite of mine and I know as far as the Ex­pos go this could be our last in­ductee. So I didn’t want to miss this and I wanted to share it with my son to­day.”

Son Em­mett, 6, was wear­ing a Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als jersey with Stras­burg on the back. Em­mett’s favourite player is ace pitcher Stephen Stras­burg and he roots for the Na­tion­als, the team the Ex­pos be­came when they left Mon­treal after the 2004 sea­son.

“Just be­cause the laun­dry changed doesn’t mean we have to,” Yer­don said about his son’s jersey.

In his new book, Rock Solid: My Life in Base­ball’s Fast Lane, Raines wrote: “My dad wanted more than any­thing for his chil­dren to have op­por­tu­ni­ties he had missed out on dur­ing a life­time of work­ing his fin­gers to the bone. He knew that sports rep­re­sented a path to a bet­ter life, and while he re­al­ized that mak­ing it as a pro ath­lete was far from guar­an­teed, he thought his sons should at least have the chance to pur­sue that goal.”

One son is now a hall of famer.

I al­ways said the first time I would come up here to Cooperstown was when Raines would be in­ducted.


Tim Raines gives his speech at the Na­tional Base­ball Hall of Fame in­duc­tion cer­e­mony on Sun­day in Cooperstown, N.Y.

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