Bagwell tours the Hall of Fame as his big day approaches

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) Four months away from the big day, Jeff Bagwell studied the 300 bronze images of the greatest names in baseball history that surrounded him.

''Surreal,'' he said.

The former Houston Astros first baseman found that he kept repeating himself Tuesday morning as he sat in the Baseball Hall of Fame's Plaque Gallery.

''I've been using that word a lot lately. You walk around this place and see the history, the names, statistics, and what it meant to the game of baseball. You realize the game is so much bigger than yourself,'' he said.

The 48-year-old Bagwell was elected in January as part of the Class of 2017 by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, along with Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez. In his seventh year on the ballot, Bagwell received 86.2 percent of the vote to finally top the 75 percent threshold needed for election, and will be inducted July 30.

The only first baseman in history with 400 career home runs and 200 stolen bases, Bagwell was in Cooperstown with wife Rachel as part of the orientation visit all new electees receive to prepare them for induction weekend.

''To come and look at the history of the game in so many different areas, it has just been awesome,'' Bagwell said. ''To be here is something special.''

After his tour and signing the spot where his plaque will hang, Bagwell was asked if the anticipation was building.

''I think this is the first step where I start to realize this is going to be reality,'' he said. ''I think probably signing where my plaque is going to be is the first step in that.''

Bagwell ended his 15-year career in 2005 with 449 home runs as a powerful force in the middle of the Astros lineup. He captured the 1991 NL Rookie of the Year Award and in a strike-shortened 1994 campaign hit .368 with 39 homers and 116 RBIs in just 110 games, unanimously winning the NL MVP Award.

From 1996-2001, he totaled at least 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs per season, just the sixth player in major league history to reach those marks in at least six straight years.

During his tour, Bagwell saw three floors of baseball history in about two hours, joking about early catchers' equipment, checking out fellow first baseman Lou Gehrig's locker, marveling at a Ted Williams artifact and visiting the Hank Aaron exhibit, ''Chasing the Dream.''

''This is all overwhelming to me,'' Bagwell said. ''Parts of me wonder, `Why am I in here?' Just the nature of these guys and what they've done is just overwhelming to me. Once July first rolls around, then I'll start to get a little nervous about this.

''It's going to be interesting. I'm just trying to take it all in and try and be as calm as I can.''

Also to be enshrined are longtime executive John Schuerholz and former commissioner Bud Selig.

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