April 05, 2017

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) Fresh from a thunderous ovation in the city where he became a star, Tim Raines settled into a director's chair in the quiet of the Plaque Gallery at the Baseball Hall of Fame and only one word came to mind.

''Wow!'' Raines said Wednesday after a walking tour of baseball's Mecca. ''This is a day I've been waiting for for a long time. It's kind of unbelievable.''

The 57-year-old Raines was elected to the Hall of Fame in January as part of the Class of 2017 by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, along with Jeff Bagwell and Ivan Rodriguez. In his 10th and final year on the ballot, Raines received 86 percent of the vote to finally top the 75 percent threshold needed for election.

Induction ceremonies are July 30, and joining the trio will be former Commissioner Bud Selig and retired Kansas City and Atlanta executive John Schuerholz, both elected in December by a veterans committee.

Raines batted .294 and had a .385 on-base percentage in his 23-year career, finishing with 2,605 hits, 1,571 runs and 808 stolen bases. The latter figure is the fifth-highest total in major league history and included 70 or more steals in each season from 1981-86, a streak that stands alone in baseball history. And when you take a closer look, his accomplishments on the basepaths are quite remarkable - his 84.7 percent success rate tops the list among players with at least 400 stolen base attempts.

Raines, a seven-time All-Star and the 1986 NL batting champion, spent 13 seasons with the Montreal Expos, who left Canada to become the Washington Nationals just over a decade ago. He joins Andre Dawson and Gary Carter as the only players to enter the Hall of Fame representing the Expos, and he made a point of stopping at their plaques during his tour Wednesday to reminisce, likely in part because their careers were so intertwined.

''I've been here before a couple of times for two other teammates,'' said Raines, currently working in player development for the Toronto Blue Jays. ''I don't think I ever thought when I came here for them that it would happen to me. Now, realizing that I am in - it's very special, very special.''

Among the highlights of the customary indoctrination tour given all electees was actually wielding one of Babe Ruth's bats, which made him think about his memorable three-year stint with the New York Yankees.

''Two world championships, one game away from another,'' he said. ''There's no other team I can say that about. That was a special three years.''

It's been a whirlwind of late for Raines, who had his best statistical seasons with the Expos in the 1980s before going on to win those World Series championships in 1996 and 1998.

Last week he received the key to the city of Montreal, dropped a ceremonial first puck at the Bell Centre before a Canadiens game, and got that long, warm ovation on Friday at his old stomping grounds - Montreal's Olympic Stadium - when introduced before a preseason game between the Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates.

Raines said it was on the trip here when the reality of it all struck him, and the cold, rain, and sharp turns along the way weren't about to dampen his spirits.

''I think it hit yesterday on the drive, even though I've been doing a lot of Hall of Fame press conferences ... been asked a lot of questions about it,'' said Raines, who was accompanied by his wife and two young daughters. ''It really hit me when we landed in Albany. Our driver had the Hall of Fame thing on his shirt. I was like, `Wow!' This is the drive to Cooperstown.

''I knew where we were going. We were coming here.''

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