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O's laud Palmeiro's accomplishments

O's laud Palmeiro's accomplishments

BALTIMORE -- Rafael Palmeiro is not an imposing presence in the Orioles' clubhouse. What's more, most of his teammates are probably too young to remember most of his career accomplishments.

As a reminder, Palmeiro has become just the fourth player in baseball history to amass 3,000 hits and 500 home runs, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and former Oriole Eddie Murray. Palmeiro has always been considered a solid teammate and leader by example, and his Oriole contemporaries were complimentary of his accomplishments.

"I had the pleasure to play with Raffy and watch him hit each and every day for several years," former teammate Cal Ripken said. "He is one of the most natural hitters I have ever seen and he has one of the sweetest swings in the game.  The fact that he reached 3,000 hits and 500 home runs shouldn't surprise anyone.  He will end up in the Hall of Fame one day, unless he plays forever, which seems like a real possibility."

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New Oriole Sammy Sosa is an old friend of Palmeiro. When he reported to his Spring Training with the Orioles, the two hugged and Palmeiro referred to Sosa as "El Avion" or "the Airplane." Sosa played briefly with Palmeiro in Texas in 1989.

Sosa is also a member of that 500 club and also has more than 2,200 hits.

"I think what Rafael has done is incredible," he said. "He is one of the best players of our generation. I think when you think of Rafael, you don't think of home runs or hits, but you just think of consistency. He goes out there and gets it done every day and that doesn't get noticed."

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli simply writes Palmeiro's name on the lineup card every day and has watched flashes of brilliance. Perhaps Palmeiro doesn't put up the awesome numbers of his past, but he still remains a productive hitter.

"I think what he has done is incredible and it goes unnoticed," he said. "He continues to go out there at his age and produce and set an example for the younger players. I think it's amazing that he has been able to maintain consistency."

After years of playing against Palmeiro while he was with Oakland and Palmeiro was with Texas, shortstop Miguel Tejada has a special admiration for his teammate.

"I tell him that he should be proud of himself because not many players will do what you do," Tejada said. "It's not easy to put up those type of numbers. I am really proud of him and I am really proud of myself to be in the same locker room as him.

"He doesn't look like a power hitter, but he is a power hitter. I am really excited to see him get there."

Pure Palmeiro 3,000/500 Club

Veteran outfielder B.J. Surhoff has played with Palmeiro in two separate stints with the Orioles and has watched him at two stages of his career. The two have been contemporaries since both were first-round selections in the 1985 First-Year Player Draft.

He said he is still amazed by Palmeiro's accomplishments and skill level at age 40.

"I think the biggest thing that's been overlooked if how many games he's played and his longevity," Surhoff said. "He is a rare breed and so is his discipline at the plate. All of his numbers are impressive and maybe the one that's most impressive is games played. He is not the stereotypical power hitter in terms of what people think of today, but his numbers speak for themselves and that's putting it mildly."

Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer has been the team's television analyst for the past 13 years and also played with Murray. He said Palmeiro's talent transcends his generation.

"To be able to work hard enough, be healthy enough and play well enough to get there makes him a special player," Palmer said. "It's hard to play when you're 40. We talk about five-tool players, he is like he a three-tool hitter, with power, average and the on-base percentage.

"Eddie wasn't your classic power hitter, either. He was just a great hitter and Raffy is the same way. He knows his strike zone and drives the ball to all fields. That's why these guys have accomplished this feat, because they are just great hitters."

Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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