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Goodyear’s Raines ‘born’ to be around baseball

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Hall of Famer Tim Raines, who has lived in Goodyear for 11 years, throws the ceremonial first pitch at the D-backs/Dodgers game on August 9. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Diamondbacks/Sarah Sachs)

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Former baseball player and 11-year Goodyear resident Tim Raines stands on the steps of the Diamondbacks’ dugout prior to their August 9 game.

He is greeted by D-backs coaches Mike Fetters and Mike Butler, both of whom are excited about meeting the new Cooperstown inductee. Raines, whose career spanned 1979 to 2002, is still getting used to the title “Hall of Famer.”

“There are so many words that I could use for that,” says Raines, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the D-backs/Dodgers matchup. “It was humbling. It was awesome. Any of the good words that you can say about Cooperstown, it was that – and more.”

The Florida-born Raines was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1977, and during his first season in 1981, he batted .304 with 71 stolen bases. He was the Rookie of the Year runner-up, falling to Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. His accolades were plenty, though, having finished in the top 10 in MVP voting three times. In 1986, he won a Silver Slugger and a batting title. He led the league in stolen bases from 1981 to 1984 and in runs scored in 1983 and 1987.

Raines went on to play for the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees before signing a free-agent contract with the Oakland A’s. Six months after inking that deal, he was diagnosed with lupus and took a hiatus from baseball.

He returned to the sport in 2001 and subsequently played for the likes of the Orioles and Marlins. Raines finished his big-league career with the highest percentage of stolen bases of any player with 400-plus steals.

Despite his accomplishments, Raines said it didn’t hit him until last year that he may actually become one of the 1 percent who make the hall.

“Last year, my vote total was 70 percent with a year left of eligibility,” he said. “I felt my chances were as good as they were going to get. I felt the momentum. Sure enough, I went from 70 percent to the 86 percent. I was probably the happiest guy in the world.”

A player is elected once he receives at least 75 percent of all ballots cast.

Since 2013, Raines has been working for the Toronto Blue Jays as a minor league baserunning and outfield coach. He said he enjoys working with up-and-comers.

“I try to mold them into major league players,” he said. “I tell them to believe in yourself. When guys come from college or high school, they’re not sure what they’re getting themselves into. It’s great for them to be around guys like myself who have major league experience and who are now in the Hall of Fame.”

Even though he didn’t play for the D-backs, Raines said it was “meaningful” to throw the first pitch in front of a hometown crowd. The reason behind it is even more notable.

“When you wait 10 years, it is worth waiting for,” he said. “Being able to throw out the first pitch and continue to be around baseball, it’s something I was born for.”

 
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