For someone so fast, Tim Raines' induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame sure seemed to take a long time. On his tenth and final year on the ballot, Raines was finally and rightfully chosen to be a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Over the course of his 23-year career, Raines was a consistent force at the plate (he reached base safely 3,977 times) and on the base paths (808 stolen bases). His accolades include seven All-Star selections, four stolen base titles, a Silver Slugger award, a batting title, and three World Series rings. Despite these many accomplishments, getting the recognition his career deserved from Hall of Fame voters was an agonizingly long process.
"Finally!" Raines simply said when asked what went through his mind when the call came from the Baseball Hall of Fame to tell him he was in. "I felt my chances were the best they had been in the ten years, but I was hesitant to get too excited until the call came. There were a lot of emotions. It was a special moment."
In the weeks since, his life has changed drastically. He has been on the road near-constantly since the announcement.
"It's been hectic. I've been traveling a lot. Press conferences, dinners, award ceremonies, autograph shows. I've had a lot on the menu, but it's been very exciting as well."
With the Hall of Fame debate settled, Raines can now focus on the upcoming baseball season and his role in helping to put a winning Blue Jays team on the field in 2017 and beyond. This season will be Raines' fifth as a roving instructor in the Toronto system, working to help Blue Jays players at all levels improve on the skills he excelled at on the field: baserunning and defense.
"As a roving instructor, I work with the whole minor league system from the Dominican Summer League all the way up to Triple-A. I spend 3-5 days at a level, working with the players, and then move on to the next affiliate. I get to have a hand in the development of every outfielder and baserunner in the system and do whatever I can to help make them better."
The job requires a lot of time on the road in hotels bouncing between minor league cities, not the typical retirement plan for a Hall of Fame ballplayer.
"Baseball has been my life since I was five years old. I got to spend 23 years in the Major Leagues. I think I've seen just about everything there is to see in baseball. It's exciting, I get the chance to work with a lot of young men aspiring to be MLB players and to give back to the game."
As one of the best base stealers in baseball history, Raines is able to offer invaluable advice to Blue Jays prospects on being successful on the base paths.
"I tell them to be aggressive, especially at the minor league level. Just because you can run doesn't mean you will be successful, and sometimes you do everything right and get caught anyways. Staying aggressive and learning what to do and when to do it to take full advantage on the base paths is something I try to teach every player."
Raines' advice and influence extend off the field as well, using his wealth of experiences in the game to counsel young players.
"My career had ups and downs. Every player will have that in some way. I encourage them to believe in themselves, to really want it. When players realize that this is their career, no one else's, that's when they are going to have success. I let them know that it's not going to be as easy as it seems, but it's also not going to be as tough as it looks."
When Raines takes the stage in Cooperstown, New York at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony this July, it will be to reflect on the highlights of a career that ended many years ago. However, through his continued work with young baseball players and his dedication to giving back to the game, Tim Raines' impact on the game of baseball will extend for many years to come.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.