Familiar names Biggio, Palmeiro in the Cape Cod League
HARWICH — The right side of the Harwich Mariners infield looks like any other in the Cape Cod Baseball League, young college players showcasing their talents and dreaming of the big leagues.
But although they never brag about it, second baseman Cavan Biggio and first baseman Preston Palmeiro, both 20, have already been to The Show. They are the sons of former major leaguers and grew up in their clubhouses.
Their famous fathers, Craig Biggio and Rafael Palmeiro, are two of the 29 major leaguers to record 3,000 hits.
Cavan used to get scooped up after elementary school by his father, who was on his way to the Astros clubhouse. He took batting practice against Roger Clemens and hung with The Killer Bs — a group that included Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Derek Bell, and Sean Berry.
Preston played in the batting cage with a tireless Cal Ripken Jr. and his son after ballgames in Baltimore. In Texas, he was befriended by a surprisingly kid friendly Alex Rodriguez.
When Rafael collected his 3000th hit in Seattle in 2005, 10-year-old Preston was videotaping in uniform in the Orioles dugout.
Both Cavan and Preston agree that being the son of a superstar is more a blessing than a curse.
Cavan Biggio, who was just named a Cape Cod League All-Star, said a baseball life is good.
“Oh, it’s a blessing,” said Biggio, a political science major at Notre Dame. “But when I was little, I kind of saw it as a curse.”
Playing baseball in Texas with the name Biggio on his back made him a target because in the Lone Star State, Biggio was a god.
He spent his entire 20-year career with the Astros. He is the only player in baseball history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases, and 250 home runs.
“They’d say, ‘Why did you get out? Your dad is so much better than you.’ And all that,’’ said Cavan. “It made me down but a few years later I saw it as a blessing.
“Dad would say if people say anything bad, they’re just jealous.”
Preston, a Dallas native who occasionally played against Biggio in travel ball, had a similar experience.
“Is it a curse or a blessing?” asked the North Carolina State star. “It’s a little bit of both. I’ve been blessed to be around baseball my whole life and my dad accomplished and taught me so much. The only curse is there’s always expectations,” said Palmeiro, who leads Harwich in home runs and RBIs despite a .245 batting average. “Everyone expects you to be the best. Every game I’ve played it’s always Rafael Palmeiro’s son, its never just Preston Palmeiro.”
Harwich manager Steve Englert said both players have extremely high baseball IQs and are still improving.
“They’re both great kids. I’m extremely happy to have them here this summer,” he said.
To his credit, Palmeiro doesn’t shy away from questions about his father, who tested positive for steroids in August 2005. It was just months after he emphatically wagged a finger at a Congressional hearing on steroids and said, “I have never used steroids. Period.”
Preston remembers the moment his father broke the bad news.
“He sat us down and said, ‘Look I failed a test for steroids and I’m suspended for the next 10 games [but] I didn’t do it though.’ And I honestly, swear to God, thought he was joking,” said Preston.
Last year Palmeiro was dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot because he failed to garner 5 percent of the vote despite being one of just five players in major league history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
Preston believes his father belongs in the Hall.
“I just feel that everyone that comes out now and admits it gets to be forgiven. There’s no reason for [my father] to keep on saying ‘I didn’t do it’ if he did it because I do think people will forgive him,’’ said Preston. “I hope it gets to a point where MLB can let it go and get past it,” he said. “Let him back in the game. Mark McGwire is back in the game.”
He acknowledged sometimes hearing the fans. “Everyone gets ragged on wherever they go and you just got to deal with it,” said Palmeiro.
Against East Carolina University last April the hecklers were particularly nasty.
“It was pretty tough. I had four or five guys in the stands going on and on saying something about my dad,’’ said Preston. “I got a 2-0 count and hit a home run off the scoreboard.”
He made sure to make eye contact after rounding the bases.
“They kind of didn’t say anything else for the rest of the game.”
Rafael was cheering in the stands when Preston hit an unusual walkoff hit to send North Carolina State into the ACC Championship game in May.
Palmeiro smashed an opposite field double off the wall but when the throw to second was wild he kept on running, diving home with the winning run and triggering an avalanche of happy teammates.
“It was the most unbelievable thing ever,” said Preston.
Craig Biggio likes to show up at his son’s games incognito.
“He likes to hide,” said Cavan, whose older brother Conor, was a Notre Dame teammate. “Growing up he’d be hiding behind a hay field behind left field, wearing a camo hat. You’d see his head pop up over the railing. It’s pretty funny trying to find him. It’s like Where’s Waldo?”
But that wasn’t the case when Cavan hit a home run to win a Texas high school state title in 2011. The first hand he shook was his father’s, who as manager of the team, was coaching third base.
“To run by him and give him a hand shake it was pretty cool,’’ said Cavan.
Young Biggio’s own goal is to play in the major leagues.
“That’s my dream, that’s everyone’s dream,” said Cavan, a 2015 Gold Glove winner. “If I don’t make it I’ll be pretty disappointed but it won’t be the end of the world. I’ll get a great degree from Notre Dame and use that in the working world.’’
Preston has no Plan B.
“I believe that Plan B distracts from Plan A,’’ he said. “Some people hear that and say the odds are against it, I say why not put everything into it? If things don’t work out I’ll go from there.”
It’s been déjà vu for Craig Biggio this summer as he visited his son. Craig played for Yarmouth/Dennis in 1986.
Cavan compares himself to Dustin Pedroia, more than his father, who set a modern day record by getting hit by 285 pitches.
“He tells me to treat every at-bat as if its going to be the last one of your life,” said Cavan.
The even-keeled Cavan got a bit of a scare when he texted Englert to ask for this Sunday off so he could be in Cooperstown to see Craig be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, and John Smoltz.
“I gave him a hard time about it,” Englert said with a laugh.
“He texted me and wrote, ‘No, it’s absolutely not OK. What do you think this is, you come and leave whenever you want?’ ’’ said Cavan.
Englert let the message sink in, then texted him again.
“Yeah, it’s cool, it’s a big moment for you and your family. I understand.”