Former major league star Tim Raines has a laugh during Vancouver Canadians media day and practice at Nat Bailey Stadium on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. The Canadians’ Northwest League season opens on Friday.
Photograph by: Ward Perrin, PNG
VANCOUVER — Before wrestler-actor Dwayne Johnson became known as The Rock, there was another Rock and he was Tim Raines, baseball player.
Raines was one of the major leagues brightest stars in the 1980s with the Montreal Expos, batting leadoff, stealing bases and hitting for average. He didn't win a World Series title with the Expos but, like many, figures the team should have collected a few.
“I wish, like, five or six, but it never came to light,” Raines said this week at Nat Bailey Stadium where he was working with the Vancouver Canadians in his new job as Toronto Blues Jays' roving instructor. “Looking at that organization over the years, they developed a lot of great players and, if we would have been able to keep them all, I'm sure we would have won a few championships. But that's baseball.”
Raines, now 53, formed part of a terrific nucleus that included Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Warren Cromartie and Steve Rogers, among others. They made the playoffs just once, in the strike-shortened 1981 season, but never appeared in the World Series. The franchise eventually decayed, moved to Washington and became the Nationals in 2005.
“I had a great time in Montreal,” Raines recalled. “I spent 12 years there and I loved every minute of it. I wished we could have won a few more games and gotten to the World Series. But, other than that, I felt it was a great career there.”
Raines even feels Major League Baseball could work again in Montreal, although that would require a deep-pocketed and passionate owner plus a proper ballpark.
“I think there is a fan base there in Montreal,” he said. “I know it, I saw it, I've been through it. So I know it's there. But you have to have the right situation and the right owner. I think with Charles Bronfman, he ran things right and that's when it was the best time there. I think the beginning of the end is when he left and the people who came in really didn't treat the organization or the fans the way they should have been treated.
“I think the fans kind of got ticked off about that and it's tough. When all the best players are leaving and going somewhere else, it's tough as a fan to go through that.”
Raines left, too, going to the Chicago White Sox for the 1991 season. He eventually played for the New York Yankees, Oakland A's, Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins. He also had a second stint with the Expos, sandwiched between the A's and O's, before hanging the spikes up in 2002.
He finished his career with 2,605 hits in 2,502 games, stole 808 bases, captured a batting title, was a seven-time all-star and did win two World Series rings with the Yankees, in 1996 and '98. He also collected a third ring as a first-base coach with the White Sox in 2005.
Now Raines hopes to bring some of his wisdom to the Blue Jays farmhands in his new job. He will be roving throughout the Toronto system, from AAA Buffalo down to rookie ball.
“I'm loving working with young players,” Raines said. “I've worked with a lot of young kids in Independent League ball so this makes it even better because these are guys who have an opportunity. Guys in the Independent League are guys who have been released and are just trying to hang on and get another opportunity. So this is a little different. These are young guys who are trying to make their way and I get an opportunity to work with them at the bottom level. Hopefully we can get everything out of them and they become major-league players.”
His best pieces of advice?
“Respect the game,” he replied. “Play the game like it's your last. If you do it the right way and you have the talent to be a major-league player, it will come out. What I try to tell these guys is that not everybody is going to make it, but the ones who do are the ones who do what they need to do.”
Raines isn't certain how long he'll remain in this role. He enjoys giving back to the game and thinks he might like to again coach in the majors if given the chance.
“My goal is not so much to be a manager,” he explained. “I would love to be a major-league coach for a few years. When I coached in Chicago the two years I was there, I really enjoyed that. I enjoy doing this now because I'm working with younger kids, but I really enjoy working with the guys who are already there.”
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