Written by Corbett Smith
McLemore, Palmeiro thrive in baseball, like their ex-Ranger dads
Baseball, more than any other sport, is generational — with family names such as Alou, Boone and Ripken littered through the history of the game.
Southlake Carroll’s Darien McLemore and Colleyville Heritage’s Preston Palmeiro share in that multi-generational history.
While they are still in the infancy of their high school careers, the sons of former Rangers Mark McLemore and Rafael Palmeiro have gleams in their eyes of what is yet to come.
And both, despite not starring on their respective teams, have come up big for their teams in the Class 5A playoffs.
McLemore might not start this weekend for Southlake Carroll (29-6), the No. 1-ranked team in the area that has senior starters such as Texas signee John Curtiss and Clemson signee Kyle Bailey. McLemore has been a part-time player as one of the team’s few juniors, but has hit .500 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the playoffs.
Palmeiro, a sophomore third baseman, is also batting .500 with two home runs in the playoffs, hitting a grand slam May 6 against Mansfield. For the season, he’s batting .306 with 12 home runs for Colleyville Heritage (29-7).
Colleyville Heritage faces District 6-5A rival Hurst L.D. Bell in a best-of-3 series that starts Thursday. McLemore and Southlake Carroll also open their series Thursday, against Plano.
The journey for both players, as one would expect, started by tagging along with their fathers to the clubhouse. It wasn’t instructional — both were young kids, not wired into the game yet.
From that time, the desire to play baseball came almost if by osmosis. Neither player said their father pushed them into the game; instead, merely by being around their dads, they got the itch to play from within.
“Baseball’s all I know; it’s what I’ve always been around and it’s what I love,” Palmeiro said.
McLemore echoed those sentiments.
“Baseball is home to me, it’s what I was born in to, it’s pretty much been that way my whole life,” McLemore said.
McLemore’s father, Mark — a 19-year major league player who is now a co-host of Rangers coverage on KTXA (Channel 21) — said that as long as he can remember, Darien wanted to be a baseball player. As a baby, Darien would have a bat and ball in his hands, Mark said.
“I’m a firm believer that the sport picks you,” Mark McLemore said. “You don’t pick the sport. … Darien’s always been a baseball player, that’s been his love.”
Mark said he always wanted his son to make his own decisions about sports. His younger son, Derek, prefers football — even though he is on Southlake Carroll’s junior varsity baseball squad.
“I wanted [Darien] to have is own identity, his own life,” Mark McLemore said. “I wanted to allow him to choose whatever path he wanted to, because it wasn’t a given that he was going to be a baseball player, or even an athlete.”
Once the decision was made to play, Palmeiro and McLemore said their fathers have been the key role models in their development — sharing their wealth of knowledge to not only themselves, but to their teammates as well.
McLemore, normally a second baseman, was asked to play right field less than two weeks ago, a position he had never played. Just a 15-minute session with his dad — Mark played outfield in 404 of his 1,832 games in the majors — and Darien was ready to go.
“I got some pointers, boom, then we were in the backyard, working,” McLemore said.
Last week, in the middle of the eighth inning in Heritage’s sweep of Keller, Rafael Palmeiro came down out of the stands and went over to the home dugout. Through the net, he talked with his son, and the batters on deck and in the hole, on how to address a submarine pitcher who had been running roughshod over their lineup.
When the elder Palmeiro — who finished with 3,020 hits in his 20 seasons in the major leagues — gives some pointers, players listen, sophomore Cody Thomas said.
“Obviously, he knows a lot about baseball,” Thomas said.
Heritage got two hits off the pitcher before Thomas hit a walk-off home run off another reliever.
“Obviously, everything I do, I want to make him proud,” Palmeiro said. “I think that’s the way that any kid is with their parent. But he’s so big, in that he can help out in ways that other parents can’t. He’s hard on me sometimes, but he knows so much about the game.”