MONTREAL -- Finally, The Rock has come back to Olympic Stadium, and the timing could not be anymore perfect.
Soon-to-be Hall of Famer Tim Raines received a hero's welcome on Friday night in his return to the city where he became a household name. He was honored prior to the start of Friday night's game between the Blue Jays and Pirates and was greeted by a thunderous round of applause as he entered from a gate in the center-field wall.
Raines will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame in July, and this was the first time he was recognized by Montreal baseball fans since the voting results were revealed in January. The seven-time All-Star circled the field in a golf cart, waving to each section, and when Raines spoke a few minutes later, he wanted to make one thing clear.
"This is a bit emotional for me," Raines said near the beginning of his speech. "You know I love this town and there was no question, in my mind, when the Hall called, whose hat I was going to wear in the Hall of Fame. There was no question. I really thank you guys for inspiring me to do the things that I was able to do on the field."
Raines' election to the Hall of Fame has been a long time coming. It took until his 10th -- and final -- year of eligibility before he was able to cross the 75-percent threshold required in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His case had been gaining steam in recent years as more emphasis has been placed on the type of numbers he produced throughout his career.
The 57-year-old is the only player who has put up more than two seasons with at least 50 extra-base hits and at least 70 stolen bases, and he did that in four consecutive seasons from 1983-86. He's the only player with at least 100 triples, 150 home runs and 600 stolen bases. He also has the best stolen-base percentage (84.7) among players with more than 400 attempts.
It was rather fitting that when Raines' speech came to an end he walked over to second base, picked it up and stole it one last time. For someone who stole at least 70 bases from 1981-86 -- and 808 total -- there really was no other way.
"This is where it started for me and this is where it's going to end," Raines later told reporters. "Thank God, there wasn't a catcher trying to throw me out. I'm happy that they gave me the opportunity to do that. Not only that, but to be able to pick it up and give it to my twin girls. I'm not sure if they're going to be Major League Baseball players, but just having them be a part of this means a lot to me, and hopefully they'll understand one day what this is all about."
Raines was joined on the field by a long list of former teammates. Dennis Martinez, Steve Rogers, Bill Lee, David Palmer, Al Oliver and Jeff Reardon were among those who made the trip to be a part of the on-field festivities. It was a family reunion of sorts for the teams that Raines was a part of in this city from 1979-90.
"I was happy to share this day with them, the fans," said Raines, who is an outfield and baserunning coordinator in the Blue Jays' Minor League system. "I'm sure a lot of them here never really had a chance to see me play, but their parents or their brothers and their sisters did.
"To be able to come back and share this with the fans, I couldn't wait to take the opportunity to do it."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue
Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.