Hall of Fame awaits first baseman Bagwell

Feared slugger spent entire 15-year career with Astros

Hall of Fame awaits first baseman Bagwell

HOUSTON -- The wait is nearly over for former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell.

Bagwell, who played his final game in the big leagues for the Astros in the 2005 World Series, will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, the culmination of a terrific 15-year career in which he's remembered as one of the most feared sluggers of a generation.

It took Bagwell seven years on the ballot before he was elected in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, but the past few months leading up to the induction have flown by, he said. He will leave for Cooperstown, N.Y., next week, marking the final leg of his baseball journey.

"It's coming quick," Bagwell said last week. "It was nice when it was three months, then it got to two and one, and now all of a sudden I'm here talking to you guys on Friday. It's sneaking up on me really quick. It's been a great process. I know once I get there and the culmination of the entire event, it will be special."

Bagwell will be enshrined alongside Tim Raines, who played most of his career in Montreal, former Rangers, Astros, Marlins catcher Ivan Rodriguez, longtime Braves general manager John Schuerholz and former MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig. He'll join longtime teammate Craig Biggio as having the only two plaques in the Hall of Fame with Astros caps.

MLB Network's exclusive live coverage of the 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony -- simulcast live on MLB.com -- will begin with MLB Tonight on Sunday at noon ET, followed by the ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Prior to Sunday's live coverage, MLB Network will televise the 2017 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at 11 a.m., featuring Rachel Robinson (Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award), Claire Smith (the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers) and the posthumous honoring of Bill King (Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters). The presentation will also commemorate the 25th anniversary of the release of the film "A League of Their Own."

Biggio, who was inducted in 2015, will be on stage with Bagwell and the rest of the 55 Hall of Famers who are expected to attend the ceremony. A huge contingent of Astros fans made the trip to Cooperstown two years ago, but Bagwell isn't sure what to expect this time.

"Baseball has become so big in Houston and people travel," he said. "If I watch the games nowadays, you can see Astros fans in every city they go to. That's very exciting. I hope they show up. A lot of people, when I walk the city say they're going to be there and stuff like that.

"I don't want to put expectations, but if they come, I'm very, very grateful for that. I also know if they can't come, they'll support me here, too. It's not that easy to get to Cooperstown and get hotels and all that kind of stuff."

Bagwell's induction comes at a time when the Astros are in the midst of one of their best seasons in history. Houston entered Friday at 63-32 with a 16-game lead in the American League West and the best record in the AL. Bagwell, who admitted he hasn't watched much baseball since he retired, has become hooked.

"They have so much talent, and young talent," he said. "What I've seen is the city has really taken to this team, and everywhere I go, even when they lose, people are like, 'What happened last night?' They're not going to win every game. They're really, really special. I walk into the clubhouse and I see the guys, and they all seem to enjoy each other's company.

"They've got a really good thing going on, and our main thing now is just to get everybody healthy and this is a great opportunity for us. ... I am truly just a fan, and to see the city so excited about them and me going into the Hall of Fame, it's a good vibe in the city, and I'm proud to be a part of it."   

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.