It was a relationship grounded in baseball, his absolute obsession with it and her skepticism at what type of life it would give them. She was diligent with her schoolwork and he was adamant about his love for baseball. She thought a college degree would make her successful, and he thought a bat and a glove would take him from a humble neighborhood in Miami to the major leagues.

Finally, after many games and many conversations, she understood. Rafael Palmeiro, whom she met at Mississippi State University and would become her husband, had baseball in his heart. He was, quite simply, a baseball player.

"You can't really think what the future is going to be," Lynne Palmeiro said. "Maybe you think he'll play baseball for a little while. I never thought it would be this long. But I'm thankful for that for him and for our whole family."

In the clubhouse almost an hour after Friday's game had ended, Palmeiro and his two sons finished celebrating the 3,000th hit of his career, one that will likely ensure the first baseman's place in the Hall of Fame. Outside, Lynne Palmeiro waited.

Palmeiro's double in the fifth inning of Baltimore's 6-3 win over Seattle had put him among baseball royalty. He became only the fourth player in major league history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray. After Palmeiro's double, his teammates ran to meet him at second base.

"It's the best thing that could have happened to me that I pitched on the day that Raffy got his 3,000th hit," Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez said. "I'll never forget that. Whatever happens from here, in future generations and to my grandchildren they'll know it's an experience that doesn't happen often. I'm thankful to have been a part of it."

But the night won't be remembered for the sprint by Miguel Tejada and Lee Mazzilli out of the dugout, or the champagne toast the manager gave in the clubhouse immediately after the game. It was the large hugs Palmeiro, 40, received from his sons, Preston and Patrick, on the field that almost brought the first baseman to tears. In the stands, Lynne Palmeiro had noticed how much joy baseball had brought to her family.

"I think that was great," she said. "I think he really wanted them to see every bit of it. He really wanted them to be there. . . . Not just sitting in the stands and watching it, but being on the field and hearing other guys talk about it."

Palmeiro had desperately wanted to share the moment with his family. Patrick, 15, was a batboy for most games in the past two weeks. Preston, 10, was in the stands filming each at-bat. But as the big day grew closer, Preston joined his father in the dugout, too.

"For them to be a part of that and be out there with me, I'll never forget it and I hope they don't either," Palmeiro said.

Preston Palmeiro's youth baseball team had qualified for a tournament in Oklahoma late last week and Lynne Palmeiro had planned to make the trip with her son. But Palmeiro asked them both to stay in Baltimore for a bit longer.

"He can't miss this," Palmeiro told his wife.

In perhaps his greatest moment, baseball had brought an entire family together. Palmeiro refuses to put his among the elite names in baseball despite what the numbers say.

"I've never played this game for the fanfare or the attention," he said. "I've played this game because I loved this game from the very first time I ever played it when I was 9 years old. That's all I ever wanted to be."