Alan Trammell was a 19-year-old in his first spring training with the Tigers when he got off the bus that 1977 day in Winter Haven and was told somebody with the Red Sox was looking for him.
"It was Ted Williams," Trammell recalled this week. "He knew I was from San Diego, and I guess this was something he did with other kids from there.
"He had followed me, and he knew about me, and he wanted to introduce himself. I was taken aback to be honest with you. I was in shock. Obviously we all know who Ted Williams is and was. …
"It was overwhelming. Something I'll obviously never forget, and don't want to forget. I felt it was a very special day that Ted Williams would recognize my name."
Trammell would make his debut for the Tigers that September to launch a stellar 20-year career playing shortstop, then has stayed in the game for most of the last 20 years, currently working as a special assistant in Detroit's front office.
And Saturday, his career will come full circle in a way, as he will be at Tropicana Field for induction — as part of the Dinner with Chris Archer & Friends event — into the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame.
"That's very cool," said Trammell, soon to be 58. "I know it's a big event, and I'm extremely honored to be a part of it."
For the last 15 years, Trammell has been a candidate for the real Hall of Fame, the one in Cooperstown. After never getting close to the 75 percent of the votes needed for election, he is now off the ballot, his chances solely in the hands of the veterans committee.
Trammell said he has no complaints or bitterness about the process, that he was honored just to be on the ballot and considered. "I'm appreciative," he said. "I know a lot of people are in my corner, but obviously not enough."
What he'd really like is to be voted in by the veterans along with Lou Whitaker, his long-time double-play partner in Detroit. "That's just my dream," he said.
Trammell was known primarily for his steady defensive play, but put up solid numbers in what was a less-offensive era, hitting .285 with a .787 on-base plus slugging percentage and 185 homers, including 20-plus in two different seasons. He finished a close second to Toronto's George Bell for the 1987 American League MVP Award.
"I'm always going to think that defense was first — that's just how we were taught," Trammell said. "I can remember Dick Wiencek, the scout who signed me, telling me if you hit .250 and played good defense you'd play in the big leagues a long time."
Trammell, Robin Yount, Cal Ripken Jr. and others were part of the game's evolution to more productive middle infielders. "But those numbers have been blown out of the water now," Trammell said. "It's a different era. I'm not complaining. I still feel defense is first. But hitting .250 and playing good defense is probably not enough this day and age as it was in the '70s."
But what he did was good enough to be honored by Ted Williams' museum. And that still means quite a lot.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow @ TBTimes_Rays.