ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — The Daryl Boston of the mid-1980s had a hard time believing what he was seeing.
In his earliest days with the White Sox, Boston found a mentor in fellow outfielder and left-handed hitter Harold Baines. But what the younger, taller Boston — a future minor-league hitting coach and now the Sox’ first-base coach — couldn’t quite wrap his brain around was where Baines dug his feet into the batter’s box.
‘‘He was the guy I most tried to emulate,’’ Boston said before the Sox’ game Saturday against the Rays. ‘‘Very professional in everything he did, lived a good, clean life, played the game hard, showed up on time. He just did everything right.
‘‘But that man stood so far from the plate. I’d say: ‘How are you going to get to that [outside strike] where it is, Harold? You can’t get to that ball.’ But that’s where he wanted it. Pitchers thought they could get him out there, but he could always get to it. Boom, the other way. There it goes.’’
There it went — for enough home runs, hits, RBI and memories that Baines, 60, will be inducted Sunday into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
‘‘I’m just happy for him,’’ Boston said. ‘‘I’m proud to have seen him along the way and the grind that it took. I wish I could be there for his big day.’’
Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, vice president Ken Williams and former teammates Ozzie Guillen and Ron Kittle will be among those in the crowd to support Baines as he’s honored along with Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith and the late Roy Halladay.
Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson will be broadcasting the Sox-Rays series finale while Baines gives a speech that might set a record for brevity.
‘‘He won’t break down crying at the podium, but he might have a tear in his eye,’’ Farmer said.
Farmer was a Sox reliever when Baines, a right fielder who had been drafted No. 1 overall a few years earlier, arrived on the big-league scene in 1980. Before the knee troubles that led him to DH for the bulk of his career, Baines had a bagful of tools.
‘‘Harold Baines could do everything,’’ Farmer said. ‘‘Could run, throw, hit with power. He and Chet Lemon were our best defenders. Harold could run like a deer. He was not one-dimensional. He could go get [the ball]. People don’t know how talented he was.’’
Jackson played against Baines, but the two have become friends through the years.
‘‘I love Harold, first and foremost, because I’ve gotten to know him,’’ he said. ‘‘I think he’s well-deserving of the Hall just as a human being, let alone the [1,628] runs he batted in. For me, 1,500 RBI should put you right there in the conversation all the time.’’
Sox first baseman Jose Abreu has watched all the video of Baines’ career that he could find.
‘‘I know he played for a lot of different teams, but his legacy is with the White Sox,’’ Abreu said through a translator. ‘‘He made the offensive part of the game look so easy. He had a gift.’’
And now he’s being rewarded.
‘‘The Hall of Fame is something special,’’ Farmer said. ‘‘And Harold Baines is a special guy.’’