Results tagged ‘ Jose Lima ’

Time of Lima

limacastilla.jpgThere are countless memories of Jose Lima being shared at this very moment and that should surprise no one.

Lima always brought people together. He did it in life. He’s doing it in death. Here’s my moment in Lima Time and I’m happy to share it. One day, I’ll share it with my son.

My first meeting with Lima was one to remember. It came in October of 2003 in Washington D.C. while waiting in the security area just outside of The White House.

It was raining.

How we all ended up there is a story in itself. President George W. Bush, a former Rangers owner and huge baseball fan, had gathered a large group of Hispanics in the U.S. to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with him at the biggest white house on the block. I covered the Rangers. I was/am Hispanic. Boom, I’m invited along with Rangers manager Buck Showalter, Rafael Palmeiro, other players and Rangers officials. First thought: “I’m outta my league.”  It’s my third year on the beat and at this point in my life, I’m old enough to have a clue about some things but not mature enough to understand what it all means. But hey, I’m going to the White House and I’m going to write about it.

 I looked lost when I arrived in the secure area near the Casa Blanca because I was. Everyone was. It’s crowded and all you hear is Spanish being spoken with a little English sprinkled in. It’s cool. We are here, but wow. I see a famous television personality/sportscaster at the security gate and she pretty much ignored me and blew off this group of young scholars when we ask her the whats, whens and hows of getting into this fiesta. What was her problem? Whatever. What happened next made up for it.

One by one, some of the biggest Latin players in baseball starting showing up. Carlos Beltran showed up with his wife. A short-haired Magglio Ordonez arrived. Rafael Palmeiro and family, Omar Minaya, Tino Martinez and family were dropped off with us poor saps in the rain.

Vladimir Guerrero made a slow walk to our area. Other players began to arrive.

Everyone smiles at each other and embraces. Listening in, it doesn’t take long to realize that everyone feels like a fish out of water just like I do. Everyone. And that feeling brought us all together.

Then the chatter among players begins:

“Wait, is that Celia Cruz’s husband? Oh my goodness, it is. That guy over there, I’m pretty sure he’s Puerto Rican salsa singer Victor Manuelle.”

“Do you think Miss Universe will be here? I think she’s Venezuelan. Venezolanas always win that contest don’t they? Oh yeah, she’ll be here.”

“Hey, is that Buck Showalter? What is he doing here?” “Oh right, he manages the Rangers. Bush and Showalter are probably friends. Claro que si.”

One player asks if A-rod is going to show up. “He’s Dominican. He’s American. He plays for the Rangers so why wouldn’t he?”

Then somebody else chimes in: “Because it’s raining. Alex don’t do rain.”

Out of nowhere, another player jumps into the conversation. The voice is booming and raspy. I would later find it to be one of the most recognizable voices in the game.

“Listen guys, if Alex was here it wouldn’t just stop raining, it would start raining upwards. He’s so good he changes the weather.”

Everybody bursts into laughter. Was he mocking Rodriguez or was he complimenting him? Nobody knew and nobody cared. Lima went on for the next 10 minutes cracking jokes about the rain, weather in Latin America and pretty much anything he could think of. The next scene was right out of prom night. Everybody starts taking photos with each other. Couples, friends, strangers. Everyone. This all takes place in the middle of the security area (basically, a parking lot) and it was hilarious. It was a pre-party before the official celebration had even started and Lima was in the middle of it. He was the life of the party, any party, but specifically, the party of life.

During the ceremony President Bush mentioned Lima by name and the crowd erupted into applause.

I took a photo with Lima and made a friend that day. Every time I would see him throughout the years that followed I would think back to that day in DC. I think he did too. The whole thing was too bizarre not to remember. What were all of us really doing there? Look how far we had all come. The White House, really? Yes, the White House. Players salaries didn’t matter that day. Millionaires stood next to underpaid teachers. Strangers shook hands like old friends and everyone nodded in silence at each other for a job well done. We were all tied together by our humble roots, language and baseball. We were all the same, just from different parts of this country and different parts of other countries. Lima was part of the glue.

Nelson Figueroa still brings it up.

Years later, I ran into Lima at Shea Stadium. He was with the Mets and he was sitting at his locker in silence. It would be his last year in the big leagues but he didn’t know that at the time. Small talk led to deep talk. He said something that I’ll never forget. He says, “Don’t ever worry about me. I’m fine. I’ll never get down, never. I am always going to be ok. Always.”

He was right. I saw Lima pitch a few more times in the Dominican Republic during the Winter Leagues and in Puerto Rico during the Caribbean Series. It seemed like he was always singing the national anthem and then getting on the mound a few minutes later. He was a fan favorite for everybody and he meant so much for the people in The DR. He was loved by so many and he loved them back. It was beautiful.

limasings.jpgThe last time I saw Lima we were in the seats near the dugout at Dodger Stadium.  We were watching batting practice and he was telling me that he almost originally signed with the Dodgers as a teen but all that changed one night at camp when he accidentally came across a Dodgers prospect doing something illegal. The prospect chased Lima with a machete and he ran all the way home. Lima never came back and he later signed with the Tigers. We laughed and laughed. He went on to tell more stories, talk about his band and relive the old days in The DR.

When I tell my son about Jose Lima, I’ll tell him about a man that enjoyed every moment of his life and he inspired others to do the same. Lima will be missed by many, including me, but he will live on in hearts across the world, especially those who believe what he believed: Don’t worry because everything is always going to be ok.