This is my Jose Lima story.
In 2004 I went to Philadelphia for a weekend series between the Phillies and the L.A. Dodgers. My cousin played with the Dodgers then. I was over by the third base side before the game during warm-ups. Jose Lima came walking by and I asked him politely in Spanish, if I could be so bold as to ask him to relay a message into the clubhouse and tell my Cuz I was outside. He quizzed me a little as to who I was, but after clarifying, he said, "No problem, I'll take care of it right now." My wife and son were with me and he came over and shook hands with us. Shortly there after I was speaking with my cousin before he started his stretching.
We all know what the autograph crush is like near the dugouts when a player pops out. I'm not here to complain about the scene. That's part of baseball. I do want to tell you what happened this day. The cries for Jose...Jose! Autograph...etc. were more than Jose was willing to tolerate this day I guess. It was blisteringly hot this day. What happened next is why Jose Lima will go down as one of the all-time good guys in baseball.
He looked and assessed the crowd. I can paraphrase what he said to the crowd well enough, but 6 years later is not a good time to quote him verbatim.
Just as he addressed the gathered fans, I snapped this picture..
"Wait a minute!! Hold on one minute!! I'm going to come out here in two minutes. I'm going hang out and sign whatever I can for you. Just stop screaming my name!! Everybody be cool, be nice, and we're going to get this done. Promise."
All this was said with humor and respect. In a flash he reappeared from the dugout with a bottle of water and a towel shading his head from the sun. He climbed on top of the dugout; sat down and began signing.
For the next hour and 20 minutes he sat and signed and talked and joked and signed and joked and signed and signed and talked and signed. I was next to him the whole time just chatting away and it goes down as one of the most real moments I ever had with a baseball player. It was like talking sports with a buddy at a BBQ.
He had words of encouragement for kids and words of appreciation for Dads. He looked everyone in the eye and offered a hand shake to all. And for me and two others, there were jokes and jocularity being spoken in Spanish but very low key, that would not other wise have taken place in English. None of it was directed at any fan!
That covers my roughly hour and a half I spent inter-acting with Jose Lima. Baseball has no idea what a guy like Jose means to the game of Baseball. Oft times fans can get jaded with all the minutia of Baseball and the knuckle-heads who sully our game. Brief encounters like the one I had with Jose Lima do more to reconcile a lot of hurt baseball has caused us over the years than any game winning hit my team can muster.
How lucky am I to have shared a moment with him and to be lucky enough to photograph and document my encounter? Very! How many stories like this will the media outlets offer their audience? Maybe a guy like Jose Lima isn't worthy of headline news in a world of sensationalism and salaciousness. That's where we come in. Because I know there are a lot of fans out there with a Jose Lima story. This must be true because he shared himself with as many as he could, as often as he could, where ever he could. Jose Lima was that good; - Maybe not in stats; but certainly in heart and character.
Baseball has lost an incredible ambassador. The Pitcher of the People plays for another team now.
I wish you well Jose and thank you.