A colorful and gregarious pitcher, Jose Lima and I crossed paths in the summer of 1999 at PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA. My father passed along to me the love of the game of baseball and a rich tradition in attending Pirates games. On this warm summer evening I gathered my three children ages 8, 9 and 12 along with my wife and travelled to PNC Park to see the Pirates take on the Houston Astros.
As we entered the park before us was a lush green grass field with the backdrop of the Clemente bridge, the junction of the Monongehela and Allegheny Rivers to form the mighty Ohio and the skyline of downtown Pittsburgh. It really was and still is an awesome site.
We arrived extremely early to watch batting practice. As we approached our seats along the third base dugout I could see a player sitting on the railing, his legs tucked under the next rail down and his arms waving as if he were talking to himself. No one had yet approached him so I took my oldest son clutching an mlb ball and sharpie down what seemed like endless steps. My son was worried he’d leave before we got to him. As we approached I could see it was Jose Lima and impressed upon my son what a fantastic pitcher he had been last year for the Astros and what a good record he was having this year. My son nodded as we reached the rail. Jose was singing a latin tune to himself. My son had been coached, “Sir, Mr. Lima could I have your autograph?”
Jose Lima turned with a smile from ear to ear and signed that ball like it was the first autograph he’d ever given. His signature was a symbol of his personality. It was artistic and large. He shook my son’s hand and said a few words before breaking into an infectious laugh. We were soon joined by several other youngsters and my son thanked Mr. Lima for his kindness.
My son texted me about Jose Lima’s death. When he got home we went to his bedroom and pulled down the ball from the shelf bearing his name. He remembered Lima’s graciousness and his zest for life. I can’t help but imagine the impact he had in his short 37 years. When I meet people like Lima, even for those brief moments, I realize what potential each of us have as individuals.
Thank you Jose.