There will be a lot written and said about Jose Lima in the days to come so I’ll simply be one of many to add to the conversation by saying that he was by far the most unique personality I’ve ever been around in 16 years in the game.
Whether it was on the golf course (where he would notoriously drop a second ball if he didn’t like his first shot), on the mound (we’ve all seen his animated antics after a big strikeout), in the clubhouse (his salsa dancing in a puddle of champagne after the 2004 clinching ceremony will always be fresh in my memory) or on the grand stage (he and his band rocked Viva Los Dodgers back in 2004 and then headlined the Conga Room that night and kept us all entertained into the early morning), he was like no one else I’ve ever encountered in my life.
When tragedies like this strike, it reminds all of us to live life to the fullest, without regrets. I don’t know if Lima had any regrets but of this much I’m certain – he lived every day of his 37-plus years to the fullest. In fact, I’d venture to guess that he put 100 years of life into his 37 years on Earth.
It’s eerie to be typing this in an office where he was hanging out just 48 hours ago with his son, Jose Jr. And one month ago today, he sat in here with a few others as we discussed the new role he’d play as part of the Dodger Alumni Association. He was scheduled to make a community appearance tomorrow on behalf of the team – his first in his new capacity. He was excited to play in the Dodgers Dream Foundation Golf Tournament next month, and he was downright giddy about playing another gig at Viva Los Dodgers in June. Trying to keep him focused during our hour-long meeting was like trying to keep him focused in the dugout…an impossible task. But his energy was palpable and it rubbed off on everyone around him.
When he showed up at Spring Training in 2004, he promised several of us that he was going to make the team as a non-roster invitee but few believed him. He did that and so much more.
He played in Los Angeles for just one year, but his work on and off the field left an indelible mark on those of us he touched, which includes millions of fans around the world. He simply didn’t have bad days. He was perpetually happy, with a huge heart, and it’s ironic that it seems a heart attack was what ultimately ended his life.
He was always teaching…he was about to open up a baseball academy in Pasadena to help teach the game he loved. I can remember being on the golf course and whenever I would hit a bad shot, he would try to show me what I did wrong. It was just part of his nature.
Someone sent me this link last year and thinking about him today, it popped back into my head. While playing independent ball, he was still in typical Lima form, singing in an airport at 6:30 in the morning.
Walking around the stadium over the last few hours, I’ve heard countless stories from media members, front office employees, clubhouse attendants and the like, each of whom has a fond memory to share. They aren’t famous people…just everyday workers but that never mattered to Lima. He was friendly to everyone and most of these people saw him just two days ago when he was here and in great spirits. It’s hit everyone here extremely hard.
All of us will keep his family and friends in our thoughts and prayers, including his younger brother Joel, who plays in our minor league system. There’s nothing that can really be said that will help a loss at such a young age.
I guess it was just Lima Time up in heaven and if there are golf courses up there, he’s already hitting a lot of balls onto the fairway up there. And you can be sure that he’s telling everyone about it.