Since no one mentioned Jose Lima's death, and he was a real fan favorite in Detroit (and everywhere else he played), I thought I'd write a bit about him...
I knew Jose Lima about as well as a reporter can know a player because he was so unbelieveably sweet to my daughter, Taylor, when she was young. Actually, she met him before I did. I played in the Tigers Fantasy Camp in January of 1996 when Taylor was 3. While I was in Lakeland hanging out with the alumni players, some of the current Tigers were making their annual media tour throughout Michigan, and one of the stops was in my hometown of Traverse City. So Taylor's mom took her to meet the guys, and she immediately hit it off with Lima (she reminded him, "My name is Taylor. Don't forget me!"). She told him that her dad played for the Tigers too (I wish). After Taylor's mom explained I was at the Fantasy Camp, Lima said he was heading to Lakeland the next day to get a jump on spring training, and he would tell me hello. Long story short: He didn't make it over to Marchant Stadium before I flew home, so I searched him out on Opening Day and told him he was in big trouble with my daughter. He laughed, and we ended up talking for quite a bit. We became friends after that, and he was always extrememly gracious to my daughter -- he called her "baby," spoke to her on the phone, sent her notes and little gifts and treated her like a queen on those days when I wasn't working and we were just fans. Taylor, in turn, made him all sorts of stuff -- cards, drawings, pot holders, etc. I remember, too, that she liked the smell of his cologne.
Lima and I fell out of touch after his last go-around in the majors in 2006. My cell phone freaked out one day, wiping out all of my contacts (including his phone number), and I never connected with him after that. Sadly, just last week I looked through some old files, trying to find something with his number written on it, but I didn't have any luck. A few days later, we heard the horrible news.
Needless to say, we were stunned his death. The news was delivered via radio on our way home from church on Sunday, and it was so surreal -- sitting on the side of the road, crying and hugging my 17-year-old daughter, grieving for a man we hadn't spoken to in years but who had touched our hearts forever. Taylor asked, "Dad, do you think he forgot me?" I said, "No way. I don't know how he could."
For me and my daughter, it will always be Lima Time. Rest in peace, my friend. We miss you.