Mets' Reyes on Lima: 'A great guy'
Former teammates remember legacy left behind by fallen pitcher
Jose Reyes was still sleeping when his phone started ringing at 10 a.m. Sunday. Friends from the Dominican Republic were calling the Mets shortstop to tell him that his friend and teammate, Jose Lima, died from a heart attack at age 37.
"I didn't believe it from the beginning," Reyes said. "I had to call one of his family friends from the Dominican and they told me that he had a heart attack. It was tough."[+] EnlargeHoward Smith/US PresswireJose Lima left a lasting impression in his short time with the New York Mets.
Reyes played with Lima on the Mets in 2006, a few years after "Lima Time" became a national phenomenon and seven seasons after the right-hander won 21 games for the Astros and played in his only All-Star Game. Even though Lima was in the final days of a 13-year big league career during his three-month stint with the Mets, he still carried his trademark enthusiasm and energy to the ballpark every day.
"Just the kind of person that he is," Reyes said. "He's funny; he's a great guy to have around. He's always happy, so much energy. It's good to have a guy like that around.
"It's a long season, when you have a guy like that, who has a lot of energy, you look at him and you're never going to be down."
Reyes would also run into Lima in Santiago, Dominican Republic -- both players' hometown. They went to the same barber shop in Santiago and also played against one another in the Dominican Winter Baseball League.
While Reyes played with Lima at the end of his career, Mets second baseman Alex Cora was on the field for one of Lima's biggest nights in the big leagues.
It was Oct. 9, 2004, and the Dodgers trailed the Cardinals 2-0 in the NLDS with Lima on the mound in Game 3. Lima threw a complete-game five-hit shutout in the Dodgers' 4-0 win.
"The best game ever," Cora said. "I still remember 50,000 people going 'Lima, Lima' in the ninth inning."
Cora said Lima's energy would bring levity and perspective during the sixth-month grind of the regular season.
"That's going to be what I remember about him. How much he enjoyed life and enjoyed the game," Cora said.
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"Just watching him and the way he approached the game. He was very professional but at the same time he had a blast and he reminds you how fun it is."
That's what Yankees bench coach Tony Pena will remember as well. Pena played with Lima on the Águilas Cibaeñas in the Dominican Winter Ball League in 1989, the same year he was signed by the Tigers.
Pena also coached Lima on Águilas and was Lima's manager on the Kansas City Royals in 2003. Pena had an "R.I.P. J" written in black marker on the left side of his Yankees cap today in honor of his former player and teammate.
"Whenever I remember Lima coming in the clubhouse, he was ready to have fun and everybody around him have fun," Pena said before Sunday night's game. "He just wanted to make sure that everyone around him had fun. That's the way I want to remember him the rest of my life."
Ian Begley is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com
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