Remembering Jose Lima

Jose Lima pitching at TD Bank Ballpark in 2008 (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Anyone who crossed paths with Jose Lima won’t soon forget the former major leaguer, who passed away today at just 37 years old, the result of a massive heart attack.

Atlantic League fans had two opportunities to see the eccentric Dominican-born pitcher; 2003 with Newark and 2008 with Camden.

A former big league All-Star who had won 21 games with the Houston Astros in 1999, Lima’s career quickly took a turn for the worse with both the Astros and Tigers and he fell out of favor in affiliated ball, forcing his first trip to the Atlantic League in 2003. He started the season with Newark (pictured), and went 6-1 with a 2.33 ERA in eight starts before quickly being signed by the Kansas City Royals, who sent him right to the big leagues.

Lima pitched well for the Royals, but put together his signature post-Atlantic League season in 2004 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 36 appearances, including 24 starts, Lima may be best known for his 5-hit shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS, which marked the Dodgers first playoff win since Game 5 of the 1988 World Series.

Lima returned to the Royals in 2005 and made his last big league appearances for the New York Mets in 2006. After that, his career wound down in the Mexican League, Korean Baseball League, Golden League and, of course, the Atlantic League.

My memory of Lima comes in 2008, when he had been signed by the Camden Riversharks.

Lima never pitched in Somerset in 2003 — my first year covering the league — so I made sure I didn’t miss him when he was scheduled to pitch for the Riversharks against the Patriots five years later. It was a camp day, and I hate camp days. Getting up early isn’t my thing…as I’d later find out, it wasn’t Lima’s thing either.

But I remember waiting by the Riversharks dugout for Lima to come out so I could take pictures of him warming up. I remember it was a pretty warm August day, and I wanted to get as many pictures as I could because I didn’t want to have to sweat it out during the game.

I was walking back towards the dugout when Lima emerged from the tunnel, and he started walking towards the bullpen. I stopped and was going to follow him out. He’d have none of this…never having met me before, he starts a conversation and puts his arm around me and we walk together towards the Camden bullpen for part of the way. He talks about how tough it is to get up this early for a start, something I quickly agreed with him about. We talk about the weather, the ballpark, all the kids at the stadium, and then I wish him luck and he’s on his way.

Lima didn’t pitch very well that day, but that doesn’t matter. Everything I’d heard about what a good, engaging guy he was is true. To this day, I still occasionally wear my “Lima Time” T-shirt. Today is a sad day for baseball, and a sad day for anyone who ever crossed paths with Jose Lima…whether they ever thought they would or not.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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2 Responses to “Remembering Jose Lima”

  1. DAVE S (Staten Island) Says:

    Mike, Great story. I am told the same by everyone else that has met him.

  2. DanRodriguez Says:

    Good story! Here’s to Lima Time!!

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