I was on my way to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, CT Sunday when I heard the news on the radio. It seemed like everyone I encountered at the York-Bridgeport Atlantic League game had already heard. Each person echoed the same thing. These recollections centered on what a fun-loving guy Lima was, and how people remembered his days in the league when he pitched in New Jersey for Newark in 2003 and Camden in 2008.
"I caught his first game in winter ball, managed him in winter ball and managed him in Kansas City," current New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena told The New York Post. "Today is a very hard and long day."
Lima had his best two seasons in 1998-99 with Houston, putting up 16-8 and 21-10 campaigns. But he struggled thereafter, bottoming out with a 4-6, 7.77 year with Detroit in 2002.
Needing a re-start his career, Lima went to Newark in '03 where, as I reported in my Independent Baseball Insider column, pitching coach Pete Filson pointed out a flaw in his delivery which was causing the right-hander to lose velocity. Lima won six of seven decisions in eight starts (2.33 ERA) for the Bears before Kansas City bought his contract.
He bolted to a 7-0 start with the American League Central-leading Royals, and the same Tony Pena, his manager, told USA Today's Baseball Weekly: "We're having fun here, and now Lima is part of the fun. Really, his personality is perfect for this club." Lima finished the year 8-3, and he went 13-5 for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004, then hurled a complete-game, five-hit shutout over St. Louis in the National League Division Series.
By 2008, he was back in the Atlantic League, going 5-5 at Camden. It was more Independent Baseball last season, a combined 6-7 between the Long Beach (CA) Armada and the Edmonton (Alberta) Outlaws in the Golden League.
Who could have projected his career and especially his life would end so soon.
"He was a man full of life, without apparent physical problems and with many plans and projects on the agenda," Lima's wife, Dorca, told ESPNdeportes.com.
Subscribe now to 2010 Independent Baseball Insider columns