Yes folks, you heard it right.
I should probably share a little information about myself first, though. My name is Mario Alejandro and baseball was once my first love. I didn’t start playing organized ball until I was 16, which meant that when I did play in High School and leagues I did not have the instincts others picked up in their pre- adolescent years, especially fielding. Somehow though, with lots of sweat and blood in the cages (no steroids), and tons of work in the outfield I was playing in an independent league by the age of 25. The way I looked at it, I was just a step away from being signed and was playing with and against guys who once played in AA and AAA everywhere from the Reds organization to the Royals. Everything was going great until one horrible month when I was stuck in a slump that had me 0-9 in three games. After one fateful strikeout that ended the inning I went to Right Field to warm up and I felt something snap in my right shoulder. Where I could once throw to the catcher from deep Center, now I could not even throw 10 feet without excruciating pain in my throwing arm. I didn’t tell anyone for fear of being taken out of the game and wouldn’t you know it…all three outs that inning were made by me, which included me having to throw from deep Right and back to the second baseman. A few weeks later I was told by a paramedic friend of mine that it was a Rotator Cuff tear, of course by then, I had already quit the team since I was useless. I couldn’t even swing a bat properly. My true love had finally rejected me.
Well, a few years before my career-ending injury I was at the batting cages at Blockbuster Golf & Games just destroying the ball in the 80 MPH cage. Out of the corner of my eye I could tell someone was waiting behind me for their turn and with every hit that went a good distance (it was open-field cages) he would pay me a compliment. When my 20 pitches were done I walked out passed this monster of a man and thought to myself, “holy shit, it’s Jose Canseco!”. Keep in mind that the cages were in Sunrise, Florida, 5 minutes away from Weston, Jose’s home for almost 15 years. Let’s just say that this man completely destroyed every one of my home runs that day. I stood in awe, almost like Walt Weiss and Mike Gallego probably did in the 80’s when they would watch Jose in the cages before games.
When the man walked out he handed me a business card and told me that if he ever needed batting help to give him a call. He left the cages and jumped into a gold Mercedes and sped away. When I looked at the card, it was none other than Ozzie Canseco, a guy who probably would have been a 20 home run, 80 RBI guy if he were ever given a proper opportunity by any big league team. Unfortunately, being Jose’s brother hindered his potential career.
I am not going to explain to you how fast I called Ozzie. It was the same excitement a man would get when he got a pretty girl’s number. I was a fool and didn’t wait 3-4 days, though. I called him as soon as I got home. Unfortunately, no answer but a few hours later he called back. It was the greatest call ever because when I looked at the caller ID it was none other than “Jose Canseco – 954-384-*&%$”. He called from Jose’s house and as it turned out the training was at Jose’s Weston palace.
I won’t get into Ozzie’s batting instruction except to say that was adequate and expensive ($60 per hour). At the end of the session, we walked past Jose’s gym and Ozzie said, “yeah, all the guys come here and work with Jose.”. Out of curiosity I asked who and he said, “Benito Santiago, Alex Rodriguez, pretty much all the Miami guys”.
So A-Rod was hanging out at Jose’s house way back in 1998? What’s to say he didn’t start juicing there and then? That was the year Alex had his first 40 home run season. Anyways, for proof I am posting a picture of the business card, which I laminated and carry around in my wallet. Sad? Indeed. I also have an Ozzie Canseco card signed by Ozzie. Hey, for $60 I had to get my money’s worth!