Expectation can make or break a man’s heart. I went to Ozzie’s game Wednesday night hoping to chat with Ozzie a bit, watch a fun but competitive game of softball, and to have a great night out with Tatiana. Instead what I got was the first meeting of myself and Jose Canseco, not to mention a personal photograph. It was an amazing night I will never forget. Perhaps I should have left it at that and not returned the next day because no matter how great it could have been, it would not match up to the night before and might even tarnish my great memories of the night before.
We arrived early Thursday and waited and waited for the Canseco brothers. After an hour, a towering Canseco brother popped up with a tiny puppy by his side. It was Ozzie and he was the first player on his team to show up which meant he was stuck with Tatiana and I. It was awesome because for the first time in three games we actually had a full-length conversation with “Obbie” and he even cleared up a Wikipedia error for me. When I asked him about his amazing 2001 season with the Newark Bears in which he hit 48 home runs he corrected me by saying he actually hit 49. He also mentioned with a smile on his face that he won the M.V.P award that season.
Our conversation was broken up when a very tired-looking Jose showed up. Ozzie walked him to the field and they split up. Ozzie went to practice while Jose sat next to me to fix his shoes again. The first thing I noticed was a bandage wrapped around his hand that wasn’t there the night before. As he was walking into the dugout I mustered up every ounce of courage in me and walked up to him and asked, “Jose, could you please sign this card for me?” Our eyes met again but this time the place was almost empty. No family, teammates, or even a crowd. He said sure and began to scribble his name on a 2005 Topps Fan Favorite card I absolutely loathe. He saw a second card in my hand and began to look at it but I told him one was more than enough and thanked him. He didn’t look like the pretty-boy slugger I grew up admiring but more like a 40-something man who has been to hell and back a couple of times. His face was almost unrecognizable and a heavy beard was beginning to come through. I am not talking about the “Mexi-Stash” from the ’86 Donruss Rated Rookie either, I mean a full beard. As he walked away I knew that this would probably be the last time I’d ever see him again and cherished the moment for what it was. Two man standing together for one short moment in time. It would have been perfect if I was still 10 and he was 28 but life is not perfect.
The game seemed to go on forever. Ozzie hit a home run, Jose hit two. The entire night was spent chatting with the Canseco family; Jose’s father and step-mom, Jose’s sister, everyone! There was a good crowd of 15 watching the Canseco boys. It was great chatting to Jose Sr. about Jose Jr.’s monster shot in the late 80’s against Toronto. You know, the one that hit the fifth deck. He also remembered when Jose hit a home run for him on his birthday while playing with the Texas Rangers. The man was so damn nice and humble I almost couldn’t believe he was related to Jose.
The night came to and end at 9:15 for Tatiana and I. As soon as the game ended, the Canseco brothers went to the next field and began game #2. Jose’s dad asked to follow but we were exhausted. I walked away from that field with a different view on Jose Canseco. I will never forget my encounter with Jose and his family but in a way, I am glad it is over. Now it’s time to do what I do best, write about baseball cards. Last night after the game Tatiana and I bought two rare Ozzie Canseco cards on eBay. I think it’s time I begin a player collection on Ozzie Canseco. It might not be worth a fortune by Beckett’s standards, but to me it feels right.