Fun times in the independent leagues:
this week’s action at the port city’s historic little Blair Field, max
capacity 3,238. There, two enigmatic pitchers who once drank deeply the
major league good life were the main attractions for the Long Beach
Armada, a 5-year-old team in the independent Golden Baseball League. On
Friday, pitching in front of bleachers that were one-third empty, we
found Jose Lima, the former All-Star known for creating wherever he
goes a jocular, peppery, occasionally flaky and, to some, patently
offensive way of being: Lima Time . . . And Saturday’s pitcher? Yes,
that was 40-year-old Hideki Irabu.
A former big leaguer playing in the lowest of the bus leagues means one
of two things: (a) that the player has come to grips with the fact that
being paid to play baseball for a living is a privilege rather than a
right and will do anything to continue to do so; or (b) that he is
completely deluded as to his worth as a ballplayer and feels that this
is mere warm-up on the way back to the bigs.
At their heights, both Irabu and Lima were guys who carried
themselves as though they were entitled to pitch in the majors, so you
might guess that they both fall under (b). Only one appears to,
however, with the other quite content to simply fling a ball and enjoy
life. I’m not going to tell you which one is which, but I will say that
I was quite surprised.