Orlando Cepeda: My Birthday Baseball Hall of Fame
Last night I met Orlando Cepeda: Seven-time National League All-Star, National League Rookie of the Year (SF Giants, 1958), National League MVP (1967). A legend with a 17-year professional career.
More amazing than meeting him was being introduced to him by my mother.
Orlando Cepeda was at Pac Bell Park (now AT&T Park) working & hanging out at his restaurant "Orlando's", enjoying a nice night at the park like the rest of us. My mom spotted him first. She made her way towards him and shook his hand as if she'd known him all of her life. I watched and listened intently as she confidently chatted with this legend and I learned something new.
Her mother - my beloved grandma who died in 40s due to breast cancer - was from Ponce, Puerto Rico just like Orlando. Before she passed away my grandma had shared stories with my mother of their childhood together in Ponce. She and Orlando had been great neighborhood friends. They played ball in the streets when the sun was out and played house indoors when the weather turned against them. I could see it meant so much to my mom to talk to someone who knew her mother as a child. Orlando wasn't a just a baseball player to her and she wasn't just a fan. He is a connection to her mom, to Puerto Rico, to family and to her own roots. The look in her eyes as they shared these memories made me see her in a different light. Sometimes we forget our parents are human. We forget that they have feelings and memories from a lifetime before us. We forget that they miss their own parents and that they now worry about leaving us & their grandchildren behind. It was a touching moment that truly gave me pause.
Orlando & my parents spoke for some time. My daughter and I eventually joined in on the conversation and posed for pictures with Orlando. He even wished me a happy birthday!
Additional Game Highlights: Giants beat the Rockies, Barry Bonds played his first home game since his dad passed away, J.T. Snow was off the injured list and back on the field, the crowd was charged-up, the wind was just right, the beer was cold, Rich Aurillia went 4 for 4 - and it was his birthday too! The crowd sang happy birthday to him (us) over and over.
I left my heart in San Francisco.