All that was missing was Sister Sledge singing on top of the dugout.
It took months of paperwork and persuasion, but two Pittsburgh Pirates players were equally relieved and joyful to be reunited this week with family members who had never seen them play in the major leagues.
“It’s like a dream come true,” rookie outfielder Jose Guillen said.
Guillen and pitcher Francisco Cordova, both too young to remember when the Pirates’ 1979 World Series winners adopted “We Are Family” as their theme, now understand how baseball can unite families despite vast differences in language, culture and climate.
Cordova’s wife, Isabel, and daughter Nayelle, 5, who had stayed behind at their rural Mexico home for the first 1 seasons of his major league career, are expected to stay the rest of the season.
Waving a Mexican flag every time he threw a strike, Cordova’s family saw him pitch for the first time Thursday. Unfortunately, there was no storybook finish as Cordova (9-7), who has complained recently of a tired arm, lasted only 3-1/3 innings in a 9-4 loss to San Diego - his worst start in a month.
A few hours before, Guillen’s father, Eluido, of San Cristobal, Puerto Rico stood near the batting cage as his son - who was in Class A last season - drove several pitches into the outfield seats.
The elder Guillen arrived several weeks ago for two prostate operations, but only this week was cleared by doctors to go to a game.
“It is very special having my father here,” said Guillen, a tear welling in one eye. “It means so much to me.”
It will mean even more next week if the elder Guillen gets to watch his son play against Dodgers outfielder Raul Mondesi. The families are neighbors and the two often work out together during the off-season.
Guillen apparently did not know until a short visit home during the All-Star break that his father’s condition was not good. He then enlisted the help of Pirates general manager Cam Bonifay and others to speed along the visa process.
The Pirates also arranged for the operation to take place in a hospital only a few blocks from Three Rivers.
Unlike Guillen, Cordova, 25, does not speak English and did not feel comfortable enough with his new life in America to bring his wife and daughter here until now.
“I know he is relieved and happy to have them here with him,” said pitcher Esteban Loaiza, who translates for Cordova. “I know he has felt lonely in the United States without his family.”
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