Coming to America
Corpas' father boards first plane, bound for Denver
Posted: Friday October 26, 2007 10:35PM; Updated: Friday October 26, 2007 10:35PM
DENVER -- Benny Quintero couldn't take it anymore. He'd seen his client, Colorado Rockies closer Manny Corpas, walk out of the clubhouse, passed the throng of other Rockies' moms and dads waiting for their sons, and board the bus -- alone. He'd seen how proudly Todd Helton's dad stood in the team's hotel lobby, decked out in Colorado Rockies gear from head to toe and he'd seen the look on Manny's face, heard the disappointment in his voice the three times the United States embassy in Panama rejected Manny's father's request for a tourist visa to see his son play.
Every time Quintero thought of Corpas taking the mound for the World Series -- the World Series! -- while Manuel, Manny's father, sat half a world away watching his son in his Panama City living room, and all of a sudden it's July 24, 1977 all over again for Quintero. He becomes the 10-year-old boy running off the baseball diamond, just having won the Leipsic, Ohio Little League title, with no one to watch him, no one to hug. The rest of his family couldn't be there that day. They were at the funeral home for the viewing of Quintero's father, Martin, who died at age 38 of a heart attack.
"To me, [the Little League championship] was the World Series," says Quintero.
Motivated by that memory, Quintero entered -- or at least thought he entered -- "senator" into the Google search box. It would take, Quintero knew, and act of Congress, or at least that of a senator, to put Manuel in the seats at Coors Field for Saturday's Game 3 of the World Series. Quintero called the first number the search engine spit out and explained how Manny Corpas, a 24-year-old right-hander hailing not far from the home of another Panamanian closer named Mariano Rivera, helped propel the Rockies to their first World Series in franchise history, how he converted his first 16 save opportunities, and how, no matter how hard he tried, Corpas's dad couldn't be there to see his son.
"That's a great story," the woman on the other end of the phone said, "but you've called an art gallery."
Lois Anderson, the gallery's owner, flipped through her phone book until she found Colorado Senator Ken Salazar's office number. The Democratic senator had his staff place a series of phone calls that, according to Stephanie Valencia, his press secretary, "it would have placed for any other constituent." Of course, Corpas is anything but another constituent. Any other constituent hasn't held his opponents to a .224 batting average in the regular season, nor saved five postseason games in six opportunities. How many other constituents went 19-for20 in save situations?
"This whole year has surprised me," says Corpas between bites of his steak before Game 2, in which he surrendered an eight-inning single to Dustin Pedroia and induced a groundout from Kevin Youkilis in the Rockies 2-1 loss. "There were others in the bullpen with more experience. I really didn't think I'd be closing right away."
Nor did he think his father would be here to see it. The elder Corpas, who's never boarded a plane, couldn't provide proof of car ownership -- one of the forms the embassy asked for -- well, because he doesn't have a car. With Salazar's intervention, the red tape was lifted and once again, Corpas was surprised. "His eyes just welled up with tears," Quintero said about the moment he told his client.
Now those tears in his eyes have been replaced by joy in his voice. "Benny, comó se dice 'senador'", (How do you say senator in English) Corpas asks Quintero as they walk through a Boston mall. The closer is trying to explain to his English-speaking girlfriend, Amy, whose Spanish doesn't yet include civic terms, all that's happened to him. His eyes grow ever wider at all the arrangements Salazar's office has made for him -- a detail to help him through customs awaits. Talk of a limo to help around the expected press corps.
Quintero, however, won't be there to see it. When Manuel Corpas' plane touches the tarmac in Denver Friday night, Quintero will be in Leipsic, Ohio, before heading to Denver on Saturday. His own son, 11-year-old Larkin, has his very own football championship Friday night. And Quintero wouldn't miss it for the world.