Family is the key ingredient for Ulbado Jimenez
For Colorado Rockies superstar pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, life is enjoying the simple things. It could be going to a movie, listening to music, watching his five-year-old niece riding a bike or enjoying his mom’s home cooked meal in his lower Denver residence.
Sure, Jimenez is a normal 27-year-old athlete with some dinero in his pocket. He’s got a few nice cars, though he rarely drives them. Young women are giddy in his presence, but he seldom dates. He’s a tireless worker who lifts weights and runs daily. Jimenez doesn’t smoke and only drinks on rare occasions, like when champagne flowed in Atlanta about a year ago when he threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history against the Braves. Well, I guess Jimenez isn’t really that normal. But he’s as refreshing as a deep breath of Colorado mountain air.
Following his 2011 opening-day start, Jimenez landed on the DL with a deep cut near the cuticle of his right thumb. But one of baseball’s most durable pitchers will be activated soon, and National League hitters will have to deal with his 98 mph four-seam fastball, darting two-seamer, nasty slider, above-average change-up and looping curve ball. You might as well throw in the kitchen sink.
Obviously, Jimenez was blessed with amazing talent, but strong family values have been a major factor in his budding career. His father was a bus driver in his native Dominican Republic and his mother a nurse. Education was always a big priority. So when the New York Mets offered the lanky 16-year-old a $20,000 bonus to sign a professional contract and move away, he turned them down.
“My parents wanted me to at least finish high school, and wouldn’t let me go,” he recalls.
A year later, the Rockies offered Jimenez $50,000 to sign, and a promise to play as a pro in his home country until he finished his primary education.
Playing in Colorado has turned into a comfort zone for Jimenez. In 2009, he inked a contract extension for $10 million through the next three seasons and with club options for 2013-14. He is making an economical $2.8 million this year, but Jimenez loves playing in Denver, a city with a growing Latino community within its outskirts. His mom and dad are there frequently, taking care of their granddaughter, Chrisley, while sister Leidys finishes medical school back in the Dominican Republic.
I love it when my mom is here in Denver,” says Jimenez, “because she’s a great cook. She prepares steak, chicken and fish with lots of fruit and salad.”
Jimenez racked up career-best numbers last season, with a 19-8 record and a 2.28 ERA and averaged about one strikeout per inning. After recovering from his frustrating injury, it’s my prediction that Jimenez and his well-rested arm will lead the Rockies talented hurlers to another playoff berth. But this time, it will be back to the World Series, just like 2007 when he first blossomed as a prominent big league pitcher.
“My thumb is much better now,” notes Jimenez. “I’m ready to help my team.”
Jimenez is a quiet leader and fierce competitor on the field. But in the clubhouse, he’s known as a prankster. His best friend on the team is veteran Mexican lefty Jorge de la Rosa, who Jimenez seeks for advice and to fine tune his English … His favorite meal is goat meat and rice, but his mom can’t find the former item anywhere in Denver … To his family, he is known as “Jairo”, a biblical name … Besides his Denver home, Jimenez recently bought his parents a spacious ranch back home near Santo Domingo, where he spends the off season. To be sure, there’s plenty of goat meat available there.