Former Texas Ranger Scores a Home Run for Individuals with Alzheimerâ€™s Disease 56 | Exceptional People Magazine | November-December 2011
Guzman says, “This is a personal journey to honor my mother Maria Mirabal Guzman, who died from this terrible disease. It’s my desire to help families care for their loved ones in their own home as long as possible. A secondary goal is to help improve Alzheimer’s facilities, making them a place where families feel their loved ones will be cared for with compassion.”
As a former major league pitcher for the Texas Rangers, Jose Guzman has had more winning games than one might imagine. He’s thrown hundreds of curve balls and has also received many of them from his on-field opponents as well. Guzman began his career as a successful pro ball free agent with the Texas Rangers in 1985 when he was 22 years old. For the next three seasons he won 34 games and pitched over 200 innings twice. Overall, Guzman compiled an 80-74 record in 193 major league appearances with the Rangers and Chicago Cubs. Years ago, life threw his mother a curve ball that changed her life and ultimately Guzman’s perspective on life. His mom suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, but her suffering was not in vain. It inspired Guzman to make a difference in the lives of other elderly individuals who suffered from the disease. He started a charity foundation, the Guzman 23 Foundation. The mission is to provide financial assistance to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and their families or loved ones when finances or basic insurance is unavailable.
His vision is to also have an impact on the lives of families by visiting them to understand their needs from a more personal perspective. Intrigued by his story, the founder of Exceptional People Magazine was inspired to learn more about Guzman’s commitment to help the families of people suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Guzman also shared insights concerning what baseball has taught him and what he has accomplished as an individual. Today, Guzman is a Spanish-speaking analyst who broadcasts for FOX Sports Television. Monica: Tell me about your childhood, what it was like growing up and what inspired your interest in baseball. Jose: I grew up in Puerto Rico in a very small town named Santa Isabel, and I grew up pretty much playing on the streets. There was a big restaurant in my neighborhood, and we used pick up all the old paper cups that had been thrown in the trash. With those paper cups, we made baseballs. For a bat we would use a wooded stick. And that's how we pretty much grew up, playing baseball in the
street. As we got a little older, I started playing in little league in my hometown. It was a lot of fun. I was the youngest of six brothers and one sister, so all my brothers played baseball, but they never played professionally. My dad always used to tell me, “This one is going to make it to the major leagues.” So he planted that seed in my brain. I always thought, “I'm going to be a major league player.” So just for fun I used to throw the baseball against the wall, thinking that I was pitching against major league players. I would think, “Okay. I'm throwing it straight to Reggie Jackson.” I was about 12 when I was doing that. When I got to the major leagues in 1985, I actually got the chance to face those guys. I always had a positive attitude, not only a positive attitude, but I always had dedication. I was always in the park, practicing throwing the ball. I always listened to the coaches, and I always tried to pick up something that would help me get to the next level. Monica: At the age of 22 you actually had the opportunity to become a part of major league baseball. Do you recall at that time, at such a young age, what that meant to you and how it felt to participate in a major league sports game for the first time? Jose: When they first told me, I was in Oklahoma City, and we were in the finals. And I remember pitching a very good game in the finals. And they called and said, “Well, you need to pack. You're going to the major
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league.” I started to look behind me thinking, “Is this guy talking to me?” I was so excited. Then coming to the major league -- that’s pretty much everybody's dream. Through all my years in the minor league, you would see so many guys who got signed and many of them released. They could not make their goal and get on the mound. Since 12 years old was always thinking about being there. I can tell you there was an unbelievable feeling and thanking God for giving me the talent and not getting hurt. I've was able to reach my goal to play in the major league.
lieve you should be humble and treat people the way you want to be treated. Monica: It's great that you are passing your blessings on to other people. Jose: Exactly. It has taught me to be good to people, to stay humble and to learn from others. I’ve learned to be a great human being. Monica: I'm sure as a professional sports player you encountered some failures and some disappointments.
Monica: You've had an amazing career as a baseball player with the Texas Rangers. What has the game of baseball and being in pro sports taught you about yourself and what you can accomplish? Jose: What baseball did for me was it allowed me to accomplish my dream. But not only that, I can say that was pretty much all my life. I got to play into my late 30s. It helped me learn a lot about the people I played with and people in general. You meet happy people; you meet people that are angry all the time. You can meet all kinds of people. It really shows you how to appreciate life. You see guys that have great careers and then you see guys that never make it, or they make it for one year and then disappear. You really appreciate your team and the game and how it teaches you to appreciate things in life. Baseball really showed me how to appreciate people, my team, the game and life. Some people play ball, and they really don't appreciate it. Playing baseball has also taught me how to give back, and that's what I'm trying to do now. Regardless what you get from baseball, whether you started as just a baseball player, or a superstar, I be58 | Exceptional People Magazine | November-December 2011
Would you mind talking about a few of them and how you overcame them? Jose: Sure. At the end of the 1998 season, my arm was starting to bother me. Then in 1989, I had surgery on my shoulder. And then two years later, I can say that was the worse time of my baseball career and the best. The worst was in 1991. After I worked so hard to come back from my surgery, I was released by the team. They let me go because the team didn't feel that I was able to help them because my arm wasn't 100 percent. By then I was married, I had my first child, and the first thing that came into my mind was, “What I'm going to do now?” It's not like I signed up from college and I have my degree. I signed up from high school. I didn't know what to do. I wasn't disappointed because I was giving everything I had. I was just afraid and didn't know what to do. So, while being very disappointed and not being able to make the team, they called me back in May, and I accepted and I had one of my best years. So, from being released in April and to come back in May in that year was amazing. I was selected as the comeback player of the year in the American League. That showed me that even though you experience disappointments in life, you cannot give up. You make it happen. You just have to stick with it and believe in yourself. Monica: When others see you working hard at fulfilling your dreams and positively dealing with your adversity or your circumstances, it inspires them to do the same.
Jose: Yes. When I was released, I could have said, “I'm done. I'm going to go.” What would have happened if I had not been given another chance? That is why I try to encourage kids. I tell them, “When you have a goal in mind, it's going to be hard, and you have to learn from that to become a stronger person, so just stick with it.” Monica: Oftentimes kids are very excited when it comes to sports, whether it's baseball, football, basketball or some other sport. How can you get them to understand that there will be challenges in life and not all of them will be able to become a professional ball players? Jose: It is difficult sometimes. I think parents sometimes get too involved in pushing the kids just to play hard. They're pushing the kids and looking at things from their viewpoint. Let's say I'm 40 years old, and I'm teaching my kid who’s fifteen. I'm teaching him from my point of view. Kids have to come down and see things from their perspective. Parents don't teach their kids about building a foundation, not only in regards to baseball, but whatever they choose to do. They need to help prepare them for what they will encounter. Oftentimes, there may be a kid who's a superstar in high school but when he gets to college, he’s among other superstars from other high schools. So now he’s facing the same type of players -- players at his level or even better. Young kids need to be taught how to handle these types of situations. I encourage them not to become intimidated but to learn from others who are better at playing the game. Pick up their habits and try to improve their skills.
Monica: Can you talk about your organization, the Guzman 23 Foundation? I understand it's meant to benefit people with Alzheimer's disease. Jose: Yes. My mom passed away from Alzheimer's three years ago. I have played, attended, or participated in a lot of events, and I never see anything for Alzheimer's. I always see events for cancer, or AIDS, or other types of diseases, but never for Alzheimer's. I remember how my sister struggled with my mom. She had to give up her job to take care of my mom for five years. And this year in March, I decided I wanted to start a foundation for Alzheimer's, but I didn’t want to do something just for one time. I wanted to create something that would be available nationally. I want to do the best I can and, God willing, whenever it's my time, somebody behind me will keep it going.
I would like to be able to travel to visit with families and give them a check for their family member. If they need a facility, then I want to participate in getting the Alzheimer's patient into the facility, or assist them in getting a nurse or obtaining medicine. I want to be there to talk to them and be able to share some of their stories with other people. Monica: I like the fact that you want to become personally involved and meet the individuals. How will you find these families that have parents who are suffering from Alzheimer's? Jose: Currently, it's local, but I’m working on spreading the word through the website, www.guzman23foundation.org which is still in progress. I’m looking at other ways to make people aware of my efforts and how I can help them and their family member who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Donations can also be made through the website. If anyone wants more information about it, they can send me an email, and I will receive it directly and respond within a couple of days.
I started the foundation in May, and I did my first golf tournament. I’ve learned a lot from my family. I’ve studied and researched how other diseases have decreased by about three percent and Alzheimer's has increased to about sixty-five percent. I want to help families with loved ones at home who cannot afford to take them to a facility, or if they can remain at home, provide help by having a nurse come in. I also want to help with medicine, or help them put their loved ones in a facility. I want to plan various events to raise money to help with research, because right now there’s nothing that can slow down Alzheimer's, and there's no cure.
Monica: For the past several years you were a radio broadcast analyst for the Texas Rangers, and now you are a broadcast analyst on Fox Television?
When I help families, I not only want to give financial support but I want to help on a personal level. I want to see who I'm helping. I want to be there for them personally, because I saw what my sister went through.
Jose: Right now my vision is my Alzheimer's foundation. My vision is take it to a level where we can have Alzheimer's day and everybody wears purple. If it's a baseball game, the guys will be in purple. I want to enlighten people and let them know that it can happen to anyone.
Jose: Yes. These are broadcasted in Spanish. Monica: What is your vision for your future?
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My goal is to get people talking about it and to recognize the fact that it can affect them too. Hopefully, one day we will find a cure. If we don't find the cure, at least we can find something to slow it down.
he's holding out for awhile. That's does not mean he’s denying you. He’s just delaying it for awhile to test your strength and faith. You'll become a stronger person for it.
Monica: What is your overall view of life based upon all of the experiences that you've had? Jose: In my opinion, we often forget where we came from. We don't cherish life, and it seems that people don't care anymore. I see people who are well known, they're secure, and they look down on other people sometimes. So my overall view is that everybody should look at each other the same, regardless of religion or background, and help each other. If we can do that, life will be so much easier. I’ve always said, “God never denies. God sometimes just delays things a little bit.” You may often hear people say, “Why me,” or, “What happened?” God watches over you, and 60 | Exceptional People Magazine | November-December 2011
Published on Dec 2, 2011
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