Ailing Maldonado an inspiring figure

April, 2, 2010
Photo courtesy of Red Sox
Gordon Edes' final feature from Fort Myers, Fla. is the touching story of Felix Maldonado, who has has nurtured generations of Red Sox prospects while working in the minor league system for nearly 50 years. He recently entered hospice care after cancer had reared its ugly head for the second time in three years. Here is an excerpt from Edes' story:

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was on a better day in spring training, one in which Felix Maldonado was still circulating among the young Red Sox ballplayers that have been his surrogate sons for the better part of four decades, that he greeted a familiar face. "Did I tell you," he said softly, "that this winter I was inducted into the Puerto Rico Hall of Fame?"

Maldonado's smile shone as brightly that afternoon as the day a few years ago when he learned the Red Sox were according him the same honor they had given their other venerated figures, Johnny Pesky, Eddie Popowski and Broadway Charlie Wagner. They were naming one of their practice fields here after him.

Pesky did not know until the other day, when ballpark security guard John Ruzanski called him back home in Massachusetts, that his friend Felix, after almost 52 years in the game, was no longer at the ballpark. Maldonado was in a hospice in nearby Cape Coral. The cancer that had ravaged him three years ago, causing him to lose two-thirds of his stomach, had come back with a vengeance. Back then, the Red Sox had flown him back to Boston, paid for his surgery and chemotherapy and convalescence, and a year later, Maldonado was back on the field.

This time, there may not be any coming back. "Tell him," Pesky had told Ruzanski, "that I'm praying for him."

The fans don't know Maldonado the way they knew Ted Williams' pal Pesky, or "Pops," the beloved third-base coach, or even former pitcher Wagner, who even after turning 90 was one of the most dapper dressers around.

But for generations of Sox hopefuls, especially Spanish-speaking kids, one of the people most responsible for nurturing their dreams was Felix Maldonado.
Read the full story HERE.



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