BY Melissa Segura
On a rainy March afternoon, Jimy Kelly squeezes into his seat between the tightly packed tables at La Nueva Espana Restaurant in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood. The smell of fried chicken hangs in the air. Kelly, like most of Dominicans who frequent the hole-in-the-wall in the working-class barrio, doesn’t bother to look at the menu before ordering his usual plate of chicken and rice.
The 41-year-old takes off a gray blazer, revealing the broad shoulders and tapered waistline of a former pro baseball player. From the interior breast pocket of the jacket, Kelly removes his Dominican passport and a pair of laminated baseball cards. The passport photo was taken in 1984 when Kelly was just 13 years old and at the behest of the Toronto Blue Jays. One of the baseball cards is from 1989 Class A Dunedin and shows Kelly in the batter’s box. The other, from a year later, shows Kelly fielding a grounder as a member of the New York Mets Class A affiliate in St. Lucie, Fla. In each image, he looks impossibly young — too young to be a professional baseball player — with dental floss arms and a body so slight it is unclear if the boy in the picture is swinging the bat or if the bat is swinging him.
“I only played baseball because I love it,” he says in Spanish. “I always dreamed of being the best player but what would happen to me would be a complete surprise.”
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