In the spring of 1999 I came ready to play and the Royals knew it; naming me the starting center fielder and leadoff batter. This was the beginning of an exciting year. I was maturing both professionally and personally. I had fallen in love with the woman that would eventually become my wife. By the end of the ‘99 season, I scored 102 runs and 108 RBI's. I didn't know this at the time but I was the first rookie in over twenty years to top 100 runs and 100 RBI in a single season. To top it off, while on my honeymoon, I found out that I was named rookie of the year!
The following season was not so sweet. I bruised my knee, sprained my wrist and eventually found myself on the DL for two months. It was a huge blow to me even though I knew it was the reality of playing the game. Determined to come back stronger, I gathered myself and began a strict workout regimen. I entered 2001 in the best shape of my life. That winter I had a great Caribbean series and the Royals showed their confidence in me by trading Johnny Damon to the A's. That trade solidified my role as the centerfielder. The next few years I maintained my form, I was having fun and continued to grow. However, my biggest gratification came when I was finally able to fulfill a promise I had made to my parents when I was a kid.
Before I left for the 2002 season, I purchased the best house I could afford. It was my first big purchase with my Major League salary. My mom and dad knew this and took extra special care of it while I was gone. They felt that I didn't get a chance to enjoy it that winter so they made sure the house stayed in perfect condition. Once the season ended, I went back to Puerto Rico and began to work day and night to make the house a home. It was a fun time because my parents helped me every step of the way. They were involved in every detail from paint colors and on. They wanted my first home to be perfect. (The truth was, Jessica and I were living in an apartment and were happy wherever as long as we were together.) Once the house was complete with the best new furnishings, Jessica and I invited our families over for a house warming party. After everyone arrived I handed over keys marked "W" and "C," to my parents. They looked at me with confusion, so I reminded them of the promise I had once made to them. I told them that all along this house was for them, it was my way of thanking them for all the sacrifices they made for my family and me but most importantly for their unconditional love and support. There was not a dry eye in the house (including mine). I didn't expect that moment to be so emotional. All I could think about was how great it was to finally be able to give back to my parents who have always been so selfless.
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