Wednesday, November 24, 2010
#430) JOE ORSULAK
Joe Orsulak signed with the New York Mets as a free agent on December 18, 1992. The veteran outfielder grew up in Parsippany, New Jersey, which was about a 45-minute drive to Shea Stadium. He was a Yankees fan as a kid. "I'm happy to be with the Mets," he said. "They made an effort to sign me. The main thing was to go with a team that really wanted me." Joe made his debut with the Mets on April 5, 1993. Getting a base hit in New York's 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Shea Stadium. He left the team for 10 days in July when the family learned that his youngest son, Michael had to undergo heart surgery. The one-year old was born with a disease called Williams syndrome which will continue to cause complications for life. Battling through the adversity, Orsulak would finish his first season in New York batting .284 in 134 games.
Joe was again given grave news mid-season on July 26, 1994. After suffering from severe headaches an MRI determined that Adrianna Orsulak suffered from an inoperable brain tumor. He returned home to tend to his wife, but returned to New York shortly afterward. "She was in the hospital for a week and the hardest part for her was being away from the kids," said Orsulak. "She has the kids now, her sister is with her, she's not going through any treatments now, she's not in any pain." Joe was relieved when the Major League Baseball Players went on strike August 12th. Adrianna started radiation and he accompanied her to the hospital every day. "I needed to be there for her," he said. "The medication was brutal, as far as the side effects."
Orsulak returned to baseball with the conclusion of the strike in 1995. "She's doing so well right now, she wanted me to come and play," Joe said during spring training. "If things were different, health-wise, I wouldn't be here." The entire Mets organization remained extremely supportive of Orsulak. "Part of the reason we feel special about him is the way he is handling it," said manager Dallas Green. "He's being typical Joe. He appreciates the thoughts, but I think he just wants to approach his work like he always has and contribute where he can." On August 7, 1995 that contribution came in the way of his one home run of the year. A three-run pinch-hit roundtripper that was the 5-2 game-winner facing the Florida Marlins at Shea Stadium. In total he appeared in 108 games during 1995, with a .283 batting average while driving in 37 runs.
When asked his favorite memory of Shea Stadium, Joe replied, "One time, I hit a foul ball, and my best friend caught it in the stands!"
At the end of the year he became a free agent and signed a two-year contract with the Florida Marlins on December 5, 1995. Joe retired from baseball following the 1997 season. After years fighting the disease, Adrianna Orsulak passed away from brain cancer on February 9, 2004. "She was a great mother who cared about her kids more than anything. The doctors gave her one to two years to live, and she lived 10," Joe said at the time of her death. "Her goal was to live long enough so her sons would remember her. She was tough."
In retirement Joe has enjoyed time with his family, "kids occupy a lot of my time." He also enjoys hunting and fishing and does his own landscaping. Orsulak even cooks "like normal people do."
Joe Orsulak signed his card in the set from an autograph signing held at Wyoming Methodist Church on November 20, 2010 in Wyoming, Delaware.