Family moped a symbol of Reyes' bond with father
TORONTO -- There's a well-used, 1960s or '70s-era Honda 50 moped that sits in the yard of the Reyes family home back in the Dominican Republic. It's the same bike Jose Manuel Reyes used to ride on the the roads of Palmar Arriba well before his son -- Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes -- was born in 1983.
On about $3 of fuel a day, that gas-powered scooter was as reliable and affordable a mode of transportation as one could hope for, hence the machine's widespread popularity throughout the Caribbean nation.
But this bike isn't like the many 100s of other mopeds that navigate town and city roads every day. The Reyes family Honda 50 is special.
It's become a symbol of Reyes' Major League journey -- the vehicle that carried father and son to Reyes' first baseball games at age 5, and a decade later, to the bus stop as he set out for the Mets' Dominican complex after he signed his first pro deal at age 16.
But perhaps the most impressive part of the 50cc antique's story: Jose Manuel still rides it to this day.
"He doesn't want to get rid of it. He still drives it. It's unbelievable," said Reyes, who paid tribute to the scooter in a social media post in the offseason. "He would take me to the ballpark on that bike when we didn't have any money to take a cab. So many memories on it. That bike means a lot for us."
Reyes will still take the bike out for a trip when he visits home once or twice a year. It serves as a reminder of how far he's come and the bond he and his father forged as he chased his dreams.
Giving Reyes a lift to the ballfield was a small portion of Jose Manuel's influence on his son's baseball career.
When he moved on from his trade as a plumber, he opened a small bodega that he still owns today. When work became too time-consuming, he taught Reyes how to operate the Honda 50 so he could taxi himself around.
He didn't make much, but Jose Manuel always made sure his kids got what they needed. For Reyes, that meant an upgrade from milk carton to a used baseball glove. Eventually he had a pair of cleats and his future began to take shape.
In addition to material support, Jose Manuel's guidance is what ultimately swung a reluctant Reyes to leave his hometown and play competitively in Santiago's Felix de Leon league, a crucial decision that landed him on the radar of several Major League teams. The rest is history.
"He gave me everything, he didn't have anything," said Reyes. "I knew I had a time with no glove, but he made it happen. Cleats, he always found a way. [My parents] kept me on the right track -- everything I've gotten is because of my parents."
Although they're 3,000 kilometers apart, Reyes and his father remain close. They talk on the phone almost every day, and Jose Manuel and Reyes' mother will periodically visit Toronto during the season. And when his Major League schedule is through, Reyes tries to get home to reconnect with family and friends, while making a point to hop on that Honda 50 to take a ride down memory lane.