Grove of Dreams

The life and times of orange picker-turned-big leaguer Jesse Flores

“He never talked about his playing days,” Steve adds. “He’d rather talk about family, friends. About the most he would say is what good orange pickers his brothers were.”

Flores finally received accolades toward the end of his career. In 1985, Major League Baseball named him the West Coast Scout of the Year. Two years later, the Minnesota Twins—riding the strong arm of Blyleven, who had rejoined his original squad—won the World Series for the first time since 1924, when they were the Washington Senators and their Orange County ace was Walter “Big Train” Johnson. That same year, the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined Flores in their pantheon; the plaque noted his less-than-stellar record but lauded the man, saying Flores “held up against the best baseball in the world. . . . [His career] was a noteworthy achievement if you take into account that in those days, American baseball was full of big stars.”

Flores finally resigned from the Minnesota Twins in 1989 after 27 years of scouting. He helped the Pittsburgh Pirates for a couple of more seasons before retiring for good in 1990. He passed away the following year at 77 and had never moved away from La Habra. Blyleven gave the eulogy at the funeral.

Eventually, La Habra atoned for its previous sins against Flores. In 1994, the city christened a trio of Little League baseball fields the Jesse Flores Sports Complex. The diamonds are located in Portola Park, a small patch of land that sits on the site where Flores and Los Juveniles played. In 2001, La Habra honored him again with a plaque in the park. It praised his ceaseless commitment to the city’s young ballplayers. “Many hopeful players called [Flores], begging for a tryout,” it reads in part. “Jesse would arrange to meet with them and would begin by saying, ‘Okay, show me what you’ve got.’ If the prospect was good and showed love for the game, Jesse would conclude, ‘That bird’s going to make it to the big leagues.’”

“Everyone loved him,” Steve Flores says. “He was just a good guy. I still run into people who’ll say, ‘Your father was one of the best human beings ever.’”

“Boy, my father had a blessed life,” Flores adds. “Everything he did just went right.”


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