Sophia Ordóñez didn’t know her father when she was born.
She was born in the summer of 2004 during a particularly difficult time for her father. He was struggling through a knee injury that just wouldn’t heal. Arthroscopic surgery didn’t do the job; therapy didn’t do the job; waiting and hoping wouldn’t do the job. Magglio was in his contract year and he had to heal up in time to prove he was worthy of his next paycheck.
Therefore, he left his very pregnant wife at the airport and flew to Vienna in hopes of a minor miracle. “It was not an easy decision,” Ordóñez told ESPN the Magazine in June. “I visited with more than 10 doctors in the United States and none of them could give me a concrete answer about my knee. So I had to make a decision quickly because I was going to be a free agent and I didn’t have a job.”
So what did The Big Tilde travel all the way to Vienna for? Shockwaves, of course. His knee suffered from osteonecrosis; the bone in his kneecap could not receive the life-giving blood needed to heal and prosper after being damaged in a collision with an ill-placed Willie Harris earlier that season. He could stand still and even hit a little, but he couldn’t run and couldn’t put the full torque needed into his patented opposite field power.
Austria offered a treatment option the States could not: batter the affected area with shockwaves to cause tiny breaks (microfractures) and allow the blood to flow again. Ordóñez chose this treatment over the American method of drilling tiny holes to cause the same reaction since he needed to come back fast enough to prove his health and worth. Rehab for the latter surgery would have dragged into spring training; the European method allowed him to prove his health as best as possible in the winter.
It’s hard to remember after the successes of 2006 and 2007, but there was serious doubt about The Big Tilde’s future. His contract, excoriated in some quarters, allowed the Tigers to opt out of the deal if his knee forced him to the disabled list for an extended period in 2005. His unrelated hernia injury did far worse, but he avoided extended wear on the knee that year.
The knee still bothers him occasionally, causing him to miss a start here or there as recently as June. Mostly, though, he’s regained his previous form and even gained a little power. Some reward the doctors in Vienna; some note the incredible hard work by the Tilde Grande himself; some even credit the return of his long curly mane.
If you asked Ordóñez after a game, he would probably give credit to those factors. However, young Sophia is three now. She’s seen Daddy play in the World Series. She’s seen him make quite the argument for being the most valuable player in the American League this season. If you pressed Ordóñez past the cliché answer, he might give a little credit to the newest member of his Miami-based team for her inspiration during a very difficult time.