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Family time remains important priority to Cecil

ARLINGTON -- There are a countless number of perks that come with being a Major League baseball player. Athletes are more than fairly compensated for their work and get to spend each day around the game they grew up in love with.

But just like any other profession there are sacrifices ballplayers must make in order to earn a living. For a professional athlete there's no greater challenge than constantly being on the road and often being forced to leave their loved ones behind.

That fact of life has especially hit home this year for left-hander Brett Cecil as the Blue Jays close out their four-game series against the Rangers on Father's Day. His son, Bryton, is now three years old and has reached the age where he's very aware of just how often his dad has to be away.

"It's definitely hard," Cecil said. "It's easier when they're younger because they don't know what's going on and when you leave they don't yet have that emotion that's saying 'oh daddy's gone.'

"But when they're older, when I leave, he knows I'm leaving and he probably won't see me for usually at least a week. It was hard on me just leaving him but now it's even harder because he's showing the emotion."

Major League ballplayers spend at least 81 days on the road every season and that's not counting the travel days before each road series. Add in the six-plus weeks of Spring Training and well over a third of their year takes place away from home.

Modern technology has helped at least make the distance more manageable and Cecil is a regular user of Facetime, which enables him to see and talk to his son and wife Jennifer on a daily basis over an Ipad or computer.

The family does get to make an occasional road trip together as well to help limit the time apart while the rest of the Cecil clan has chipped in whenever possible to help bridge the gap and share in the support.

"They stay in Toronto all of the time when I'm there," Cecil said of Bryton and Jennifer. "It's not a short drive but when we have a 10-game road trip they can head down to Maryland and be with my mom and dad which makes me feel more comfortable knowing that they're not somewhere by themselves. Some things are easier than others, some things are a lot harder than others too."

Nobody's looking for sympathy in this type of situation. Cecil's more than aware how fortunate he is to be playing professional baseball for a living and the sacrifices made along the way are just the way it has to be.

There are some bonuses along the way as well. Bryton can often be spotted running around Rogers Centre while taking in his dad's games. There's occasionally time to get out on the field and as he continues to get older there will come a time when those memories start lasting forever.

"It's awesome," said the 26-year-old Cecil, who is in his fifth big league season. "Guys that have regular jobs, they have weekends and they have two, sometimes three, days to do whatever they want. We have an offday every 15 days or whatever it is so I try and get him in there as much as possible.

"He always tells me, 'daddy I want to go hit.' Or he wants to go race, he loves to race. It's very important to me and I'm sure it is to him that I get him in there and spend as much time as I can with him and it takes a load off the wife too because when he's done with that he can go home and nap."

The Cecil family is about to add another child into the mix soon, too. Jennifer is pregnant with the couple's second child and is expected to give birth in November.

That will make for a busy offseason but before that happens there will be plenty of goodbyes before hitting the road yet again. At times, Bryton might not like it but there is one part of it that will bring a big smile to his face.

"My wife tells him, 'daddy has to go to work' and he's like 'No I don't want daddy to go to work,'" Cecil said. "She says well daddy has to go to work because he's going to buy you and mommy a new house so you can have a playground. Then he's like, 'oh ok, yeah daddy can work.'"

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.

Toronto Blue Jays, Brett Cecil