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Gallardo remembers mom on Mother's Day

After losing her battle with cancer, Eulalia Gallardo still resonates with Yovani

MILWAUKEE -- Only a handful of Yovani Gallardo's teammates know it, but this will be his first Mother's Day without his own mom.

Eulalia Gallardo died on Nov. 30 after a brief battle with cancer. She was 46.

She had a big influence on his baseball career.

"She definitely did, starting from her being around when I was a kid and basically at every game," Gallardo said. "She was the kind of person who pushed me. 'Never give up.' Told me nothing was ever going to come easy in life. 'Keep practicing.' Whatever goal I had in mind, she made me work hard to achieve it.

"Last year, when she passed away, I was thinking about all of those things."

Gallardo's voice cracks. This is the first time he has talked about his mother's death to a reporter. Gallardo has only spoken about it to a handful of teammates, mostly fellow pitchers.

Gallardo would rather keep his personal life out of the spotlight, which is part of what made his arrest in the wee hours of April 16 for drunken driving so painful. Gallardo apologized for what he called a "bad call," and when he returned to the mound two days later and beat the Giants, Gallardo apologized again and vowed to win back fans with his pitching.

"There have been other situations where I've done it under pressure, and I've been able to handle it pretty well," Gallardo said.

He was quietly referring to last August, when Gallardo briefly left the Brewers and traveled home to Fort Worth, Texas, to be with his mother. All he or the team said then was that she was ill. Gallardo returned several days later and said her condition had improved, then went 8-1 with a 3.36 ERA in his final nine starts while Milwaukee chased the National League's second Wild Card.

And it was true -- when Gallardo rejoined the team in August, there was hope that his mother could hold on. She had beaten cancer before.

Eulalia was first struck by pancreatic cancer in 2004, the year the Brewers made Gallardo a second-round Draft pick out of Fort Worth's Trimble Tech High School. But she had surgery to remove a series of tumors and remained cancer free for the next eight years.

Then, last summer, Yovani said, she began complaining of pain in her hip. Doctors thought the problem was related to a separate back issue that required surgery, and when Yovani went home for the All-Star break, "she was recovering from that but doing fine."

In August, the pain in Eulalia Gallardo's hip persisted, so she returned for more tests. Doctors discovered her cancer had returned, and they found a non-surgical tumor in her hip.

She underwent oral chemotherapy, but by the start of November, the family knew what was coming.

"She was doing well at first, but it basically took her down slowly," Gallardo said. "It stinks that it happened, but I'm so glad I was able to be home.

"I had her for two months."

The family, including Gallardo's father, his brother and two sisters, gathered for Thanksgiving, with Eulalia confined to her bed.

"It was us, together, one last time," Yovani said. "She fought to the end."

It was the same attitude Eulalia imparted on young Yovani from his Little League days all the way to the 2011 NL Championship Series. He described his father as "the competitive one," who would ask detailed questions about Gallardo's games over the phone, especially the poor ones.

In the background, Gallardo would hear his mother.

"'Leave him alone! Leave him alone!'" she would say. "Not that my dad was yelling at me -- it was kidding around. My mom would take the phone away from him and say, 'Don't listen to him. Don't worry about it. It's going to happen. Keep moving forward.'"

So that is precisely what Gallardo is doing.

"She was always there to push me forward," he said. "That's what life is all about."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.

Milwaukee Brewers, Yovani Gallardo