Around the league, Father's Day a treasure

June 18th, 2016

Today is Father's Day, a day that represents different things for different people.

For some Major League players, this day will be about celebrating being a father, perhaps for the first time. For others, Father's Day provides a chance to honor their own fathers for being role models, teachers, coaches and friends. For others, sadly, this day represents a day of reflection, to honor and remember dads who have passed away.

:: Father's Day 2016 ::

Hundreds of ballplayers, hundreds of stories. And thousands of reasons to appreciate Dad.

Mets star pitcher Jacob deGrom will celebrate his first Father's Day with the typical euphoria that comes with being a dad, but also with a huge dose of gratitude for something most of us take for granted: health.

Jaxon deGrom's birth a couple of months ago came with complications -- an apnea condition that threatened his breathing while he slept. Long nights in the Natal Intensive Care Unit so that nurses could monitor the newborn sparked fear and confusion for Jacob and his wife. The anxiety slowly passed only when Jaxson's condition started to improve.

Today, Jaxson is a happy, smiling, noisy baby.

"I think it really puts things in perspective," deGrom said. "No matter how good or bad you do on the field, you go home and you've got a baby there. Especially from what I've heard when they get older, it doesn't matter how you do, they're there and they're happy to see you. It puts things in perspective. We play this game for fun. Just on the bad days, it makes it that much better -- to go home and see your child there."

For Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Father's Day represents a time to express gratitude toward his dad, Jackie Bradley Sr., who instilled a strong work ethic in his son by showing him the meaning of an honest day's work.

"My dad, in general, he kind of led by example," Bradley Jr. said. "He's a hard worker -- a real, real hard worker. He always made sure if something needed to be done, he was going to get it done, no excuses. He just tried to make sure that me, my brother and now my younger sister always stayed on the right path."

Example setting can go both ways, and sometimes fathers learn a few things from their sons along the way. Such was the case for Rigoberto Diaz, in awe of his son, Cardinals' shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who defected from their native Cuba at the age of 21 after first mentioning the plan to his dad five years earlier.

"It was an extremely hard decision, and possibly if I would have thought twice about it or told anybody beforehand, then I wouldn't have done it," Aledmys explained to his father during the emotional conversation once the defection was complete.

Rigoberto Diaz has been in St. Louis all week, watching his son play for the first time at Busch Stadium.

"He completed a dream that had been in the family for many generations," Rigoberto said of Aledmys breaking through to the Majors this season. "A dream came true in a person who sacrificed so much. Aledmys never played with a toy. You know what his toy was? A baseball bat and a ball."

That probably was also the case for the Romine brothers, Austin (the Yankees catcher) and Andrew (the Tigers infielder), sons of former Red Sox outfielder Kevin Romine. The boys were too young to remember their dad playing baseball -- Kevin retired at age 30 -- but there were some fun moments during the brief overlap when the boys were young.

"I had a locker next to Wade Boggs," Kevin Romine said, "and Wade had probably 50 pairs of shoes that he used to keep in his locker at a time. And Andrew started hiding under the shoes. He probably was four. He would hide in Wade's shoes, and every time after a game, we'd come back in the locker room and Wade would always have to act surprised when Andrew would pop out of his shoes."

Kevin just retired from his second profession, as a Los Angeles police detective. He spent 21 years on that beat, and that's made a much bigger impact on his sons than his playing career.

"I have tremendous respect for what he did," Austin said. "I remember him getting up at four in the morning and driving an hour and a half to L.A. to work all day, and somehow still made it home by five to catch our games growing up. I remember when he worked graveyard shifts in South Central Los Angeles. It's a scary situation, and I have a very big respect for the men and women of law enforcement, because my father has done it for so long."

Brewers reliever Jacob Barnes will celebrate Father's Day with a whirlwind of emotions. In April, he lost his stepfather, the man who raised him, after short bouts with lung and brain cancer. Two weeks later, Barnes witnessed the birth of his first child, a daughter named Maisy.

From his stepdad, Ray, Barnes learned about resiliency and unconditional love: "I have two other siblings that weren't his, and he took us all on at a young age. He treated us as his own. That sums up who he was."

As a father, Barnes embraces the opportunity to pass the values he learned from Ray down to his own children.

"It's an awesome feeling having your own child, and to be able to teach her everything that you learned growing up," he said. "I can't wait for her to grow up and learn about life and enjoy all life has to offer."

Down the road in Chicago, catcher David Ross is anxious to begin a new stage that will kick in following this season -- one as a retired Major Leaguer and full-time dad.

The 39-year-old has three kids, and he embraces the idea of seeing them -- in person, not on FaceTime -- every day after he steps away from baseball.

A recent off-day at home provided a good reminder. His 6-year-old son, Cole, had a game that day, and with his dad watching, Cole squatted behind the plate just like David has done for 14-plus seasons in the big leagues.

"My son said to me after the game, 'Dad, I was just trying to impress you,'" said Ross, who started to choke up as he recalled the conversation. "I said, 'You being you impresses me.'"

Of being a dad to all three of his kids, Ross said: "We have priorities in life, and the older I get, it's time for my family to be top priority. ... I love this game, but I love my family way more."

Happy Father's Day, everyone.