Naquin proud of 'tough as nails' mother

May 4th, 2016
Tyler Naquin (far right), with mother Roanna, brother Zac and father Ken (far left). (Naquin Family)

CLEVELAND -- The breast cancer is gone. Roanna Naquin saw to that when she opted to undergo a bilateral mastectomy in November. After two scares in five years, she wanted the peace of mind. Most of all, she wanted to feel mentally and physically ready in time for baseball season.

This was going to be a big year for her youngest son, Indians rookie Tyler Naquin, and she was not going to let health stand in her way. He fought for a job in Spring Training and Roanna was there. He made Cleveland's roster for Opening Day. She was there. Cancer was not going to take that away. She proved that back in 2011, when she watched from a wheelchair as her boy played in the College World Series for Texas A&M.

Indians Mother's Day Collection

Only a handful of follow-up procedures remain now. During a recent appointment, her doctor suggested May 10 as a possible date for another minor surgery.

"I said, 'Oh no we won't,'" Roanna Naquin says with a laugh. "For heaven's sake, not then."

:: Mother's Day 2016 ::

Following Mother's Day on Sunday, the Indians will be in Houston for a three-game series through Wednesday, marking what could be a big homecoming for Naquin in his first big league season. Roanna has already been overwhelmed with phone calls, texts and e-mails from people wanting to be there to see Naquin play in his home state, and roughly a 25-mile drive from where he starred at Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas.

Tyler cracks a smile when asked about his mom's drive to be there for as many of his games as possible. From the time he played for the Awesome Ducks, a T-ball team assembled by a group of fathers at a Texas church, and throughout his collegiate and Minor League seasons, Roanna has been there for him.

"When I was about 12 or so, she worked 45 minutes away, close to Houston," Tyler said. "It'd be, like, a Wednesday night and she'd drive back home, get me, and then drive me another 35-45 minutes back out to the park. We did that for years. She was at every game."

Tyler's first official Little League team was called the Indians. Go figure that would be his first Major League team, too.

"I know," Roanna said. "I have the pictures out side by side."

For Opening Day in Cleveland, Roanna was there again, along with his dad, brother, grandma and uncle.

"It was amazing," Tyler said. "You think back. I started out playing T-ball in a horse pasture. Now, I'm in the big leagues."

Naquin's admiration for his mom extends beyond baseball, though.

Roanna survived breast cancer in 2011, but the disease fought back again last fall.

In August, while Tyler was playing for Triple-A Columbus, another breast cancer scare led Roanna back to the doctor. Nothing alarming was found in the initial tests, but she was tired of feeling frightened and worrying about every six-month checkup. Roanna decided to be proactive and have the double mastectomy done, even after the surgeon said it might have been an overly aggressive approach.

In the wake of the 11-hour procedure on Nov. 16, Roanna's doctor informed her that Stage 2 cancer was found on her left side during surgery. It had gone undetected in numerous tests leading up to the operation. Had she not gone through with the procedure, it might not have been discovered for another six months.

"I can't tell you how many mammograms and MRIs and ultrasounds I've had," Roanna said. "No one saw anything on my left side. It wasn't even a concern. ... It was a blessing that I did it."

Naquin and his older brother, Zac, were there for their mom in the hospital.

"She's just tough. Tough as nails, man. It's amazing," Tyler said. "You go see her after she had her double mastectomy, and she can barely even move. It's just me and my brother growing up, so me and him are extremely protective. It's hard seeing her do that.

"Whenever a nurse had to come in there and move her and she's crying, me and Zac were sitting there, and your hands are sweating, because you feel like, 'Give us that pain. Don't put that on her.' But, she's tough as nails and just keeps on fighting."

Roanna, who works in the dental field, is back to work full-time and is able to drive a car again.

For that May series in Houston, Roanna has helped point family and friends to a section of seats out near the bullpen at Minute Maid Park. The young outfielder's fans will be out in force, cheering loudly for each at-bat. Throughout Naquin's playing days, Roanna hasn't been one for making much noise from the stands. She will probably not be too interested in small talk this time, either.

"I want to go watch Ty play ball," Roanna said. "When I'm at a game, I'm watching ball. I'm not a talker. I don't want to chitty-chat."

After all, Roanna will have endured a lot in order to be there for that moment. She wants to savor it.

"It's been a dream come true," she said. "For him, and for us."