De Jesus Jr. credits dad for his love of baseball
CINCINNATI -- Ivan De Jesus Jr. went deep for the first time in his Major League career on June 8 to lead the Reds to a 6-3 victory against the Phillies. After the game De Jesus Jr. said he celebrated with teammates, but was also looking forward to enjoying the career milestone with another figure in baseball, his father Ivan De Jesus.
De Jesus, a former Major Leaguer, was on hand for his son's first career home run and able to celebrate afterward with him. De Jesus played in the Majors 15 years for the Dodgers, Cubs, Phillies, Cardinals, Yankees, Giants and Tigers.
"He doesn't show the love that my mom would because my mom was crying on the phone. But I know in the bottom of his heart he was really excited and really proud," De Jesus Jr. said.
Being able to celebrate De Jesus Jr.'s recent success at the Major League level is only the latest chapter in their father-son relationship. De Jesus Jr. said he was never able to watch his father play, but began to love the game through their experiences together.
De Jesus Jr. said when he was younger he would join his father, who coached in the Minor Leagues, during the summer and work out with the team.
"I grew up and was born on a baseball field," De Jesus Jr. said. "I started playing baseball when I was three and never stopped. When I was little, traveling with him when he was a coach in the Minor Leagues every summer, I'd spend time with him. The two months I spent time with him working out with him in the Minor Leagues, being with him every time, opened my eyes and told me this is the place I want to be."
"When the summer was over I was like 'I don't want to go. I don't want to go to school, I want to stay with you,' so it was fun. It was fun in my childhood," De Jesus Jr. added.
Even today De Jesus Jr., who is 28 years old, is benefiting from his father's role in baseball. De Jesus Jr. said he still receives advice from his dad and always takes it to heart since he has gone through the same hurdles the game presents.
"He always gave me advice and he still gives me advice," De Jesus Jr. said. "It doesn't matter that baseball has changed from the time that he played and the time that I'm playing right now. It's just the same game of baseball, just mentally and physically. He always gives me advice to work hard every day, be aggressive and be patient that my time will come."
That advice has helped De Jesus Jr. earn a spot in the Reds' lineup. De Jesus Jr. started the season at Triple-A Louisville before being called up to the Reds on June 3 to help fill the void of injured Marlon Byrd.
De Jesus Jr. will also be celebrating his second Father's Day as a dad himself. De Jesus Jr. has a 1-year-old boy named Xavier Alexander De Jesus. While it's early, De Jesus Jr. said he isn't going to force baseball upon his son and will let him decide what he wants to play when the time comes.
"I don't want to push him," De Jesus Jr. said. "Whatever he wants to do, if he wants to play baseball, he wants to play baseball. I don't want to push him. I want him to do the same thing that I did when I was little, play every sport, soccer, baseball, basketball, anything. Then when he turns to middle school [or] high school, then he has to decide what sport he wants to play."