Emerging closer Familia enters world of fatherhood
Mets pitcher's son born while righty locked down save on June 12
NEW YORK -- It may have gone against team rules and baseball convention, but Mets manager Terry Collins is a human being. So prior to the team's June 12 game against the Braves, given the circumstances, Collins told Jeurys Familia that he could take his cell phone to the bullpen with him.
Familia's fiancée, Bianca Rivas, was in labor in Hackensack, N.J., at the time, and there was a chance Familia would leave to join her before the end of the game. Collins understood that. But as the first inning melted into the third and the fifth and the seventh, no baby came. Every 10 minutes or so, Familia would call the hospital to ask for an update.
Finally, in the ninth, he gave his cell phone to bullpen coach Ricky Bones for safekeeping, walked through the bullpen door and stepped outside to do his job. As Familia loaded the bases with one out, he admits now, his mind was on Rivas and their baby. When he induced a double play to end things, he pumped his fist, then hurried back to the dugout to find Bones.
"Honestly, I was a little bit nervous," Familia said. "My mind, it was away, thinking about my fiancée and my baby."
The call had come in while Familia was on the mound, Bones explained upon his return. So Familia -- unwilling to trust his own frazzled nerves behind the wheel -- rushed outside, where a car was waiting to take him to New Jersey.
There, Familia cradled Jeurys Jr. in his arms, nine days before he would celebrate Father's Day for the first time.
"For me, it was the best day of my life," Familia said. "I don't have words to say how I feel."
Earlier that week, the Mets' baby boom -- which began with Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese last summer -- continued with Ruben Tejada and his girlfriend, who had a baby girl one day before Familia.
When it was Familia's turn, the soft-spoken closer admitted to more than his share of frayed nerves. Familia desperately wants to follow the example of his own father, who served in the military in the Dominican Republic and as a role model for him.
These days, responsibility has landed on Familia's shoulders in bunches. In addition to caring for Jeurys Jr., Familia has not only spent most of the year serving as the Mets' closer, but also developed into one of the game's best. It took 14 save attempts before Familia finally blew one, spending most of May and June carving his ERA down closer to 1.00 than 2.00.
That responsibility should remain exclusively his for months and even years to come, despite the returns of former closers Bobby Parnell and, eventually, Jenrry Mejia. But for Familia, it is only one responsibility in a life now full of them.
"I have no words to describe it," Familia said of his new role as a dad. "I'm so excited."