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Players share memories for Father's Day

June 16, 2019

So many baseball players learn the game from their dads. Major Leaguers are no exception. As MLB celebrates Father's Day on Sunday, players all around the game will think back to what their dads did for them -- whether they were big leaguers themselves, or Little League coaches, or just

So many baseball players learn the game from their dads. Major Leaguers are no exception. As MLB celebrates Father's Day on Sunday, players all around the game will think back to what their dads did for them -- whether they were big leaguers themselves, or Little League coaches, or just fans in the stands.

Just like on Mother's Day, MLB.com's beat writers asked their team's players to share a favorite memory of their dads to celebrate Father's Day this year. Below is a selection of the best memories they received.

Delino DeShields, Rangers

Photo courtesy of Delino DeShields' Instagram (@linodeshields)

The Rangers' game Sunday afternoon has a special twist for Delino DeShields. He's playing against his father, Reds first-base coach Delino DeShields, on Father’s Day.

“It’s going to be the first time me and him have been on the field at the same time,” the younger DeShields said. “To be out there in the big league stadium on big league teams, it’s kind of something that we always talked about when I was growing up. He always pictured himself managing against me. He’s not doing that, but he’s still probably got to do a little game planning against me, so it should be kind of cool and funny at the same time.”

The 2019 season schedule lined up perfectly for the father and son to be together on June 16 in Cincinnati. The senior DeShields, who played 13 years in the big leagues for the Expos, Dodgers, Cardinals, Orioles and Cubs, is in his first season with the Reds' Major League staff. The younger DeShields is playing his fifth season with the Rangers.

“It never seemed really far-fetched,” the younger DeShields said of competing against each other. “Never as players, but I always felt like we’d be on the same field together at some point. … It’s kind of weird to say, but it feels so normal between us. I think because when you talk about something so much, and you believe in something for a long time and it kind of happens, you just expect it to happen. He knew he would get back into the big leagues coaching, one way or the other. I knew that I’d get to the big leagues at some point.

“It’s kind of crazy how the universe works with this just happened to be on Father’s Day weekend. Nobody planned this. It just happened to be. So it’s for sure really cool and special.”

-- Jessica Camerato

Albert Almora Jr., Cubs

Photo courtesy of Albert Almora Jr.'s Instagram (@albertalmorajr)

The rope hung from an oak tree in the Almora's backyard when Albert was a kid.

The Cubs center fielder estimates that it was about 30 feet in length. No guesswork is needed when Albert Almora Jr. recalls how often he scurried up the rope as part of his regular workouts under the watchful eye of his father, Albert Sr.

Eight times per day. He and his close friend, Manny Machado, would each climb up the rope. They'd also hit in the makeshift batting cage or train with chains.

"We didn't have a lot of money," said Albert Almora Jr., who grew up in Hialeah, Fla., near Miami. "So, we just had to kind of make our own stuff up."

Albert Sr. -- who played baseball in Cuba before defecting to the United States -- was by his son's side as a mentor and coach throughout his childhood. From a young age, Albert Jr. was learning about having a strong work ethic, while also having his passion for baseball fueled. Climbing a center-field wall in the big leagues does not seem so daunting after climbing to a high branch in his oak tree over and over again.

And now with two young sons of his own, Albert Jr. has really grown to understand and appreciate the work that his father put in.

"He was always there for me," Albert Almora Jr. said. "My dad, to this day, he still is my coach. He knows me the best. Not particularly swing wise, but just mentally. He dedicated his whole life, basically, to not really create the quote-unquote big leaguer, but to build the foundation of hard work and dedication to something. It's something that, now that I have two boys, I'd love to be half as good as my dad was for me.

"I don't think I ever took him for granted, but I do find myself thanking him a lot more now than back then as a kid. We were just kind of going through it and grinding, but I do find myself now thanking him more for everything he did. Now, as a man, you see the sacrifices he made for his family. It really means a lot, obviously."

-- Jordan Bastian

Ryan Pressly, Astros

Every time Pressly takes the mound, he writes the initials of his late father, Tom Pressly, into the dirt behind the mound. He also has his father’s initials on his glove. Tom died of cancer in 2013, and Ryan makes sure he’s with him every time he steps onto a field.

"It’s tough not having him around and talking to him,” Pressly said. “But everything happens for a reason, and he’s in a way better place. I think he’s got the best view in the house. He knows what’s happening."

Pressly’s father was at his Major League debut with the Twins in 2013 and died a few months later. When Pressly signed a two-year, $17.5 million contract extension on March 20 of this year, it was on what would have been his father’s 66th birthday.

“It was kind of a surreal moment, and everything kind of happened right then and there,” he said. “I think he’s pulling a few strings up there.”

Pressly said both his parents bent over backward to help him achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues.

“I give them all the credit in the world,” he said. “I wish my dad was still around so he could come to the games.”

-- Brian McTaggart

Dereck Rodriguez, Giants

Photo courtesy of Dereck Rodriguez's Instagram (@drod_31)

When the Giants gave Dereck Rodriguez his first shot in the Majors last year, it didn’t take long for him to feel like he belonged. After all, he spent the first 16 years of his life in clubhouses following the career of his father, Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

“I was here at the field,” the younger Rodriguez said. “There wasn’t a lot of times that he was able to go to the field to go see me play, so I was just here the whole time. Just being around the guys at a big league stadium, that’s pretty much how I was with my dad in the baseball aspect. It was a lot of fun.”

After his outings, Rodriguez often talks to his father, who can offer the 27-year-old right-hander insights gleaned from his 21 years of catching in the Majors for the Rangers, Tigers, Nationals, Yankees, Astros and Marlins.

The best piece of advice he’s received?

“Just work hard,” Rodriguez said. “Outwork the other guy. Don’t ever take anything for granted. When you’re resting, there’s probably someone else working out. So always work hard and be on your toes.”

-- Maria Guardado

Juan Soto, Nationals

Photo courtesy of Juan Soto's Instagram (@juansoto_25)

Juan Soto was just six months old when his father brought him to his first baseball game, a winter ball game in the Dominican Republic. Baseball has always been a bonding experience for Soto and his father, also named Juan Jose Soto, the man he credits with introducing him to the game.

The elder Soto played baseball and softball for fun in his spare time and would always bring his son when he could. And then they would hit. And hit. And hit, until his father grew tired.

“He got tired,” Soto said, “but I never got tired as a kid.”

Soto would grab anything he could find. He’d hand his father a bottle cap and he would use the bottle as a bat.

“That’s how everything started,” Soto said.

So it was extra special for Soto to have his father in attendance for his big league debut last May. When he found out he was getting called up to the big leagues, he called his family in the Dominican Republic and told them to get on a flight to D.C. When they were worried it would be too expensive, he assured them, it was OK.

“It was really special having my family out there,” Soto said. “For me every time I go to the plate or go to the field, and you know family is out there, I feel very -- I want to give him my 100 percent everytime I go out there and try to make it fun.”

-- Jamal Collier

Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres

Fernando Tatis Jr. has spent a pretty significant chunk of his life in a big league clubhouse. The Padres’ star shortstop was born months after Fernando Tatis Sr.’s legendary multi-grand slam inning. As he grew up, Tatis Sr. spent time playing for the Cardinals, Expos, Orioles and Mets, before his 2010 retirement.

“It was awesome,” Tatis Jr. said. “It was everything. Seeing my dad play baseball made my love for the game grow. I'm here because of him.”

Tatis has wowed the Padres with his demeanor during his rookie season. He’s behaved like a veteran, and he’s already become a spark plug for one of the Majors’ youngest teams.

Tatis firmly believes his maturity is a product of the time he spent alongside his father in the big leagues. The two still talk every day.

“I think I got an advantage from that, seeing the game from the inside since such a young age,” Tatis said. I learned it pretty young.”

-- AJ Cassavell

Jose Martinez, Cardinals

It wasn’t until Jose Martinez was 12 that he got his first baseball shoes and batting gloves from his dad, Carlos Martinez. But that memory is the one that sticks with the Cardinals right fielder the most.

The day he received the baseball equipment -- the day his career started, Jose says -- remains a special memory, not only because Carlos played parts of seven seasons in the Major Leagues, but because new shoes were the highlight of any 12-year-old’s life.

“You go out with a new team, you got some new shoes and stuff,” Martinez said. “I remember everyone commenting on my shoes and stuff. You always want to look good.”

It wasn’t until later in Jose’s life that he realized how special receiving that equipment from his dad was. Carlos died in 2006 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Many say that there’s a lot of Carlos in Jose. After all, Jose’s nickname is ‘Cafecito’ -- Little Cup of Coffee -- which stems from his dad’s nickname, ‘Cafe.’

“Of course, you always think about it,” Jose said. “There are a lot of memories there.”

--Anne Rogers

Renato Nunez, Orioles

Photo courtesy of Nunez family and Orioles PR

As a boy growing up in Venezuela, Renato Nunez Sr. dreamed of playing professional baseball. He had a chance, too, flashing enough potential to make the amateur national team as a teenager. That is, before an accident with a thornbush left Nunez Sr. blind in one eye, ending his career before it even began.

But the itch never left Nunez as he grew into adulthood, channeling his love for the game into his son from an early age. Very early.

“Ever since his mom was pregnant with him, I started imagining, dreaming, of having a little boy and him becoming a baseball player,” said Nunez Sr. “I think as soon as I learned it was a boy, I started dreaming about him and talking to him when he was in the belly.”

That boy is now Orioles designated hitter Renato Nunez, who is enjoying a breakout season in 2019. Getting his first extended MLB chance after parts of eight seasons in the Minors, Nunez paces the Orioles and was tied for fifth among American League hitters with 16 homers as of Friday. He’s showing as much upside as any young player on the Orioles roster.

“I really think it’s due to all that energy he put into me,” Nunez says of his father. “That’s a big reason why I’m here.”

-- Joe Trezza

Ryan Braun, Brewers

Photo courtesy of Ryan Braun

Parents play a huge role in a ballplayer's development, providing those special qualities that every kid needs as he's pursuing his dream.

Support. Encouragement. Advice. An ability to mash lefties.

Wait, what?

"I do think that's something that's benefited me in my career," Ryan Braun said.

Ryan's dad, Joe, is a southpaw. He threw hours of batting practice to Ryan throughout Ryan's childhood, and all of those pitches from the left side had an effect -- a positive one -- on the Brewers slugger.

"I think it is one of the things that's helped me have success against left-handed pitchers in the Major Leagues," Braun said. "Every time we'd go out to the field, he'd be the one throwing me batting practice."

Hard to argue with the theory, given Braun has a slash line of .318/.389/.600 vs. lefties. That .989 OPS against left-handers is fourth-best among active players, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt.

"I think he was a great coach -- motivating and inspiring but tough when he needed to be," Braun said of his dad. "You learn so many life lessons through playing this game, and he instilled a lot of those things in me at a young age."

-- Alyson Footer

Steven Matz, Mets

Photo courtesy of Steven Matz

During his sophomore and junior years of high school, Steven Matz barely pitched. As a lanky first baseman at Ward Melville High School on Long Island, Matz wasn’t on any college or Draft radars. Scouts never came out to see him play. At that point, Matz hoped simply to garner enough notice to play at a Division II college somewhere.

Ron Matz, Steven’s father, had other ideas. Always a proponent of his son’s baseball career, the elder Matz, on a tip from a friend, decided to sign Steven up for a Perfect Game showcase in Connecticut. It wasn’t cheap, but Ron thought it would be a worthwhile risk. So the two took a road trip together across state lines, where Steven impressed both college coaches and pro scouts alike. The next spring, Matz’s senior season, scouts came out in droves.

“It just snowballed from there,” Steven Matz said. “It’s just a good picture of my dad being committed to me.”

Although Matz no longer spends his winters on Long Island, he goes home to spend time with his parents on as many off days during the season as he can. Ron, who worked as a car mechanic and manager when Matz was a child, instilled a love of baseball in him.

“I always looked up to my dad because he’s the type of guy that when anything goes wrong … he can fix anything,” Matz said. “I was always following him around because he could take care of everything. He worked really hard.”

-- Anthony DiComo

Matt Olson, Athletics

Photo courtesy of Matt Olson's Instagram (@matt_olson21)

Scott Olson not only coached sons Matt and Zack throughout their youth baseball days, he was also a bit of an innovator. Looking to go beyond the normal visits to the batting cages, the various local parks in Lilburn, Georgia, often served as a playground for Scott as he often came up with out-of-the-box ideas to help his sons improve their game.

“He would take me and my brother up to the local park all the time,” Matt recalled. “I remember him taking a couple of trash cans from outside the field and put one laying open out towards the field and stack another one up on top of it. He’d hit us balls in the outfield and we’d try to throw the ball into the trash can at the plate. We’d do stuff like that all the time.”

Scott’s efforts paid off. He’s been able to watch Zack go on to play baseball at Harvard University, and Matt’s journey to the Major Leagues. The night of Sept. 12, 2016, will always hold a special place in Matt’s heart. It’s the night he made his big league debut, but making it even more memorable was Scott making the trek to Kansas City to take it all in from the stands at Kauffman Stadium.

“I’m very grateful for the hours he put in both for me and my brother,” Matt said. “Drove us all over the southeast and parts of the U.S. to take us to games and support us. Very thankful.”

-- Martin Gallegos

Trevor Bauer, Indians

High school summers for Trevor Bauer meant making a 21-hour trek from the Los Angeles area to Houston, where he’d spend his break training for baseball. But he’d never have to do it alone. His father, Warren, always rode with him in their black Mazda truck that they referred to as the “Buster Buggy.”

Over 1,500 miles later, they'd arrive in Texas, where Bauer spent each weekday putting in hours of work on the mound. But the weekends remained free. His father would try to come up with ideas of things the two could do together in their down time, including one night where they decided to see a play.

They knew the Playhouse District was downtown, but couldn’t find the exact location for the Agatha Christie production they wanted to watch. Warren called the theater asking for directions. The scramble to get to the right place has forever remained one of Bauer’s favorite memories.

“So he’s trying to hold the phone to his ear and drive and scribble notes as he’s driving. And so he writes down the cross streets, Texas Street and Prairie Street, and gets off the phone and everything’s fine,” Bauer said. “We get downtown and he’s like, ‘Can you read me [the directions.] I don’t remember. I’m trying to figure out where I’m at.’ And I look at the paper and it says, ‘Teaxas and Pararie’ -- and I just rip on him all the time for it since then.

“That’s like a perfect microcosm of what my dad is. He’s constantly coming up with ideas, multi-tasking, doing a bunch of stuff at one time, more so worried about the outcome than the details. I just always rip on him all the time for ‘Teaxas and Pararie.’”

-- Mandy Bell

Marco Gonzales, Mariners

Photo courtesy of Marco Gonzales

For Marco Gonzales, the baseball dream started early, courtesy of his dad. Though truth be told, his dream might have been skewed just a little by the stars in his eyes at age 5 when he got to travel with Frank Gonzales while his dad was pitching in the Minor Leagues.

“He tells a story that is pretty funny,” Marco recalled. “He was in Triple-A with somebody and we were showing up to a hotel, a Motel 8 on the side of the road someplace. And we got in there and the beds were creaking and the mattresses were horrible, the carpet was horrible. He said the dresser drawer fell off when he opened it.

“And he looked back and I was lying in the bed with my hands folded behind my head and my feet kicked up saying, ‘Ahhh, this is the life!’”

For young Marco, it was the only life he ever wanted and he’s followed in his dad’s footsteps and beyond, turning into a first-round Draft choice out of Gonzaga and now in his fifth year in the Majors.

“There are a lot of things like that where he just got me on board with being passionate about baseball,” said the 27-year-old southpaw, whose dad now is a Minor League instructor with the Rockies’ Class A Advanced Lancaster club. “He will forever be one of my coaches. It’s a great thing to have him always in my corner.”

-- Greg Johns