Celebrating mothers throughout MLB

May 8th, 2022


Blue Jays
Months after Ross Stripling’s mom, Tammy, was diagnosed with breast cancer, with her treatment still ongoing, she was in the stands for Opening Weekend at Texas A&M. The temperature was 20 degrees and she wore a wig.

“She was going through chemo and it messes with your body and your brain so bad that she doesn’t even remember being there,” said the right-hander. “To really not be feeling good at all and still come to those games. I mean, they’re just baseball games, you know? And my mom wanted to be there so bad.”

That’s always how it went with them. With Ross’s father away for work most of the time, Tammy brought up their two young sons largely on her own, fostering a close and supportive relationship with them.

After six rounds of chemo and a double mastectomy, Tammy has been in remission for over a decade. She still makes it to Ross’s games whenever possible, and has some extra motivation to do so these days.

Ross now has a son of his own. Jackson is 14 months old, an age in which no development is too trivial -- especially for a grandmother.

“Whenever Jackson is eating or just playing or whatever we FaceTime,” said Ross. “That’s been the toughest [challenge], probably. I know she wants to see him and see me and watch me play.”

But the Blue Jays' pitcher isn’t complaining. They’ve been through tougher times. -- Julia Kreuz

Félix Bautista’s long-awaited Major League debut, April 10 in Tampa Bay, happened to coincide with the birthday of his mother, Polina Bautista de la Cruz. It was a busy day back home in the Dominican Republic, celebrating the family matriarch as well as, so it happened, celebrating the sacrifices she’s made and the tenacity she’s instilled into her son. As the party raged on, a television flipped onto Bautista’s outing -- uncles, brothers and sisters drawn to the screen.

Bautista said after the game -- 1 1/3 scoreless innings with two strikeouts -- that he was saving the ball from his first punchout for Polina, wanting to give it to her in person the next time he returns home. The way things are trending, he’ll have plenty of strikeout balls to fill her shelves.

That’s the sort of season Bautista is putting together as a rookie. And much of it stems from Polina.

“I take so much from her,” Bautista said. “She’s always been my inspiration to continue going forward to achieve my dreams. Her and my son both.”

They’re in touch constantly, via WhatsApp or video calls to check in on Bautista’s son, Xander Miguel Bautista, whom Polina is looking after while Félix is living out his dream. April 10 was a cherishment of Polina herself just as much as it was for the person who formed Félix into who he is today, a piece of her dominating batters in the Majors.

“She is very excited for what’s happening with me, with my career,” Bautista said. “She’s always praying for me, supporting me and motivating me so that I could continue going forward and doing well.” -- Zachary Silver

Red Sox
When Boston right-hander Tanner Houck thinks about his mom Jennifer, memories come flooding back of the endless car rides they took together so he could pursue a dream that is now his reality -- pitching in the Major Leagues.

“Literally, my mom is everything to me,” Houck said. “I would not be at this point if it wasn’t for my mom. I’m incredibly thankful to her. She drove me across this incredible, great country for baseball. She took me for so many lessons. We have such a close relationship because of this game. She loves it just as much as I do. She still takes the book every time I go out there and pitch. I truly am thankful for her.”

When Houck says “the book,” he means the book! You know, the scorebook. Jennifer Houck keeps score for every game her son pitches. It is a ritual that goes back to when he was in his youth in Missouri.

“She’s always loved doing the book,” said Houck. “That was her thing. Even growing up, if we went to a Cardinals game, she always did the book. That was her thing that she always loved doing and I like to go in there and correct her every once in a while. She’ll still call me and be like, ‘How do you score that?’

“She’s just as much of a student of the game as me. I think that’s why our relationship is so close. From an early age, I loved the game and she loved me and adapted, like, ‘OK, my son loves baseball, so I’ll learn everything about the game.’ Her driving me from St. Louis to Georgia to Florida to everywhere to chase after this dream, it just made us even closer. Many car rides together, many conversations, many hours late at night talking and then I still talk to her every week.” -- Ian Browne

Josh Fleming was only 8 years old, but he can still remember the day he heard the news. It was New Year’s Eve when his family learned that his mother, Lori Fleming, had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” said the Rays’ 25-year-old left-hander. “I remember putting my face down on a pillow and crying, because no good thing comes from cancer.”

But Lori battled cancer for years and beat it. She’s been cancer-free ever since, regularly taking part in the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure to raise awareness for others still in the fight. Lori’s toughness and resolve throughout the whole ordeal made her even more of an inspiration to her children, including Josh.

“She's a warrior. I look up to her every single day. She just means everything,” Fleming said. “She battled it. She beat it. She’s healthier than ever now. … She’s very special.”

And as ever, she’s still supporting her son from the sidelines. Lori made a point of being at every game -- “every single game,” Fleming noted -- that he pitched in high school and at Webster University. She and Mark, Josh’s father, go out of their way to travel from their St. Louis-area home just to watch the Rays play at Tropicana Field.

In fact, the Fleming family did their best to be there for Josh when he made his Major League debut on Aug. 23, 2020, even though fans weren’t allowed to be at the ballpark due to COVID-19 restrictions. Instead, the Flemings watched on TV and cheered from across the street at Ferg’s Sports Bar & Grill as he pitched five innings and beat the Blue Jays in his first big league outing.

Afterward, Fleming promised that the game ball from his debut would belong to his mother. And it does, albeit with one caveat. The ball was placed inside a shadow box along with his jersey and other memorabilia from that outing, and that box is on display inside Josh’s house.

“But she knows it's hers,” he said, smiling. “It's at my place, but it's still hers. She knows. Every time she's over, she sees it and she goes, 'That's my ball!' I say, 'Yes, it is! You're right.'” -- Adam Berry

The pandemic-shortened 2020 season hardly resembled anything like what Gerrit Cole would have envisioned for his first year wearing Yankees pinstripes, with one notable exception -- whatever the circumstances, the ace right-hander knew that his wife, Amy, was going to be an amazing mom.

The Coles welcomed their son Caden early that July, just as the Yankees were preparing to begin their Summer Camp at Yankee Stadium.

“I feel like anybody that had a baby in 2020 probably went through a lot of the same things we did,” Cole said. “Not being able to see family was tough during all of that, and a lot of responsibility fell on her, especially when the season started. She killed it. She’s really selfless in that regard; the priority is always Caden or me.”

College sweethearts at UCLA, Gerrit and Amy have been united through every stage of the hurler’s big league career, savoring their experiences with the Pirates, Astros and now in New York. While Gerrit takes pride in assuming command when he’s on the mound, there is no question about who runs the show at home.

“She’s a brilliant lady,” Cole said. “She keeps it all oiled up and running smoothly. I can lean on her if I’m stressed or I need help getting through something, and she can be there for Caden and the rest of the family. I know my kid has a great mom. When I’m home, I’m fed and I sleep well. She makes sure everybody is recovering -- and she gets on me when I make stupid pitches!” -- Bryan Hoch


Josh Naylor was limited to his bed and his couch in the early weeks post-surgery last year. It was June in Minnesota when the outfielder went down with a gruesome injury to his lower right leg, which required season-ending surgery. Instead of being in the clubhouse with teammates, he was at home with his family, who all took turns caring for him to get him back to full health. And instead of being on the field taking batting practice, he was on his couch, hitting balled up socks with his hand thrown by his mom, Janice.

“She’s got a good changeup, if I’m being honest with you,” Naylor said. “It helped me keep the head on the ball, head on the sock, whatever was thrown at me that day. … She’s got a good arm, I'll give it to her. That woman’s strong.”

Janice stepping in to help her son in whatever capacity is nothing new for the Naylor family. Both Naylor and his younger brother, Bo, who’s in the Guardians’ organization, can hardly talk about their successes for even a few minutes before giving all the credit to their parents. And as Naylor reflected on his time with his mother over the past 24 years, he highlighted the times that Janice was at the forefront.

“I mean, my dad was my coach kind of all throughout my young life,” Naylor said. “My mom was like a sideline coach. … When he wasn't around, like he was doing something for work or had to cater to my other brother, then she was my coach. So she would throw batting practice to me, she would hit me ground balls, do whatever I could to just have a little bit of flavor of the game on that day.

“My parents were our blessing. They took off work when maybe they shouldn’t have to go to tournaments here and there, traveled with us as kids. So, yeah, we’re really not in our position without them.” -- Mandy Bell

Amir Garrett
’s phone is full of videos and pictures of his 9-month-old daughter, Koa. As he scrolls through to find the specific one he’s looking for, he explains how his entire perspective has changed now that he is a dad -- and watching his wife, Tausana, be a mom.

“Since seeing my wife take care of my daughter, it has opened my eyes to so much,” Amir said. “I probably put my mom, probably put my grandmothers through a lot. A mother is the head of your family. They are so strong. To see my wife the way she operates right now with my daughter, she’s the lead of our family.”

Amir finds the video he’s looking for and turns up the volume. Tausana is holding Koa in her arms, and as soon as she begins to set Koa down in her baby bouncing chair, Koa begins to cry. When Tausana picks her up, the crying stops.

“I was like, ‘Oh man. It’s over. That girl is attached to your hip,’” Amir said, laughing. It isn’t easy being a baseball player and a dad, and it’s even more difficult being a mom in a baseball family -- especially a new mom. Koa was born on July 22, 2021, and Amir and Tausana have soaked up every minute of being new parents.

“The minute my daughter was born, I saw those mother instincts kick in,” Amir said. “And I realized just how special it is. I was in awe. I still am in awe.” -- Anne Rogers

Before Spencer Torkelson became a household name in baseball, his family was already familiar with fame. His mother, Lori Torkelson, is an accountant who works as the chief financial officer for restaurateur and TV personality Guy Fieri’s management company.

“She’s the hardest-working person I know,” Spencer said. “She’s a really hard-working accountant, so when it’s go time during tax season, she would wake up at 7:30 and be at the office until 11:30. My dad was the same way, but just to see my mom really dedicated to her craft, there was no other way for me to get through life besides work hard and get what you deserve and what you earn. I’m really happy to have had such a good role model.”

However, Lori kept her kids grounded and humble. When people are impressed by Spencer’s humility and manners, that comes from her.

“She was really just about raising me right,” Spencer said, “not as a baseball player, not as anything other than a good human being. For that, I’m forever grateful because she taught me to be thankful for the people that help me out, to treat people the right way.

“It really didn’t matter if I went 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. We’d get home and she wouldn’t talk about baseball. It’s all about, ‘How was your day? Did you do anything fun?’ She was really big on making sure baseball’s not going to define you.” -- Jason Beck

Relief pitchers generally tend to have more spare time than most during the long hours in the clubhouse before each game -- and for a several-day stretch in April, Joe Smith spent much of that time thinking about the tiebreakers for the NBA Play-In Tournament.

It makes more sense when you know that Smith is married to TNT host and reporter Allie LaForce, whose travel schedule would rely on the participating teams -- and their seeds. There was a chance that, amid all the swirling possibilities, work would bring Allie to Minneapolis -- and Smith wanted to know every way that would be possible.

It was more important than ever that they spent time together, because Smith and LaForce will soon enter their first Mother’s Day together while expecting a child -- and it has been a long, emotional journey to get to this point.

It has been extremely challenging because Smith has a family history of Huntington’s disease, a genetically transmitted neurodegenerative disease that claimed the lives of Smith’s grandmother and mother. Because of that, both Smith and LaForce have used their platforms to generate awareness and funding for Huntington’s, and advances in pre-implantation genetic testing and in-vitro fertilization (PGT-IVF) have made it possible for them to conceive a child who will not inherit the gene.

This year, an embryo transfer was successful, and on March 28 they saw the heartbeat for the first time, which puts them further along this time than LaForce's pregnancy last summer that sadly ended in a miscarriage. They’ll continue to document this journey in addition to the work they do for other couples through their foundation, HelpCureHD.

"A lot of people don't share that information, and it's kind of sad, because your friends or your family, they're supposed to be here to support you," Smith said. "That's what she tries to do, just, like uplift people and get the story out there. She's like, 'If I'm going to share the good, I've got to share the bad.'" -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox
Jake Burger is a busy man.

By day, and sometimes by night, the rookie third baseman is figuring out ways to hit pitchers such as Shane Bieber and Gerrit Cole, while also making the key defensive plays. But along with that White Sox baseball career, Burger is finishing his undergraduate degree at Missouri State University.

Earning a degree in economics is one of the many parts of Burger’s life influenced by his mother, Shannon.

“I’m actually going back because I want to finish and part of it is for her,” Burger said. “So, yeah, she got me through a lot. Both academically and sports-wise. That voice always is there to give me support, no matter what I’m going through.”

Burger was Chicago’s top pick in the 2017 Draft (11th overall) but was out of action from 2018 until 2021 with a pair of left Achilles ruptures and a left heel bruise. His mom not only was one of the family members to help Burger deal with the mentally challenging times, but she also brought him into family tennis competitions, helping him get back into prime physical shape.

Shannon Burger was inducted into the University of Evansville Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001 as a tennis player. She’s also a teacher, having an effect on Jake’s quest for knowledge. He’s nine hours short of his degree and currently taking an international economics class.

“She’s my rock,” Burger said. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at and the person I am today without her.

“All that harping on getting homework in … that and then just kind of how to carry myself. Always respect and love everyone you come in contact with. I learned a lot from her in that way, and she’s very, very special to me.” -- Scott Merkin


Outfielder doesn't remember a time when his mom, Nicole, wasn't working in education. She's been doing so for more than 30 years and is currently the principal at Newburg Middle School in Louisville, Ky., where Adell grew up. Adell said he's learned countless lessons from his mom, and she's been a constant supporter of him throughout his life.

"I grew up around the school system," Adell said. "The biggest thing she taught me was how to treat people. She's one of the nicest people I know. Growing up in Louisville, it's a city where everybody mostly knows everyone. Just to hear everyone talk about how great she is and how much time she devotes to the kids and the city, it's big. With what I do, it's really competitive at this level and sometimes you focus more on yourself at times than you need to, so she's a reminder on just how to treat people and go about your business."

Adell said he leans on his mom for advice and that she's been a huge help with his baseball career. She recently attended Adell's games against the White Sox in Chicago with his dad, Scott, and Adell said his conversations with her help him with baseball, even though it’s rarely about his play on the field.

"As crazy as baseball is, there's always a time you need advice that has nothing to do with playing or mechanics or anything like that," Adell said. "She's always been in support of me being myself and trusting what I've got. That's as good as it's going to get. Just how nice and positive she is, whenever I'm going through rough patches and stuff, she's always a good call for me." -- Rhett Bollinger

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Astros catcher loved to play sports. He played baseball, of course, as well as basketball. He was good enough to play varsity basketball in high school, until his mother offered a gentle reminder that he probably wasn’t going to be good enough to play against LeBron James and Steph Curry in the NBA.

“She took me out and said, ‘Hey, how many NBA Puerto Rican players you ever seen?’” Maldonado said. “She pretty much supported me and impacted my career. She was there for pretty much everything.”

By pulling her son off the basketball court, Jeanette Valdes was telling him he had a future in baseball. Maldonado, the Astros’ starting catcher, recently reached 10 years of service time in the Major Leagues, a milestone very few players achieve. And Maldonado owes it all to Mom.

“Throughout my career, I remember her sacrifices on a daily basis, just from working from eight to five," he said. "Just all the stuff she had to do to take care of me and my sister and my brother. I would say everything about who I am today, from taking us to the field to workouts [I owe to my mom].”

Needless to say, when those sacrifices paid off and Maldonado reached the big leagues on Sept. 3, 2011, it was a special moment for a mother and a son.

“I felt like everything, all the stuff that you do as a kid, you accomplished that,” he said. “When I played my [first] game, she wasn’t there, but the first homestand, she was there, and being able to see her happy face was amazing.” -- Brian McTaggart

Once the 2021 A's season came to a close last October, 's sole focus turned to his wife, Michelle, who was expecting the couple’s first child. Joy, excitement and happiness were all feelings that came about for the two in anticipation of the birth. There was also an understandable amount of nervousness for Michelle, who has been open and honest about her previous pregnancy loss.

Michelle’s due date was originally set for Christmas, Dec. 25. As the date got closer, doctors suggested she be induced on that day, but Michelle preferred a natural birth. Christmas passed, and at around 3 a.m. on Dec. 27, she began to have contractions and was driven to the hospital. Later that day, the Kemps welcomed their healthy daughter, McKenna, into the world.

With the MLB lockout still in place, Kemp was afforded ample time to spend with his wife and new daughter.

“I appreciate the time we were able to have at home to just be parents,” Kemp said. “Baseball was on pause so we could really just focus on each other and our family. It was special. I think we were able to come together as a family. Being able to spend time together was something I’ll never forget.”

Through this time, Kemp also watched Michelle’s official transition into motherhood.

“To see Michelle transform into a Mom has been one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Kemp said. “It’s definitely a new challenge for both of us coming into a first season with a kid. We’re still navigating a routine of home versus road. McKenna has been great to us. It’s definitely a challenge. But it’s a fun challenge.” -- Martín Gallegos

Manager knows being a Major League baseball player or coach isn’t easy. But being the wife of one may be even harder. Woodward’s wife, Erin, is a trauma nurse by day, a graduate student by night and a mom of three kids and two dogs 24/7.

“The responsibility that falls on the mother in this industry is far greater than pretty much any other industry,” he said. “We play every day, there's no days off. We can't really get home often. She's had to endure a lot of that. I'm just super appreciative.”

Chris and Erin, a Toronto native, have been married for almost 20 years after meeting when Chris was a young infielder with the Blue Jays in the late-1990s. Erin has long since endured the hectic life of marrying a big leaguer, who went on to be a coach and then a manager.

Chris admits that sometimes it feels like he’s a dad for just “half the year," so it’s no surprise that Mother’s Day is an important day in the Woodward family.

“My wife is everything,” Woodward said. “She's everything to me and anybody that knows me knows that I speak of that often. She's the rock of our family and she's the most important person in my life. It's not easy. I’ve put her through hell and back in my career. She put her own stuff aside to have a family and create a life for us. I can't say enough about her. She's a great mom.” -- Kennedi Landry

 wears his emotions on his sleeve, so it’s no surprise that he’s particularly sentimental when speaking about his mother, Beth, who played a huge part in his athletic development and cultivating his passion for baseball.

Beth was at the center of his most trying days off the field, after she was diagnosed with throat cancer during his first full season as a professional in 2013, when he was just 18 years old and still sorting out his career and finding his way as an adult.

Crawford would regularly drive Beth to chemotherapy treatments during his senior year at Lakewood (Calif.) High School, then when he was able after being drafted by the Phillies in the first round.

“You really don’t think it’s happening,” Crawford said. “You think everything is going to be OK. I remember taking her one day to chemo, and she had her little face covering mask and could barely talk. She got out of my car and I burst into tears. I wished I could take some of this pain away.”

Thankfully, Beth is now recovered after a process that lasted two years.

“She's clear, but it makes me look at life totally different after that,” Crawford said. “I don't take anything for granted and treat every day like it's your last. Your family members, you love them. You don't know when they will get taken away.

“She's been my rock ever since I was a kid. She's sacrificed so much for me and my sisters and helped us get to the point where we are today. She does so much for me and my family.” -- Daniel Kramer


When A.J. Minter thinks about all his mother has done for him, he reminisces about all those early childhood days when she would pack a cooler full of Gatorade and take him to whatever games or practices he had in and around Tyler, Texas. He also fondly remembers the compassion she showed after he underwent Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet surgery while playing for Texas A&M.

“She’s been my biggest fan,” Minter said. “She was always the one there just to take care of me and comfort me at a time where it felt like the end of the world and my baseball career was over.”

Brenda Minter’s love and support have continued throughout Minter’s professional career with the Braves. A.J. made his MLB debut in 2017 and served as Atlanta’s closer for most of '18. Through thick and thin he has savored the support he has received from his mother, who saw her son shine during both of the past two postseasons.

“She texts me each day to tell me she loves me and gives me confidence,” Minter said. “She’ll also text me after every outing, whether it’s good or bad to say, ‘We’ll get them next time,’ or ‘Good job.’ She’s someone I know I can constantly count on. It’s nice to have for sure.” -- Mark Bowman

Norma Naidenoff's laugh is what people who knew her will remember most. Everywhere she went, she lit up the room with her máximo disfrute.

This Mother's Day, Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas is still coming to terms with the family matriarch no longer being around. Norma passed away from breast cancer in January -- within a week of her father (Miguel's abuelo).

Naidenoff leaves a lasting impact on her son and daughter Noelia. After separating from Rojas' father when Miguel was 7 years old, she exemplified how one person could provide for the entire family. Rojas now strives to do the same for his relatives back in his hometown of Los Teques, Venezuela.

"My mom was the one that was always working for the whole family, not just for me but for my grandparents to be able to take care of me without doing anything else," Rojas said. "My mom was working a lot of hours a day. When you're a doctor, you have to be on duty maybe overnight and stuff like that. I grew up kind of not seeing her much during the week because I have to go to school early in the morning and all that. But just for her to be working to provide for not just for me, but for my whole family at that point, at the end of the day, we were a real close family because of her providing for everybody."

Growing up, Rojas planned to sign a baseball contract, become a big leaguer and build his mother her own clinic. Now, he hopes to raise breast cancer awareness with help from the Miami Marlins Foundation. Over her final six years battling breast cancer, Naidenoff never lost hope. Five days before she passed, she kept telling her son that everything was going to be OK and she would get better. -- Christina De Nicola

As far as social media mothers go, Julie Megill has become as prominent as any. An infrequent Twitter user before Tylor Megill’s callup last summer, Julie has since weighed in often on her son’s rising stardom as a Major League pitcher. She will retweet videos or quotes about Tylor (as well as his brother, Trevor, a pitcher in the Twins' organization, and his sister, Ryleigh, a member of the USC rowing team). She will offer encouragement. She will even tweet updates from the Megill family watch parties, which she and her husband host for each of his starts.

Tylor, who talks to his mother almost every day, appreciates all the love.

“It means the world,” Megill said. “She’s seen me from a little kid until now playing baseball and chasing that dream.”

Megill recalled his mother shuttling him to baseball games and tournaments every weekend as a kid. He’s particularly looking forward to the Mets’ 10-game swing through Southern California in June, because his parents will be able to attend every game on the trip.

“Everything she’s done for me, it’s priceless,” Megill said. “The end goal is to take care of them like they’ve taken care of me all the way up 'til now.” -- Anthony DiComo

Looking back on his career, which has taken him from Panama to playing more than 10 years in the Minors before making his Major League debut in 2017, Paolo Espino is in awe of the unwavering support his wife, Leslie, has provided him.

“Wherever I go, she’s up for it,” Espino said. “She’s just amazing how she can adjust to any situation in my baseball life.”

The two are parents to two children, 5-year-old Alana and 2-year-old Mateo. With his daughter enrolled in school in Florida, this is the first season Espino has been away from his family.

“Just being a parent, everybody knows, is tough,” Espino said. “But being by herself, taking care of everything, it’s just unreal how she handles everything.”

Espino and Leslie have been married since 2015. They began dating in ‘09, and three years into their relationship, she began traveling to the United States while he worked his way up through Minor League ball.

“It was definitely a hard transition for her because she’s really, really close with her family,” Espino said. “Making that sacrifice to be over here with me for such a long time, it’s been just very, very special. … She’s been there the whole way.” -- Jessica Camerato

Mickey Moniak knows when he calls his mom Heather that a five-minute phone call can quickly turn into a 30-minute phone call.

That’s a good thing.

It’s nice to have a break from baseball every once in a while.

“To be honest with you, my mom doesn’t know much about baseball,” Moniak said, laughing. “Growing up, she thought she was a jinx, so she wouldn’t come to my games. She did come to a couple games in high school. I think I was 3-for-4 both games, so I tried telling her, ‘Mom, it’s not you. You’re not a jinx.’ But she was great. She was always taking us places, taking us to the skate park, taking us to the aquarium, just always doing stuff with us to keep us occupied.

“She’s the person I call after a game when I don’t need to talk baseball. I just talk about life with her. I’ll do that with dad, too, but there’s always a little baseball with dad. But I know when I call my mom it’s going to be, ‘How are you? How are you feeling?’ It’s everything that’s not baseball.”

Heather Moniak said once her son got to pro ball that she would start coming to more games. She has.

“She’ll make it out every once in a while,” Moniak said. “But I’ve got three younger brothers and sisters so she’s taking care of them.”

Mom’s work doesn’t stop because the oldest child is a big leaguer. That’s what makes her a great mom, isn’t it? -- Todd Zolecki



When Brewers right-hander Adrian Houser was heading into the sixth grade in Oklahoma, one of the teachers at Locust Grove Middle School made sure he landed in her class.

It was his mother, Rhonda, who has been teaching elementary school for Houser’s entire life and is still doing so today. She pulled some strings so that Houser and his sister both landed in her classroom for their sixth grade years.

“She wanted us so she could make sure we were doing our work,” Adrian said.

Mom always made sure he did his work. The women on her side of the family are of Cherokee Nation heritage, and early in Adrian’s life, he said, that culture was “a big part” of their upbringing. Houser and his siblings learned some of the language at a young age and attended a preschool run by Cherokee Nation. They don’t speak the language as much today, he said, other than an occasional “osiyo,” a greeting along the lines of, “Hello, how are you?”

Houser is one of four citizens of Cherokee Nation in the big leagues, with Ryan Helsley of the Cardinals, Dylan Bundy of the Twins and Jon Gray of the Rangers. It’s the highest number of Cherokee Nation citizens in the Majors since the 1930s, according to the publication Cherokee Phoenix.

One of Houser’s boyhood friends was fellow future big leaguer Archie Bradley. It was always easy, Houser said, to find their moms in the stands during summer ball. The moms even devised their own homemade noisemakers by putting beads inside water bottles.

“She influenced my career a lot,” Houser said. “Her and Dad put a lot of miles on the car to drive me all over the country to play baseball. She’s always been the biggest cheerleader in the stands. Whatever the sport, you could always hear her over everybody else in the stadium.” -- Adam McCalvy

Whether he has had a great game or a rough one, Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong can usually count on a postgame phone call or text from his mother, Andrea, to discuss things and offer support.

Why wouldn’t Andrea DeJong call after nearly every one of Paul’s games? After all, she has seen Paul play more baseball than anyone, dating back to his Little League days in suburban Orlando, Fla., to his travel-ball games in Illinois to his Cardinals games in St. Louis and across the country. When she isn’t at Busch Stadium, Andrea usually can be found in other MLB stadiums, supporting Paul wherever her son is playing at the time.

“Ever since I started playing organized baseball, she’s always been the biggest supporter,” said Paul, who is planning to call his mother on Sunday from San Francisco, where the Cardinals are taking on the Giants. “I think back to all the little sacrifices she made, from taking off work early to even managing tournaments in the Pony Leagues back in Orlando. She’s always been involved heavily and been there to support me.”

DeJong got a reminder of that recently when he found a stack of old scorebooks that his mother had kept by hand from games that he had played in nearly a decade earlier. He enjoyed reading the notes written about the games from his mother and seeing the mementos that she had collected along the way. Rarely, if ever, did Paul play a baseball game without Andrea nearby to document the moment and offer support.

“My mother was working from home at the time, and she would do whatever she had to do to maneuver her schedule around, especially when I was in middle school and we’d have to drive to Chicago for baseball tournaments,” DeJong said. “Some of the games, we’d have to drive like an hour and a half, and we’d have to leave before her work was done, but she would always make a ton of sacrifices for me. I’m thankful that she had that flexibility and she was willing to sacrifice for me.” -- John Denton

Willson Contreras plans to print and frame the photo. He also hopes to have an artistic rendering done of the moment he stood with an arm around the shoulder of his younger brother, Braves catcher William Contreras, last month in Atlanta.

In the meantime, the Contreras brothers will savor the phone call they shared with their mother, Olga. It came after Willson and William exchanged lineup cards at Truist Park, and then played against each other for the first time as Major Leaguers.

"We spoke to her after it happened and she just had tears of joy," Contreras said. "She was just crying with happiness for us. She knew how hard we worked for it -- both of us. How tough it is to get over here. And for us, our mother is the most important person in the world."

While growing up in Venezuela, the three Contreras brothers -- Willson is in the middle child -- had their mom as a constant presence in the home. She handled the discipline, helped with their education and instilled in them lessons on how to treat other people and respect family.

As Willson looks back on things now, he understands how valuable it was to have her at home while their dad, Wiliam, worked.

"It's really tough to take care of three boys," Contreras said. "That was something that was a really tall task that she did. And I give thanks to her and to God for the type of family that I have and my mother."

Contreras cherishes the moment he got to call his mom when he reached the big leagues. He smiles still when thinking about the moment they received visas that allowed them to be there when their son won the World Series with the Cubs in 2016. He loves that his mom has now seen his younger brother realize similar dreams with Atlanta.

Contreras also loves that his mom was in Chicago this week ahead of Mother's Day to make him some of that home cooking that he often misses.

"Every time that I talk to my mom," he said, "or she comes over here, or I go to Venezuela, I always ask her for her stew chicken with rice. That's delicious." -- Jordan Bastian

It’s not a stretch to say that Canaan Smith-Njigba and his parents, Jami Smith and Maada Smith-Njigba, grew up together.

On April 30, 1999, Jami and Maada, then 17 and 18, respectively, welcomed Canaan into the world. Jami and Maada were still learning the world themselves. Despite their youth, they were determined to raise Canaan.

Instead of finishing out her senior year at Mesquite High School, Jami joined Maada in Nacogdoches, Texas, where Maada had a football scholarship at Stephen F. Austin State University. At the time, Nacogdoches High School qualified for a grant program called Partners in Parenting that helped bridge parents into college.

At Nacogdoches High School, Jami brought Canaan to school every day and took classes such as infant massaging and child bonding. She was fast-tracked through her classes and graduated early in December 1999, then enrolled in Stephen F. Austin in January 2000. From there, Jami and Maada, still just teenagers, raised Canaan as they made their way through college.

“It made me aware of how important and how special timing is,” Jami said. “At that time, that particular deep east Texas high school had a grant program to help expecting teen parents. It doesn't exist anymore. It was just perfect timing.” -- Justice delos Santos

Hunter Greene
’s mom, Senta, might not know too much about baseball, but that doesn’t stop her from rooting on her son in the biggest stages of his career. She was in the stands, supporting Hunter in each of his first two career starts, in Atlanta and back home against the Dodgers.

“It was very special to be able to have her there and support,” the right-hander said. “She’s never missed a game, at least the important ones. It’s been nice to have that and to be able to look up and see her face and to know that she’s been there every step of the way.”

The support that Hunter has received from his mom has been there his whole life, pertaining to baseball or not. She has shaped the player and man that he is today. 

“She’s my rock,” Hunter said. “[She] keeps me focused and locked in. There’s a lot that this game asks for and she’s able to bring that balance and that peace into everyday life.”

With Senta’s background as an educator, she often picked up her son from high school and drove him to UCLA, where he had committed to play baseball, to work on his studies. Now, he reminisces on all the good times that he and his mom shared there in his teenage years. 

“She was great for [helping me study] and being able to introduce me to the future college that I would commit to. Just really cool memories,” the rookie said. -- Joey Pollizze


Most D-backs fans know by now that outfielder/catcher 's father, Gary, played in the big leagues. There's no doubt that his father played a big role in Daulton's baseball life.

But with Gary on the road coaching and later scouting, you can't overstate the role that Daulton's mom, Kay, played in his development both as a player and person. Kay, in fact, coached a number of Daulton's first Little League teams.

Daulton's sisters Andie and Taylor were also athletes, and they both benefited from Kay's presence. Here’s Daulton in his own words about his mother’s impact:

"She was my coach since Little League up until seventh or eighth grade. I can't remember if she coached me in seventh or eighth grade but up to that point, she was my coach. My dad obviously was on the road and she was the one that coached me. I remember she brought these plastic bases out to our practice field -- where we lived was pretty countryish, so we had these open fields where we would practice. She brought these plastic bases and showed us how to slide. All of us learned how to slide into the bases correctly. She was our main coach and she was awesome at it.

"She deserves a lot of the credit. She raised all three of us kids to be really good kids. I thank her a lot for it, because in our lifestyle it wasn't easy. Being alone with three kids all the time and doing as well as she did as far as teaching us the right things to do in life, I really respect her for it.

"She did really well with all of us, and I just really want to thank her for it. I try to do it as much as I can, but I really can't say it enough." -- Steve Gilbert

When he was 14 years old, Dodgers right-hander said he needed to make a decision on how he wanted his life to turn out. Growing up in Venezuela, Graterol said there are a few paths you could take as a teenager, with most of them leading into trouble.

But his mother, Ismalia, wasn’t going to let him make those bad decisions, and Graterol says his mother played an integral part in his success. She encouraged him to pursue his dream of playing baseball, even if she reluctantly let him play full-time and not focus as much on school at such an early age. But if that’s what it took to keep Graterol from a much different path, she was more than willing to do that.

“She has meant everything to me,” Graterol said.

Graterol hasn’t seen his mom since signing a pro deal more than six years ago. She remains in Venezuela, while Graterol works on getting her a visa. The reliever hasn’t been back to Venezuela since signing, citing the current dangerous state of his home country.

Though they haven't seen each other in a while, the two stay in touch every day via FaceTime and text. The two shared an emotional FaceTime call with Miguel Cabrera last week at Dodger Stadium, in fact, as Graterol and his mother would watch Cabrera’s games when he was younger.

Graterol and his mother hope to reunite soon, but until they do, their bond remains as unbreakable as it's always been. -- Juan Toribio

, the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, drew his baseball pedigree from his dad’s side, but he credits his mom, Anne-Marie, with playing an equally important role in cultivating his love for the game when he was younger. 

“She was the one who kept me in love with baseball,” Yastrzemski said. “I think I found a love for it myself, but with her putting so much effort into making sure I could get to practices and games and never missing a beat -- barbequing through doubleheaders when I was 10 years old -- she made it fun for her, and that’s what kept me loving it so much. I was really, really blessed to be able to have her as a mom and make sure that I was able to follow my dreams.” 

This year will mark a particularly special Mother’s Day for Yastrzemski, who will also be able to celebrate his wife, Paige, for the first time, following the birth of the couple’s first child, a daughter named Quinley, in December. 

“It’s been the most incredible journey I’ve ever been on so far to watch her strength and resiliency,” Yastrzemski said. “She’s so in-tune with our daughter in terms of what she needs, what certain cries sound like. To watch her observe that and be so on-beat with every minute is truly incredible. I can’t say how proud I am of her.” 

Becoming a parent has only deepened Yastrzemski’s appreciation for his mom and the sacrifices she made to help support him throughout his life. 

“I’m sure I’m going to keep gaining momentum in how much I appreciate the things that she did for me and gauging more perspective as Quinley gets older,” Yastrzemski said. “Realizing how much she actually did sacrifice for me, as opposed to thinking that I know. I think I’ve proven to myself that what I thought I knew, I certainly don’t. That’s been a really cool experience to go through, to start to appreciate her on a completely different level.” -- Maria Guardado

Watch pitch, and one thing becomes clear pretty quickly: He doesn’t get flustered. The lefty is unflappable, even-keeled and good-natured, no matter what comes his way. Credit his mother, Opal Manaea, he says.

Sean estimates that Opal was at nearly every game and practice from tee-ball through his college days at Indiana State. And she always did her best to make one thing abundantly clear.

“To her, nothing was ever about the results,” Sean said this week. “To her, you weren’t a bad baseball player if you had a bad game. Those things are going to happen. She really taught me from an early age to not get too high, not get too low.”

That includes the time Sean got left off the varsity roster in high school. Opal didn’t need to say much in the way of consolation. She just reminded him of something important: “These things are going to happen, but it’s [more about] how you’re going to deal with this,” Sean recalled.

Opal won’t get to spend Mother’s Day with Sean this year. But, in a way, she got quite a gift just last month when her two sons were reunited in San Diego. Dane Manaea, who is two years older than Sean, is in the Navy as a hospital corpsman third class at nearby Camp Pendleton. When Sean was traded to the Padres last month, his first call was to his mother.

Two weeks ago, Sean and Dane shared a special moment on the Petco Park mound before one of Sean’s starts. On Military Appreciation Sundays at Petco Park, the Padres are greeted by a service member when they take the field. When Sean returned to his locker after the game, he had a text message.

“She sent me a picture of her crying,” Sean said. “That moment meant everything to her.” -- AJ Cassavell

During Colorado's recent homestand, a black catcher’s mitt with pink stitching rested in the Coors Field locker of the Rockies’ .

“I’ve been trying to get it ready for Sunday, but I don’t know,” Díaz said, smiling.

Díaz doesn’t worry about the calendar. His mother, Ana Soto, will arrive at the end of this month, and they can celebrate the holiday then. Of course, pretty much any day of the week he’s honoring Ana, her name printed in large letters on the throat plate of his chest protector.

Her energy is the biggest part of Díaz’s story.

Ana Soto had already been through the support-your-little-catcher life. Her older son, Emison Soto, born in 1971 in Maracaibo, Venezuela, caught and played other positions in the Red Sox organization from 1990-93. His career then took him to Mexico, China, Italy and U.S. independent leagues through 2004.

Díaz wasn’t born until 1990, the year his big brother came to the U.S. to start his pro career. Díaz looked up to his brother and put on equipment that was bigger than he was, just to be like him. When he was home, his big brother would give him lessons. But Díaz’s mom made sure he had the opportunity to play when his brother was away.

“I don’t know how to explain it, but my mom represents everything -- so much in my life,” Díaz said. “She took me every day to the ballpark when I was little. And she would stay and watch me. It meant so much.

“I will be so happy when she comes to see me.” -- Thomas Harding