Tomas, mom share 'beautiful experience'

D-backs slugger's mom, who lives in Cuba, joins press conference via video

May 13th, 2017

PHOENIX -- rubbed his head and exhaled. He scratched his forehead.

The large flat screen television behind him went dark and then it flashed on. The audio in the D-backs' interview room was tuned. The video connection was all set.

"Ay, Mami," Tomas said with a laugh.

Tomas' mother, Melba Rosa Bacallao, the guest of honor in this month's Spanish-language news conference, couldn't find the button on her cellphone back in Havana, Cuba, that would transport her image to Chase Field. Her son shook his head and giggled.

"Mami, answer the phone," Tomas said in Spanish. "Click the video button. Press the button, Mami. We are ready."

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Then Bacallao's image appeared and all was right in Tomas' world. And it didn't matter that the video, sometimes choppy and slow-loading, initially showed her face horizontally, not vertically. The mother and son -- separated by almost 2,000 miles and the politics of two nations -- were reunited.

"I miss everything about him," said Bacallao, who used the Wi-Fi at a nearby hotel to connect with her son. "I miss touching him and seeing him. He's my son."

Tomas, who defected from Cuba in June 2014, has not seen his mother in person since her month-long stay in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, later that year. The plan was for Melba to be by her son's side when he signed the six-year, $68.5 million deal with the D-backs, but her flight from Havana was delayed and she didn't arrive until a few hours after the deal was made official.

Tomas told practically no one of his clandestine plan to escape. He told his mother less than 48 hours before he left the island.

"It's been about three years since I have seen her and left everything behind and it's hard because they are the most important thing in my life," Tomas said. "I miss having them here with me every day. I've made a life here with my wife and daughter, and I'm very happy, but it's incomplete without my family in Cuba."

Bacallao laughed out loud at times and later wiped away tears as she answered questions about her son's future, their life together in Cuba and the one he lives without her in the United States. It's not easy being away from her son, she said, but the two communicate by phone or by video chat almost every day.

"It was [senior vice president, content and communications] Josh Rawitch's idea to do this," said Jerry Romo, the club's senior manager of hispanic marketing. "Last year, we did something similar with for Father's Day where we surprised him and brought in his father and his mother. We wanted to do something special for Mother's Day. Yasmany is our guest this month and what better way to celebrate than to show the relationship between a mother and son?"

Tomas said his wife, Melissa, who can travel to Cuba legally, and daughter, Mia Isabella, who was born in the United States, plan to visit Cuba later this month. Because he defected from Cuba, he says he can't go back for another five years. Tomas' family in Cuba needs visas to visit him in the US.

"This was a beautiful experience to see her and have everyone see my mother, but it was also a little sad," Tomas said. "We are looking for a way to get them here. My family is not getting any younger. My grandfather is 82. I'd love to have them here just for a visit to see me play and see that the sacrifices we made and me leaving Cuba, was worth it. I'm hopeful it will happen in the future."

Bacallao also remains optimistic. She ended the call with a phrase she hopes to hear in person one day.

"Now batting, No. 24, Yasmaaany Tomaaaas," she said. "Go be victorious, son."