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LeCure enjoys special bond with his first fan

Reds reliever shared baseball dreams at a young age with mom, Ann

CINCINNATI -- Ann LeCure was apologetic for her home phone ringing so long before she could pick up. You see, there was some excitement going on, as she was outside while workers were digging the hole for the new pool going into her backyard in the rural outskirts of Jefferson City, Mo.

Reds relief pitcher Sam LeCure helped pay for the new pool, and Ann's 16 grandchildren can't wait for it to be finished. They will definitely get to swim in it before Sam gets a first shot.

"Hopefully he'll come home for the All-Star break, so he can see the pool," Ann said. "If he waits until the offseason, he won't be able to get in it. It'll be too cold."

Sam LeCure, who turned 29 on May 4, is the youngest of eight kids born to Ann and Marvin LeCure. Married for 50 years, Ann and Marvin have six boys and two girls.

There is no debating who the baby of the family is. It's naturally the youngest sibling -- Sam.

"Her and I keep in close touch. I'm admittedly a mama's boy," Sam said. "We've always had a close relationship. We've always done a lot of stuff. Our relationship is pretty special. All of my older siblings would definitely let you hear that. They know that. It's fine."

A Major Leaguer for the Reds since 2010, Sam LeCure broke in as a starting pitcher before evolving into a long reliever and now a valuable swing man who takes on multiple situations out of the bullpen.

Although Sam is a grown man with a burly mustache and beard, it's not hard for Ann -- like most parents -- to be transported back while watching her son on the mound pitching.

"I still see that little boy in him," Ann said. "I'm so tickled to be seeing him doing what he loves to do. I'm amazed at how difficult it seems -- the lifestyle -- and I worried about that when he was in Triple-A and Double-A and so forth. Yet, he always said, 'I love to play ball. I can't wait for the game.'

"As long as he feels that he's blessed to be doing what he wants to do, then I don't worry about the hardships or taking a toll on him so much. It's really gratifying to see him enjoy what he does so much. I feel so happy for him. How many people get to live out their dreams?"

Ann is someone who herself derived satisfaction from her chosen occupation. A retired nurse who spent 50 years working, including 35 years at the local hospital, she did it all while having so many children in the house.

The LeCure kids have an age range from 29 to 50 years old.

"She's a pretty extraordinary woman, I would say. She's had a kid on her hip since she was 21 years old," Sam said. "She is pretty extraordinary. I guess I'm guilty of not taking the time of thinking about all of that stuff. Since 1963, she's been Mom. That's pretty neat."

Because Sam was the youngest, he was afforded more one-on-one time at home with Ann than most of his brothers and sisters. It strengthened the bond that continues to the present day.

"My work schedule at that time was that I was working weekends and home during the week. He wasn't in school yet. So he was my best buddy," Ann said. "He'd sit up on the cabinet and help me bake cookies and things like that. We were very close and had a good camaraderie."

Like many kids, Sam informed Ann as a young boy that he would be a Major League baseball player when he grew up.

"Sam always says I laughed at him when he said he was going to be a baseball player," Ann said. "I can remember it like it was yesterday, right here in our living room. He was sitting on the couch and I said to Sam, 'What are you going to be when you grow up?' He said, 'I want to be a Major League baseball player.' And I chuckled when he said that and said, 'You are?'

"What he remembers is that I laughed at him like he would never make it as a baseball player. I didn't. I just chuckled. A lot of kids say they want to be baseball players. He just loves to rub that in on me."

A lifelong Cardinals fan, along with all University of Missouri sports (and now the Reds, too), Ann rarely will make the relatively short trip to Busch Stadium to see her son pitch. Instead, she takes on childcare duties for the grandkids so her other kids and extended family can see Sam.

Now that she is retired, she has more time than they do and often comes to Cincinnati to spend a week visiting at his home and seeing games at Great American Ball Park.

No doubt, Ann will receive a call from Sam on Mother's Day -- and her other kids -- but time rarely passes long before she and Sam are in contact. It's usually him calling her to check in.

"Ever since he left home to go to the University of Texas, he has always been like clockwork in calling me," Ann said. "I rarely call him, because he is wonderful about calling. Even if he's busy, it's, 'Hi mom, I just wanted to touch base.' A couple of days later, I'll get a call again. I can almost feel when he's going to call. He's been doing it for 10 years now. I appreciate it. I really do."

Sam appreciates everything his mother has done for him and tries to convey that respect in everything he does -- including on the field.

"Her and I have never practiced a lot of baseball together," Sam said. "I'm sure she feels a sense of pride when she gets to see me perform. I hope she understands, and I've done a good job of showing her in various ways, that she was a huge, huge part of that."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon
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