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Mom a big factor behind CC's baseball success

Besides being his first catcher, former fast-pitch softball player taught her son sportsmanship
@BryanHoch
May 12, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the course of his lengthy big league career, CC Sabathia has worked with 19 catchers, a group that includes recognizable names like Victor Martinez, Brian McCann, Jorge Posada, Russell Martin and Gary Sanchez. They all contributed to Sabathia's success in various ways, but none of them

ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the course of his lengthy big league career, CC Sabathia has worked with 19 catchers, a group that includes recognizable names like Victor Martinez, Brian McCann, Jorge Posada, Russell Martin and Gary Sanchez.

They all contributed to Sabathia's success in various ways, but none of them had a greater impact than his first regular one – his mother, Margie, who helped teach him how to attack the strike zone in the backyard of their Vallejo, Calif., home.

"She'd put the catcher's gear on when I was younger," Sabathia said. "She probably caught me from the time I was 7 or 8 until the time I was 13. In the backyard, my dad [Corky] had built me a mound, but he was always off working. It would be just me and her, and she would put on full gear. I'd get up there and throw games."

A former fast-pitch softball player, Margie attended all of Sabathia's Little League games and demanded that he display good sportsmanship. As a pitcher, he'd sometimes cry after giving up a hit, believing that he was supposed to get everybody out. Margie swiftly made it clear that would not fly in her home.

"She always made sure that I didn't get a big head," Sabathia said. "I hated to lose; I was very competitive and always thought I was doing it right. That was something she had to work out of me."

Their battery arrangement continued until one afternoon when a teenaged Sabathia reared back and let his impressive heater fly.

"We were back there and I kind of threw one hard. It caught her in the palm and that was it," Sabathia said, with a laugh.

Her catching duties may be done, but Margie remains her son's biggest fan and frequently attends his starts -- both at Yankee Stadium and on the road. She is also active with the North Vallejo Little League and Sabathia's PitCCh In Foundation, which is preparing to host its second softball event at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.

"My mom meant everything, being there every day and explaining to me about staying humble and working hard, and doing the right thing," Sabathia said. "She was always there. She would always do whatever she could to make sure I had a great childhood."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.