Why baseball means even more on Mother's Day


Why baseball means even more on Mother's Day

I still remember the way my childhood mitt felt on my hand.

It was "signed" by former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy, which makes absolutely no sense for a kid who grew up in suburban Chicago as a Cubs fan. Plus, I was only six when Murphy retired from baseball and almost his entire prime was before my lifetime, so it's not even like I was capable of truly appreciating him as a player.

But I refused to get a new glove. It was far too big for me in Little League, but I insisted on using it and must've looked pretty comical as an undersized kid playing middle infield in T-Pitch with a mitt about three sizes too big.

I loved that glove. Every time I looked at it or put it on, it reminded me of going out in the backyard with my mom to play catch or play "The Inning Game" where I pretended I was all nine fielders desperately trying to get a bunch of invisible runners and hitters out.

My dad spent a lot of time coaching my Little League teams and supporting me even on the teams he didn't coach, but my true passion for the game of baseball originated from my mom.

She was — and still is — a diehard Cubs fan. To the point where I had to talk her off the ledge a bit last week during the Cubs' recent struggles.

Mother's Day is always a baseball barometer of sorts for me each spring. It was the end of my college club seasons and in the years since I've graduated has now been simultaneously a checkpoint in the MLB season and a harbinger to my own summer season about to begin.

Every year, I request off work for Mother's Day — even when the Cubs are in town.

I wasn't at Wrigley Field for Javy Baez's walk-off homer to finish off a sweep of Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals last year. I was sitting on the couch at my mom's house watching her run in from preparing food in the kitchen and do a little fist pump, just a few feet from the pink Mother's Day bat my sisters and I got her years earlier as a gift:

Baseball isn't just another sport to my mom and as a byproduct, it's not just another sport to me.

I've made baseball not only my career, but my life. This summer will mark my first season playing the game as a 30-year-old, one of the goals I set for myself when I was still using that Dale Murphy glove. Next step: Playing at age 40.

My mom just got a new job this month and one of the first things she told me about it was her hours are more flexible and the office is closer to my summer baseball field, so she hopes to be able to make nearly every game as she has every summer since I started playing Little League.

Ms. Andracki serves as "Team Mom," keeping the scorebook on a nightly basis and she even showed up with Mondos last year in the playoffs as a throwback to a simpler time.

It was my mom who taught me how to keep score and helped me understand the game that has grown into the backbone of my life.

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For my extended family, Mother's Day is the day we all get together to pay tribute to the all the moms.

For me, Mother's Day is an opportunity to honor the woman who shaped my career, my hobbies, my life. 

And the best way to honor my mom is with baseball, particularly Cubs baseball.

Anthony Rizzo takes in Cubs intrasquad game in Wrigley Field bleachers

Anthony Rizzo takes in Cubs intrasquad game in Wrigley Field bleachers

Anthony Rizzo missed Summer Camp on Thursday as he remains day-to-day with lower back tightness. However, the Cubs first baseman still found a way to take in the action.

Rizzo posted up in the left field bleachers during Thursday's game, which pitted Yu Darvish vs. Kyle Hendricks. He later moved to sit by the on-deck circle.

With no fans in attendance this season, MLB players will likely be stationed throughout ballpark seating throughout games to social distance. The Cubs obviously want to see Rizzo stationed at first base come the regular season, but it would be quite the sight if he or any Cubs get to sit out in the bleachers this year.

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No regrets for Cubs' Javy Báez in not reaching extension deal before pandemic

No regrets for Cubs' Javy Báez in not reaching extension deal before pandemic

Cubs shortstop Javy Báez doesn’t know any more than anyone else where baseball’s economics and player salary markets are headed in the next year or two as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the two-time All-Star expressed no regret about not accepting a club offer during negotiations on a long-term extension over the winter and said he felt no “rush” to resume talks in the uncertain climate.

Báez, the 2018 MVP runner-up who is eligible for free agency after next season, had expressed optimism that talks were “progressing” in March before the pandemic shut down sports — and all extension talks.

“It’s been really difficult with all this happening right now,” said Báez, whose family all stayed healthy through baseball’s shutdown and who looks in good shape after working out during that time with brother-in-law Jose Berrios, the Twins pitcher.

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“We have really good communication and relationship between me and the owners and obviously my agent,” Báez added. “I think when this [is in the] past, I think we’re going to talk and stay in touch and see what happens from here on, and with the season.”

Teammate Kris Bryant, long considered a sure thing to test the open market after the 2021 season, said Monday the pandemic and first-time fatherhood has made him rethink things that are important to him — including, potentially, the Cubs and what it might take to stay with them.

But predicting where payroll budgets, industry revenues and consequently player markets will be even two or three years from now is all but impossible during a pandemic with no end in sight.

All of which could render many players and teams’ best intentions moot for now.

MORE: Why Cubs core's desire to sign extensions might not matter anymore

“This is without question the most difficult time we’ve ever had as far as projecting those things,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said this week.

Báez, who has a 2020 salary of $10 million (prorated for the shortened season), was the primary focus of the front office much of the winter as it tried to lock him up as a part of the next contending core it envisioned.

He said he has bigger things to worry about now as the team tries to stay disciplined and committed to pulling off a 60-game season.

“Obviously, everybody wants to get paid, but we’ve got to wait for the right time,” he said, “and both sides are going to see and know what’s right for each other. I’m not in a rush. I’m worried right now about getting back on the field and playing regular games and trying to win in this season that is going to be so weird.

“Obviously with this happening right now it’s going to change everything. It already changed 2020; it’s going to change the next two years I think.”

Báez said the decision to play was not really difficult and he didn’t consider opting out.

“I feel like everybody’s dealing with the same thing,” said Báez, who among other things keeps his free agency timeline intact by playing and being credited with a full season of service time for 2020. “Some of them have got contracts; some of them don’t.

“I’ve got one year [more] I’m going to be in arbitration. We’ll see. They know me. I’m pretty sure every team knows me and knows what I can do. I’m not in a rush. We’ll just see what happens this season and how it goes for me and with this 60 games and be ready for next season.

“We’ll see.”