Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cuban Ballplayer Remembers Mom

Mariners remember their moms
Players recall sacrifices made by their mothers

By Kirby Arnold
Herald Writer

They drove their boys to the ballparks and cheered them from the stands like almost every mom who's ever had a Little Leaguer.

They sat in the hot sun and miserably cold rain to show their support. They fed their boys, clothed them and coddled them well beyond the coddling age, and now that they're grown men, nothing really has changed.

Except, however, that these boys became major leaguers.

At the time, they didn't fully realize the sacrifice their parents made to provide the equipment, transportation, meals and, of course, emotional support necessary to make it so much fun.

To some, it has taken fatherhood to fully understand. To others who haven't reached that stage of their lives, memories remain dear.

Here's how six Seattle Mariners remember their moms:

Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt: Mother Maura, grandmother Maria.

This is the best time of Betancourt's life, but it's also one of the saddest.

He escaped Cuba in a small boat 2-1/2 years ago in order to gain the freedom to pursue a big-league career. Today, he will start at shortstop for the Mariners against the L.A. Angels.

But his loved ones remain behind and, as much as the distance pains Betancourt, so do the political barriers that separate his family from him. They speak by phone every other day, but that doesn't connect the gap that Betancourt feels in his heart.

"It's especially hard this year," he said. "I'm so far away from them and I can't give them a hug and a kiss. But it's great to know that they love me so much and I love them so much."

His mother and grandmother would bring Betancourt to his games and cheer for him, sometimes with so much enthusiasm that he wished they would be quiet.

"In Cuba, there's never a time when the crowd is quiet, and the fans are always saying stuff to the umpires and saying stuff to me, to everybody on the field.

"A lot of times I would be out there and I would hear, 'Hey, if you don't play better I'm not going to feed you tonight!'"

Thanks Mom.

But, oh, would he love to hear those words someday soon at Safeco Field.

Betancourt dreams of having his family leave Cuba, too, but knows the process is extremely difficult and, possibly, dangerous.

"We're working on it," he said.

"My whole family was really important to me," Betancourt said. "But my mom and my grandmother have always been the biggest things in my life. In my schoolwork and in my baseball, they've always been there to support me.

"I don't have words to describe what they mean to me."


You can read about the other mariners players here.

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