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05/08/09 10:00 AM ET
Mother's Day resonates with Carroll
Holiday a chance for infielder to honor mom, aunt and wife
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
CLEVELAND -- For Indians infielder Jamey Carroll, Mother's Day runs much deeper than cards and flowers. Carroll lost his aunt, Marilyn Watson -- a woman he remembers as one of the hardest workers he's ever known -- to breast cancer the day after he was drafted by the Expos in 1996. He lost his mother, Patty -- a woman he refers to as the most selfless person he's ever met -- to septic shock a little more than three years ago. The losses came with lessons, and they cut to the core of a man who could not be more appreciative of his wife, Kim, and all the sacrifices she makes while raising 14-month-old twins with a husband habitually on the road.
These are the women who have helped shape the 35-year-old Carroll's life, and this is a holiday that means more to him than most. "For me, it's more than just your typical Mother's Day situation," he says. "I'm a lot more personally involved and a little more passionate about recognizing how special the day is. I get more of a true feeling of it being Mother's Day, because of my experiences." A tough loss Marilyn was Patty's sister. She lived in Sumner, Ill., and Jamey and his mother, father and two brothers would drive up from Evansville, Ind., each Christmas and Easter to visit. "They lived out in the country," Jamey says. "It was always fun to go out there and run wild in the land." When asked what he remembers most about his aunt, Jamey smiles. "I don't think I ever saw her get mad," he says. "And the days leading up to her passing, she was still going to work. She was just a hard-working person. She worked at a bank there in town, and she was still going to work up to the days before she went into the hospital." Marilyn went into the hospital roughly five years after doctors informed her she had breast cancer. She had gone into remission, yet remained positive, telling her family she was hopeful she'd be out of the hospital and back to work in no time. But in early June 1996, the cancer took Marilyn's life, just one day after Jamey was selected by the Expos in the seventh round of the Draft. "For a family to be excited for one thing and then have to turn around and have to go through a loss like that is tough," Carroll said. "That was my first close family member who passed away. To see the sadness that's involved, it was a tough situation and a life-learning experience. You go through such a high one day to an experience like that the next." Jamey and his family also came away with a more profound understanding of the seriousness of breast cancer -- a disease that, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation, was diagnosed in about 182,460 American women and 1,990 men last year. The disease was estimated to have caused 40,480 deaths in women and 450 deaths in men. "This offseason, my wife and I and our kids did a breast cancer walk, to be a part of it," Carroll says. "Because it's a part of who we are now." Carroll, who is currently on the Indians' disabled list with a broken bone in his left hand, is proud to be part of a game that has annually used the Mother's Day holiday to raise breast cancer awareness. Each year, Major League players swing pink bats that are later auctioned off to benefit the Susan G. Komen foundation. "Swinging a pink bat is the least you can do to help be a part of it," Carroll says. "I'm thankful a league of this platform does have that special relationship with the foundation to help spread awareness." A mother's love Carroll knows a thing or two about special relationships. He's ever thankful that he had just such a relationship with his mother. For many years, Patty was a field accountant for nursing homes. She traveled quite a bit for work, but she was always there when her children needed her most. "She had the unbelievable ability to give you the shoulder when you needed it and to give you the foot in the rear when you needed that," Carroll says with a smile. "I remember there were times you didn't want to ride home with mom after the game. You'd rather ride home with dad. She was the one you didn't want to upset too much in the household. She had that ability to know that fine line of when to give you a hug and when to point you to do things right." Jamey and his brothers, Jason and Wes, had it made when it came to mom. Their father, Larry, worked the midnight shift at an aluminum plant in Evansville. So if the Carroll boys had a problem or just something on their mind in the middle of the night, they'd wake Patty up. She never complained about the lack of sleep. She was just happy to be there for her boys. "She had to be up at 4 or 5 in the morning," Jamey says, "and we're in there complaining about sports or life or school or girlfriends or anything. It was amazing. She'd stay there for every minute of it. It's something I look back and reflect on." Jamey has to hold on to those memories. They are all he has left of his mom, after she was suddenly taken from him in December 2005. Patty went into the hospital with pneumonia. The doctors drained her lungs and told her she'd be fine and out of the hospital in a few days. "Then all of a sudden, she slipped out of it, and they couldn't revive her," Jamey remembers. It was septic shock -- an infection that leads to low blood pressure. It took Patty's life at the age of 54, and it led to more questions than answers. In addition to being hurt, the Carrolls also wondered who to blame -- the doctors they had trusted, or themselves for not being more educated about Patty's condition going in. "We beat ourselves up over it," Jamey says. Ultimately, the Carrolls did what they had to do. They moved on, choosing to remember Patty for who she was and not what she went through at the end. Jamey paid her a tribute with the naming of his kids. His son, Cole, has the middle name Patrick, and his daughter, Mackenzie, has the middle name Joyce, which was Patty's middle name. "We made a decision to enjoy what she stood for," Jamey says, "and to use that as a reminder when a situation comes that gets tough." A true companion Patty's passing offered Jamey a time to think about all he had lost. But when he thinks back on the hectic and emotional time of her death, he also considers everything he has. What he has is a wife who handled all his mother's funeral arrangements and gave Jamey and his father and brothers the room to breathe and grieve. "To have somebody unselfishly do all that for us was something you can't replace," Jamey says. "Throughout my family, there's not enough we can do to thank her." Kim was a rock for Jamey then, and she's a rock now, raising the twins while Jamey lives out his time-consuming and travel-necessitating dream of playing Major League Baseball for a living. Jamey and Kim were friends in high school in Indiana, but they never dated. They kept in touch through e-mails over the years, but it wasn't until Jamey made the Expos out of Spring Training in 2003 and traveled to San Francisco early in the season that their relationship truly blossomed. Kim lived in San Francisco and worked as a corporate recruiter for the Gap, and a group of old friends from school met up for dinner one night. "A couple weeks later," Jamey remembers, "we started more than just e-mails. And it wasn't much longer after that, we were engaged and then married." In Kim, Jamey has found a partner who is not only understanding of the demands of his profession but also a sports fanatic. He smiles when he talks about coming home from games late at night, only to find Kim still up and watching a ballgame on the West Coast. "She has friends who are still on the Rockies [for whom Jamey played in 2006 and '07]," he says. "She'll bring me up to speed on who's done what. She even does that with guys I played with in Montreal and Washington. She tells me half the stuff going on before I even see it. It's fun, it's great." Jamey lost two women who meant a great deal to him, and that's made him appreciate the woman by his side -- and the Mother's Day holiday -- all the more. "I appreciate everything she does and deals with in this lifestyle," he says. "I appreciate who she is to her own kids. I know how important a mom is and was to me, and I definitely look at my kids and how special their mom is to them."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.