Florida Marlins player Chris Coghlan had a major league present for his mother

Florida’s Chris Coghlan watches one of the two hits he got Friday in his Major League Baseball debut.

Associated Press

Florida’s Chris Coghlan watches one of the two hits he got Friday in his Major League Baseball debut.

TARPON SPRINGS — Heather Roefaro's Mother's Day gift didn't come Sunday.

It came three days earlier, when her son, former East Lake baseball star Chris Coghlan, called with the news that he had been promoted to the Florida Marlins from their Triple-A farm club.

And best of all, he wanted his mom in Denver to watch his major league debut.

"I was trying to stay calm," said Roefaro, 53. "I said, 'Chris, I don't have the money to go.' He called back five minutes later and said, 'Just book the flight. I'll pay for it. I want you there. There's only one first game.' "

A day later, Roefaro was in Colorado, surrounded by friends and family as the 23-year-old Coghlan stepped onto a baseball field as a major leaguer for the first time. Those who couldn't make the trip (he has two sisters, a brother, two stepbrothers and a stepsister) watched the game on TV. One of them was his younger brother Kevin, 22, a Marine stationed in Japan.

Coghlan, who played second base in the game, struck out in the first inning and walked in the third before collecting his first big league hit in the fifth, a single up the middle. He finished 2-for-4 and scored a run.

"I was just trying to make it seem like it was another game," Coghlan said Tuesday in a telephone interview from Milwaukee, where the Marlins are playing the Brewers.

When everything sunk in the next day, he realized it was anything but that.

"I was off Saturday and when you're on the bench, it's totally different," Coghlan said. "You look at the game and look around and see how many people there are in the stands, and you realize this is truly a blessing."

Coghlan's journey to baseball's highest level was not without hurdles.

When Coghlan was a sophomore in high school, his father, Tim Coghlan, who trained police officers, was killed in a car accident in Maryland. He was 44.

"Chris took it the hardest," Roefaro said. "That was who taught him how to play."

Coghlan left baseball briefly after his father died, choosing not to play in the summer of 2001. Before long, though, he was on the field again. And excelling.

As an East Lake senior in 2003, Coghlan was the St. Petersburg Times' Player of the Year. Although Arizona picked him in the 18th round of the Major League baseball amateur draft, Coghlan chose to attend the University of Mississippi, which proved to be a smart decision. After a stellar junior season, he was the 36th overall pick by the Marlins.

In Triple-A New Orleans this year, Coghlan was hitting .344 with three homers, nine doubles, a triple and 22 RBIs before getting promoted after a Marlins pitcher was injured.

"Everything seemed so surreal," Coghlan said.

For Roefaro, it still does.

Not that she's complaining.

"He told me he's giving me his ball from his first hit," Roefaro said. "I'm so excited."

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

Florida Marlins player Chris Coghlan had a major league present for his mother 05/12/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 8:00pm]

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