Thursday, April 26, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Fatherhood looks good on Longoria

PORT CHARLOTTE

The Tampa Bay Rays' most productive player has delivered again.

This time, you can suggest that it was his biggest hit of all.

Evan Longoria, father, could not keep the smile off his face. He stood by his locker, a pink gift bag in his chair, and kept talking about Elle, about the parts of his new daughter that remind him of his girlfriend Jaime Edmondson, about the part that remind him of himself.

This was not Longo at the bat, and it was not Longo in the field, and it was not Longo on his way to the bank. It was a completely human moment, one that many of us will find relatable, and you could not help but smile along as Longoria talked of the moments leading up to the birth of his daughter.

Elle was born Wednesday night, arriving six weeks premature. Funny. Her dad always seemed to be in a hurry, too. She was small, only 4 pounds, 1 ounce, but she was healthy.

"She's beautiful," said Longoria, 27. "It was pretty miraculous. Like nothing I've ever experienced.

"I only got to hold her for a quick second. She was premature, so she had to go right away. But it was amazing."

Instead, Longoria watched her through the glass in her incubator for premature infants, transfixed by the child in front of him. You have seen him celebrate home runs, and you have seen him make big plays in the field. This was better than any of them.

And just like that, everything changes.

Who knows? Fatherhood might be the best thing that can happen in the career of Evan Longoria.

The birth of a child can settle a man. It can give him perspective, and focus, and direction. It can make him grow up. Longoria has always seemed to be a mature player, but maybe, just maybe, this can help. Jack Nicklaus once said that fatherhood helped calm him during his career. Maybe it will do the same with Longo.

"I think it's going to be great for me," Longoria said. "It'll be great to be able to settle in and be a family. It's going to have a positive effect."

Longoria's father, Mike, agrees.

"I think it's going to be good for him mentally," Mike said. "I think it will calm him. It will make him full."

Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is awaiting the birth of his fourth grandchild this summer, has seen it before.

"I've always believed this, not only for a player but for the rest of us," Maddon said. "You really don't understand what the word 'sacrifice' means until you've had your own child. You really don't understand what it means to subjugate yourself to another human being. Having a baby totally puts the world in perspective. Things are revealed to you that are otherwise kept secret until you have that child.

"I think it starts with giving of yourself to someone else. It really tames your ego down. I think it lends to more focus, more direction, with whatever you're doing. I think it expedites the maturation process. Perspective slaps you in the face."

Hitting coach Derek Shelton says he expects fatherhood to calm Longoria.

"I think it's going to be good for him," Shelton said. "I don't think it's going to hurt him, except that he might not sleep during spring training."

The other side of it is this. Having a child at home can make baseball easier.

"I think it's easier to play," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "When you get home and you see your son or daughter, you instantly forget what happened at the park. It makes it a lot easier to put the bad things away. You can't be mad at yourself; you have to be dad."

"Your focus goes elsewhere," outfielder Sam Fuld said. "It takes the pressure off, because you appreciate what really matters."

Consider, for instance, the way Longoria studied to prepare for this. On Saturday, he talked about gestation periods and child development and premature birth, all things he studied. He talked about how lungs are the last thing to develop in a fetus, and how relieved he was to hear her cry because of it.

Longoria got the phone call Tuesday night; because of Edmondson's blood pressure, doctors decided to induce labor the next day. Longoria already had bags packed away in his car — one for Jaime, one for him, one for the baby. He threw his computer in a bag and headed east for Boca Raton.

"The longest 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life," he said.

Inside the delivery room, things went quickly, Longoria said. Not that there weren't some moments along the way.

"For people who haven't been at a natural childbirth, it's the most … I don't know if gruesome is the right word," he said. "It's like the most beautifully ugly thing you've ever seen. We were joking about it. Jaime was going through the process and the nurse was coming in and telling her things that may happen, and she said, 'Man, how come none of my friends told me this would happen.'

"We were making the joke that it was like Men in Black when they give people the neurolizer. They look into the light, and you forget everything once you have the baby and you see that baby for the first time. You could have seen anything, and all you remember is that beautiful baby's face and how happy it makes you feel to hear her cry for the first time and hold her the first time."

Later, baseball will seem important again. Later, the Rays third baseman will get to proving he is finally healthy.

For now, Longoria is getting used to this fatherhood stuff.

At first glance, you would have to say it looks good on him.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 9 a.m. until noon on 98.7-FM the Fan.

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