There are nights, like Monday, when baseball is not so easy, even for Evan Longoria. He had bounced into a double play in the game's most promising moment, and his Rays ended up losing in 14 innings, to the Red Sox no less, and he, understandably, wasn't in much of a mood as he left the Trop. • But that changed a few minutes later when he got home, tiptoed quietly into the downstairs bedroom and looked in as Elle, the soon-to-be 4-month-old daughter of Longoria and girlfriend Jaime Edmondson, slept soundly.
"I always go in there, and give her a kiss on the forehead," Longoria said. "It goes back to the important things in life. Obviously what I do is important for the guys in this room and the people that follow us, but in real life, health, happiness and family is what's important.
"It definitely makes me happy to go home and see her. It definitely makes a bad day better."
Starting today, Father's Day forever will be different for Longoria, the Rays' 27-year-old star third baseman. It's his first since Elle (pronounced ELL) was born, six weeks prematurely, on Feb. 20.
"From Day 1 you kind of realize how important being a father is based off of simple necessities," Longoria said. "She needs you for everything. She can't do anything herself."
And Longoria is different because he is a father.
"I definitely don't have quite the drive to go out and stay out all night and do the things I used to do," Longoria said. "I feel like it definitely has made me more focused. I go home after games, I spend the mornings and early afternoons with them, and when I get here I'm able to kind of focus on baseball — and just baseball. My first couple years of playing, I had a lot going on, I was thinking about a lot of different things and at times it becomes overwhelming. It's hard to really focus on what you've got going on here. So it's been a lot easier this year."
Longoria doesn't get quite as much sleep as he used to, finds himself talking about things a little more diverse than the typical banal clubhouse banter, and packs a little differently for road trips — with a framed photo of Elle now on prominent display in his locker.
But he has taken well to the duties of fatherhood, even the messy part.
"I'm decent at changing diapers," he said. "I had an incident the other day where I had to throw her in the bathtub because she did a pretty good number on the diaper. But I can hold my own."
Obviously given the major-league schedule, Edmondson, 34, handles most of the parenting work, with an occasional hand from a relative or a night nurse. But when the Rays are home, they have a deal: Longoria gets to sleep in until 9 or so, then Edmondson gets a couple of hours for morning workouts and Pilates classes while he is on daddy duty.
"He gives her a bath, he dresses her, he brushes her hair, he takes her to the grocery store, they go out to breakfast," Edmondson said. "He's amazing. A lot of women ask me, and guys, too, how he is as a dad, and they are shocked that from Day 1 he's taken care of her by himself. They're like, 'You leave him and go to the gym?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I go to the gym.'
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"He has to be a dad in the morning. Whether he plays baseball at night, he's still her dad. So why wouldn't I trust him to watch her by himself?"
Plus, Edmondson said, he's "actually better at it than I am."
"He's definitely on top of it," she said. "I'm very thankful he's the kind of dad that is hands-on. A lot of time men are scared, when they're small, to hold them, or they want to wait until they're walking or talking. He's not at all like that. He's very cool, calm and collected."
Longoria brings some of the same methodical approach he has in baseball to fatherhood, reading books, talking with other parents, discussing different child-rearing ideas, such as the baby sign-language program they are considering.
He draws on the most natural resource — the way his parents, Mike and Mary Ellen (whom Elle is named for), raised him and his younger brothers and sister. "I was lucky enough to have great parenting — my parents are still married, and they gave me such a great foundation and structure and idea of what family life is," he said. "So I strive to raise my daughter like they raised us, because we've all turned out to be pretty good kids."
Longoria has thought — just a little — about the more complicated issues to come, such as discipline (he believes there's a balance in being parent and friend) and what the temptations and issues will be when Elle is a curious teenager. "Those are definite real-world things that I'll have to worry about when the time comes," he said. "Hopefully I can be prepared."
Though they "don't have any plans yet" to get married, Longoria said he and Edmondson plan to stay together and would like — in a few years — to have another child, he hopes a son.
But for now, they have their hands full with Elle, who is up to 13 pounds, plus his baseball career (and a restaurant/sports bar opening next month in Tampa) and Edmondson's modeling, and other projects.
And there's still some adjusting going on.
Last weekend, for example, they were out for dinner with some relatives in downtown St. Petersburg when Elle clearly needed a break. And right there on Beach Drive, in plain sight for fans to see and approach, was the Rays' $100 million man and three-time All-Star third baseman pushing a stroller, cooing sweet words to soothe a fussy daughter.
"It's still a reality check for me for people to see me that way," Longoria said. "I'm so used to going out and if people notice me, I'm by myself, or it's me and Jaime, or I'm with my friends. Now it's just different.
"It's kind of mind-boggling still that I'm pushing a little human being that's my own."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I'm very thankful he's the kind of dad that is hands-on. A lot of time men are scared, when they're small, to hold them, or they want to wait until they're walking or talking. He's not at all like that. He's very cool, calm and collected."
— Jaime Edmondson, Longoria's girlfriend and mother to Elle