TORONTO -- Donna Torres was sitting in the stands at the Rogers Centre Sunday afternoon when a fan sitting behind her figured out she was related to one of the Red Sox players.
“He said, ‘Who are you?’ I said, ‘I’m Mike Napoli's mom,’" Torres said. “The fan said, ‘Whoa, maybe he’ll do something good for you.’ I said, ‘He always does.’"
It’s not as if Torres rises from her seat, framed in soft light a la Glenn Close in “The Natural,” when Napoli comes to the plate. But there is something preternatural about how her son plays on Mother's Day.
Sunday afternoon in Rogers Centre, Napoli did a good turn for both his mom and the Red Sox, hitting a three-run home run that catapulted the Red Sox to a four-run first inning in their 6-3 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays. It was their biggest first-inning outburst this season, and helped the Red Sox salvage the series finale after two one-sided losses in the first two games.
“Home opener and Mother’s Day," Torres said. “Those are the two games I never miss. And he’s always done well on Mother’s Day."
A check of the box scores on Baseball-reference.com confirmed that this wasn’t just a mother’s pride talking.
Napoli is batting .424 (14-for-33) on Mother’s Day. His home run Sunday off Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was his third Mother's Day blast. He also has doubled four times. Of the nine Mother’s Days on which he has played, he has hit safely in all but one of them. Since coming to the Red Sox, he’s 5-for-10 (.500) with two doubles and two home runs.
Napoli has always been close to his mother, who worked two jobs while raising him. While he spent this past winter in Boston because of jaw surgery to alleviate sleep apnea, his offseason home in south Florida is just four miles away from where his mother and her husband, Rick Torres, a retired firefighter, live.
Todd Claus, the Red Sox's Latin American coordinator and international cross-checker who signed Napoli for the Angels, once memorably described him this way: “He's a mama's boy. He'll tell you that. But at the same time, he's a dirtbag. He's one of the guys who fits right on our team."
Napoli’s sister, Michelle, was with his mother Sunday afternoon. Napoli once grabbed his mother’s cellphone and sent a text to Michelle while she was at school at Florida State, "Just want to let you know Michael is my No. 1 child. I'm sorry."
Before Sunday’s game, after taking his mother out to dinner the night before, Napoli tweeted this picture:
Happy Mother's Day momma Donna Rose!! It's because of you I'm where I'm today and the man I've become. I love you pic.twitter.com/cd9XQ3t9MQ— Mike Napoli (@MikeNapoli25) May 10, 2015
Napoli had come into the day batting just .165. In his past 10 games, he was 5-for-37, with just one home run, a three-run homer last Sunday in an 8-5 loss to the Yankees.
But his mother’s confidence has never wavered.
“When he hit the three-run home run in the last one," she said, “I sent him a text and said, ‘Go out there and just have fun. Do what you do best.’"
And on Sunday, with his mom watching, he was ever the obedient son.