Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is a really good major league player. He is rich, talented and handsome, an absolute rock star in Kansas City. And yet, beneath the polished veneer, is a work ethic learned from his father, Mike, who recently retired after 29 years as a firefighter, and his mom, Ileana, who escaped from Cuba at age 9.
"Let me tell you about Eric Hosmer," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore, unsolicited. "He personifies what it means to be a Kansas City Royal -- his professionalism, commitment, attitude, work habits -- better than any Royal since George Brett."
And most of it comes from his mom and dad.
What did your dad teach you about the value of work?
Hosmer: He worked shifts, 24 hours on, 48 off, but when my brother and I were playing travel ball and were going to a tournament, he would work three or four days in row, basically without sleep, so he could get the weekend off and go to the tournament. He was the head coach. So many days he'd walk in the door after 48 hours without sleeping, and my brother and I would ask him to throw BP to us. We were kids, we didn't understand that he was exhausted, but he never said no. Not one single time. So, when we (the Royals) get into Texas at 4 a.m., after playing a night game, and we play again that night, I think of my dad. I don't complain about being tired because I know how much harder he had it than me.
You think of your dad a lot, don't you?
Hosmer: Now I see (teammate) Alex Gordon passed out at 3 a.m. in the back of the plane as we are finishing a 10-day road trip because he is going to wake up the next morning and take the kids to school, while I am able to sleep until noon, then go to the park. So I see both sides.
How much admiration do you have for your father?
Hosmer: I keep things in perspective in my life because of him. I am playing major league baseball. He was running on one or two hours sleep, and he puts his life on the line when he runs into a building that is on fire. People are really depending on him. He is saving lives.
What did your mom teach you about the way to look at life?
Hosmer: As I've gotten older, I understand more about what she went through in Cuba. When we were kids, we didn't understand. We didn't ask her any difficult questions, and she didn't tell us about what she went through when she was our age. But as I have gotten to know and play with (Cubans) Kendrys (Morales) and Brayan (Pena), I understand better the adversity she went through, what life was like back then in Havana. But every day, her demeanor was the same, whether her day was good or bad, she's always happy to see us.
How bad was it for her?
Hosmer: She is the oldest of eight children. Her, and some other members of her family, didn't defect, they were selected for a lottery to get out. When she was leaving, they had to document everything they had in her house before they left. She had a teddy bear that she gave to a neighbor before she left. When they (Cuban officials) came in her house, they wanted to know about the missing teddy bear. They were pretty rough on her. This is just a young girl, and the way they were treating her was terrible. But she never felt sorry for herself.
What did her experience teach you?
Hosmer: She is so appreciative to be where she is now. That's why I work as hard as I do, so I can make enough money to make her happy. If I can make enough money, I can help everyone out, all the family. I have cousins from Cuba that live here (in the United States) now. I have second cousins back in Cuba. I can help pay for college for people in my family. I can help get a car paid for. I see the joy that brings to her. And that brings me joy.
Someday, you will become a parent. What lessons have you learned from your parents?
Hosmer: When you have children, things are no longer about you, they are about your children. That's why I have taken so long (to get married and have children), because I've been so focused on my career. That's the most important thing for me right now, it has to be so I can make enough money to help everyone. But when you have children, it's all about getting the kids whatever they want and whatever they need. I learned that from a dad that did everything for us even though he was going without sleep, I learned that from a mother who, every day we came home from school, made it like it was the best day of her life.