The 35-year-old infielder was beaming when talking about the recent feat of his 5-year-old daughter, Adriana. One of Aviles’ four children, Adriana was diagnosed with leukemia last May. But after undergoing a bone-marrow transplant in December, she was declared cancer-free.
Before the utter elation of such a pronouncement, it had been a trying year for the Aviles family, one that made him gain an even deeper appreciation for the mother of his children.
Adriana was diagnosed at the Cleveland Clinic while Aviles was still playing with the Cleveland Indians and was then transferred to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Aviles’ wife, Jessy, was pregnant when the couple learned the devastating news and they felt it best for her to be back in her home state of Utah for the remainder of her pregnancy and Adriana’s treatments. She split time with their three kids -- Adriana has a twin sister and an older sister -- while shuttling Adriana to and from treatments, all while carrying their fourth child, who would later turn out to be the baby boy of the family (now 5 months old).
Jessy had the help of her cousin, who was the family’s nanny that summer, and that of her mom, but, as Aviles said, “At the end of the day, when you’re a mom, you’re a mom,” and so the bulk of the duties fell to her. She handled it with both the type of grace and strength that left him in awe.
“Through all that with my daughter, watching her go through splitting time with my twins, dealing with being pregnant, doing all that stuff … my wife is a really good mother. A really, really good mother. There’s no one better, I can tell you that much,” Aviles told ESPN.com.
That’s always been a quality in his wife that he has cherished, but it took on a new meaning after what they endured together.
“I saw it growing up and then being with my wife, one of the things my wife always does, and I’ve always noticed this, is she's pretty much the rock of our family,” Aviles said. “She’s the glue to our family and the one that makes our family click.”
That is one way that his wife resembles his own mother, Maddy, who raised him and his two siblings in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, New York.
Aviles’ mom, who still works as a legal secretary, always made sure her children had everything they needed. Aviles' mom and his father, who used to be a banker, worked hard to make sure of that, even if it meant missing out. A lot of times it would be Aviles’ grandparents who would bring them to baseball practices and games. When he was a kid, he didn’t necessarily understand why his mom was working extra hours around the holidays, but he does now.
“I know there were a lot of times where there were things she wanted or wanted to do but didn’t because we either had Christmas coming up or a birthday coming up or something like that. She would rather not get something for herself or not go on this vacation … and get us what we wanted for our birthday or Christmas," Aviles said.
“You don’t realize it when you’re a kid because you’re like, ‘Oh, wow, I got what I wanted, this is great,’ and you just think your family is made of money. And then you get older and you start realizing they’re not made of money and they really work hard, and you start realizing why they work the extra hours around Christmas and birthdays. You realize the sacrifices that family makes.”
Aviles is thankful this is one trait both his mother and his wife share, though there are others as well (“They both keep me in check, which I need, because I’m a loose wire,” he jokes).
That sacrifice and selfless commitment his wife has made over the past year has put things in perspective, and Aviles plans to celebrate that on Sunday. His appreciation for the job has taken on new depth.
“Absolutely, and for mothers in general,” Aviles said. “And in all honestly, I always have because of what my mom sacrificed for me growing up.”