How baseball trades hit home for players, their families

When Boston played the Los Angeles Angels two weeks ago, then-Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino's family met him in Anaheim for the weekend. After the Red Sox were swept during the four-game series, Victorino's 4-year old son, Kingston, couldn't stop talking about how good the Angels were.

"It was funny," Victorino said. "He kept telling my wife, 'Man, that Anaheim team is good.' My little guy knows baseball."

One week later, after pregame batting practice, Victorino was told by Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington he'd been traded the Angels. After getting the news, the 34-year old outfielder lingered in the home team's clubhouse at Fenway Park for the last time. An emotional Victorino was in no rush to pack up and bolt from the team that had helped him revive his career and took him to his second World Series title two years ago.

The first person he called from the clubhouse was his wife, Melissa, who was back at their offseason home in Las Vegas with Kingston and 8-year-old daughter Kali'a. When Victorino told his son where he was going to be playing, a smile finally crept over his face.

"I tried to explain to him that Daddy is going to be in Anaheim now, and he said, 'Oh, Daddy you're on a good team again!'" Victorino said. "It's funny that a little kid like that understands a little more than sometimes we think he does. He doesn't know exactly what's going on, but he knows when the other team wins and the fireworks go off. He was just happy Daddy was going to be on a good team again."

As Victorino prepared for his third game with the Angels on Saturday, Jim Johnson was down the hall in the home team clubhouse at Dodger Stadium for the first time. The 32-year-old reliever had been sent from the Atlanta Braves to Los Angeles as part of a three-team, 13-player deal that also involved the Florida Marlins on Thursday, the day before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline.

"It was a very confusing trade," said Johnson, who led the American League in saves in 2012 and '13. "There were a lot of moving pieces, and I don't know if I can even begin to decipher it. It was weird."

Johnson was going through Dodgers clothes for women and children in front of his locker before picking out about a dozen pieces to send to his family. The Johnsons live in Sarasota, Florida, in the offseason, but wife Elizabeth, 3-year-old son Levi and 8-year-old daughter Abby travel regularly to see Johnson play during the summer. They couldn't visit him in Los Angeles after the trade but will be in Pittsburgh this weekend when the Dodgers play the Pirates.

"My wife started doing this thing in my son's room, where she'll put up a pennant from each team in his room," he said.

The number of pennants on Levi's walls has grown from one to five in the past two years. After eight seasons with the Baltimore Orioles, Johnson has been with the Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers, Braves and now the Dodgers since the end of the 2012 season.

The constant change has not been easy on Elizabeth, who is 7½ months pregnant and helping pack up Johnson's place in Atlanta after he was with the Braves for about eight months. Elizabeth, who met Johnson in 2004 while he was pitching at Class-A Delmarva in Maryland, understands the business of baseball. But that's not always the case with children.

"My son doesn't really get it," Johnson said. "My daughter kind of understands it and took it pretty hard. So I send them some things to get them excited about the new team. I get them new jerseys and hats. My daughter loves notebooks, so I got couple of notebooks. It makes the transition easier for them I think."

Back in the visiting clubhouse at Dodger Stadium, David Murphy was awaiting a phone call from his wife, Andrea, who was flying into Los Angeles with their four children. The 33-year old outfielder, who lives in Texas in the offseason, was traded to the Angels from the Cleveland Indians last week.

"After it was done, the challenge was figuring out all the moving parts -- how to get one car back to Texas, how to get one car out here," Murphy said. "What are we going to pack in each one? What are we going to do with the family? When are they going to come to California? When are they going to go to Texas for school? There are a lot of moving parts that have to be dealt with during a chaotic few days."

In 2013, Murphy experienced a different sort of chaos regarding a team change. When he agreed to a two-year, $12 million deal with Cleveland just before Thanksgiving, his daughter, Faith, inadvertently leaked the news to her preschool class while they were discussing Pilgrims and Native Americans. The news that her dad was going to be an Indian seemed harmless except for the fact that the deal wasn't done. Word quickly spread from the classroom to social media.

"It's not the best situation," Murphy said at the time. "But it's a good story to tell her when she gets older."

Murphy can laugh about that now and shakes his head when he recalls the last time he was dealt at the trade deadline. When he was a minor leaguer in the Red Sox organization eight years ago, he was traded to the Texas Rangers, who called him up to the majors a week later.

"At the time I had been married for two years and we just had our first child," Murphy said. "So it was a challenge, but it wasn't nearly the challenge this is now from a family standpoint."

Victorino's trade took him from last place in the AL East to first place in the AL West at the time. It also sent him 3,000 miles from Boston to Anaheim. Moving a family cross-country while being asked to put on a new uniform in a new city in a matter of hours and act as if nothing has changed might have been tougher than facing Clayton Kershaw on Saturday.

"That's the hardest part -- picking up your family and moving them," Victorino said. "Your family gets accustomed to certain things, and especially your kids. You try to explain things to them, but it's hard. I know what's going on. I understand the business. This is the game I love. I try to focus on what I can do as a player, but the family aspect is the most difficult part -- trying to explain what's happening and why it's happening."

This is the second time Victorino has been traded across the country to a Los Angeles team at the deadline. Three years ago, he was sent from the Philadelphia Phillies, where he'd played for eight seasons and won a World Series, to the Dodgers. So Victorino's wife already knew the routine when she flew to Boston last week to oversee the latest move. The family was reunited in Los Angeles on Sunday and is looking for a place to rent this week.

"Those are the kinds of life-changing things you have to go through while also focusing on why you're here," Victorino said. "But I have another opportunity to make a run at the playoffs, so you can't sit here and be frustrated by that. You have to be happy."

When Victorino addressed the media in Boston after the trade, he was overcome by emotion when talking about his time with the Red Sox and about retiring his walk-up song, Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," out of respect for what it meant to the city. Red Sox fans would sing the song's chorus -- "Everything little thing gonna be all right" -- even after the music had stopped while Victorino was in the batter's box. The words gained meaning in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

"People embraced the song, "Victorino said, "and I got emotional thinking about that. ... To think I was able to get a region to embrace a song as an athlete and to know every time I dug into the box at Fenway, they were singing 'Three Little Birds,' and I got emotional to think I was never going to hear that again."

Victorino wasn't the only player moved to tears by trade news. New York Mets infielder Wilmer Flores, who is 23 and has been in the organization since he was 16, cried on the field when a buzz spread through Citi Field that he was being moved.

"I watched that and I said that's exactly what's wrong with our game," Victorino said. "The fact that news gets spread so instantly and sometimes before we even know."

In this case, the news was premature. The trade that reportedly would send Flores and Zack Wheeler to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Gomez was never completed.

"It's a life-changing experience, and sometimes we're blessed to know before everybody else knows, but look at that instance with that kid," Victorino said. Everyone in the stadium supposedly knew that this trade went down. The manager doesn't even know, and this kid is crying in the game and someone has to tell the manager. The information gets spread so fast now, almost too fast. It's hard enough dealing with the realities of a trade."