Cubs News

What Mother’s Day means to the Cubs

3 months agoTony Andracki and Andy Martinez

In the most difficult of moments, Willson Contreras always knew who he could turn to.

Whether it was a bad game, a tough day in a foreign country or any other trying moment in his life, Contreras knew he could always count on his mom, Olga Castillo, to help him work through the moment.

“Thanks to God, we’ve always been a united family,” Contreras said.

Contreras left his mom and home as a teenager — by the time he was 19, he was in the United States for the first time.

“Very difficult at an early age [to leave her] for a long time,” Contreras said. “I think it was difficult for my mom, too, to see her children leave and be in a whole different country where we don’t know anything, not even the language or culture.”

That’s part of the sacrifices that Castillo made for both Contreras and his younger brother, William, as they chased their goals of becoming major leaguers.

All that was rewarded for their parents on April 28. That’s when William was called up to the Braves as they were taking on the Cubs. The pair shared a heartwarming moment in which they exchanged their respective teams’ lineup cards before the game.

“For them, it meant every single sacrifice that they made was worth the pain,” Contreras said. “The education that they gave us, showing us good from bad. I can’t do anything but thank God for the parents we were given, especially my mom and dad.

“We want to keep having success so they can continue to be proud.”

Nowadays, both of Contreras’ parents spend a few months a year in the United States with him and William, then return to Venezuela, before they meet up again in the offseason. Visas only allow them to stay for a few months, but they make sure to make the most of it.

His parents are with him right now, so Contreras will get to celebrate Mother’s Day with Castillo.

“My mom is the biggest thing I have,” Contreras said. “She does whatever she needs to do for her children. My mom has always been a big example for all of us.”

 
 
 
 
 
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Contreras isn’t alone in the Cubs clubhouse. Mother’s Day is a special occasion for many of his teammates, as well.

Patrick Wisdom is looking forward to celebrating the holiday with his mom, Colleen, who makes the trek to Chicago often to see her son play. She lives in Southern California so she attends every Cubs game she can when the team is on the West Coast, as it will be next week with stops in San Diego (Monday through Wednesday) and Arizona (Friday through Sunday).

“She’s been an important backbone in our family in terms of making sure we’re getting to where we need to be on time, sacrificing hours of her job to get us places,” Wisdom said. “She’s like the ultimate mom out there — she does all the worrying and stressing for us so we don’t have to. She bears a lot.

“My brother and I are so thankful for her. We pretty much talk to her every single day.”

Wisdom still remembers when he was promoted to a major league roster for the first time in August 2018 with the Cardinals.

His first reaction was to call his parents…but he didn’t get an answer from either his mom or dad. He kept calling and calling but was unable to reach them because they were out to dinner and not looking at their phones.

When he finally got through, he played it coy for a little while before sharing the good news — which was followed by excited shouting and tears.

That moment was the culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice from the entire Wisdom family.

“In college, my coach would be like, ‘I don’t have to tell you what to do because your mom yells at you from the stands anyways. If you swing at a bad pitch, your mom’s gonna yell at you, not me,'” Wisdom said. “I don’t think she ever missed a game growing up. She knew me, she knew my playing style, she knew my brother’s playing style. She knew us.

“There’s no better coach than someone who sees you every single day. She knew what was going on, if it was going bad or if it was going good.”

Justin Steele made his MLB debut early last season. The Cubs called him up from the alternate site to Milwaukee on short notice so Steele’s parents weren’t able to make it in time for his April 12 appearance.

But they were in town for the following day and Steele pitched on the 14th in Milwaukee.

“You work your whole life to get somewhere and she was there every step of the way,” Steele said of his mom, Nicki. “For it to finally come true, it’s a big moment for both of us. Definitely some happy tears.”

Steele grew up in Mississippi and was drafted by the Cubs in the 5th round in 2014. He’s grown up in this organization but he hasn’t forgotten where he came from and who helped him get here.

“She drove me all over the country for showcases and took me to all my ball tournaments growing up,” Steele said. “She was always there and my No. 1 fan. All the credit to her. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to be here and wouldn’t have the opportunity. My mom’s very special to me.”

Steele paused and then reiterated:

“Like, I would not be here without her.”

Nicki is able to pop in and out throughout the season to watch Steele pitch. He said she’s as supportive as ever, even if it’s sometimes from afar. She texts and calls regularly and relays all the messages from friends and family members back home.

 
 
 
 
 
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Mother’s Day can be an emotional time for Steele’s teammate, Mychal Givens.

The veteran reliever was raised by his great-grandmother, Liduvina Padilla. She passed away two winters ago at the age of 93.

“This will be the second Mother’s Day,” Givens said. “[I think about her] always. Everything I’ve done in my career is pretty much impacted because of her.”

Givens’ mom had him at a young age, so Padilla became the maternal figure in his life. She was the driving force behind Givens’ baseball career.

Padilla was born in Puerto Rico in 1928 and watched Roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson become influential figures in baseball history.

“She was old school and raised me to be old school,” Givens said. “They kinda put me out there [on the baseball field] to see how I liked it and influenced me to stay in it. She always supported me in everything I did.

“She stepped in to raise me to get where I’m at. To be a good human being, good baseball player and good person in the community.”

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