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‘Without her, I couldn’t do anything’: The story of how Alexander Canario’s mom helped him reach majors with Cubs

9 months agoAndy Martinez

CINCINNATI — Juana González cradled her arms around her son and began to lift. She had done it before countless times, lifting her baby boy, Alexander Canario.

But this time, he wasn’t a baby — he was a 5-foot, 11-inch, 165-pound man. Canario was recovering from double surgery — one on his left ankle and another on his left shoulder. Canario couldn’t do basic tasks without assistance.

“She would bathe me, she’d help me go to the bathroom,” Canario recalled Friday morning, soon after he was called up, awaiting his major-league debut. “She practically carried me. She couldn’t actually, but she would try. Thankfully I had a scooter with me to help.”

It was part of a gruesome recovery process for the Cubs prospect one that had him at one point questioning whether he’d play baseball again. Canario’s horrific injury happened last October while playing in the Dominican Winter League with Águilas Cibaeñas.

“I [had] never doubted that I was going to be able to achieve [playing in the big leagues], but when I got injured and I was on the floor, I had that thought in my mind to say, ‘Wow, I may not play ever again,’” Canario said.

Those doubts quickly evaporated when he spoke to the Cubs medical staff. He could come back, but it wouldn’t be easy or fast. The first step required the two operations which would take place in Chicago.

It was a scary thought for Canario. To go through two surgeries on his own and the recovery would be worrisome. To do so back in Chicago, far away from home and his comforts made it outright terrifying.

But, behind the scenes, the Cubs were trying to ease the burden. They asked Canario whether his family — his wife Lia de la Rosa, his young daughter Laia and his mom Juana — had passports and visas to travel from the Dominican Republic to the United States. He told the Cubs they didn’t, so behind the scenes, the team put in an effort to secure them.

“They were talking about getting a visa, but it was hard with COVID and the timing,” Canario said.

The Cubs wrote a letter in the visa process and eventually it was all sorted out. So, González accompanied Canario to Chicago for his operations and his wife and daughter went to Arizona where he would continue his rehab process.

In Chicago, González was his everything.

“She’d buy groceries and food,” Canario said. “She would cook the food, bring it to me in bed while I was resting or playing Playstation.”

After two weeks, the pair went to Arizona where the recovery continued and progressed. As his condition improved, his mother shouldered less and less of the load. As he required less help, he was able to add more on his baseball plate.

He began playing in rehab games with the Arizona Complex League Cubs on June 15. He played 7 games there and went 6-for-21 with a home run before joining High-A South Bend. There he was 10-for-39 but had 14 strikeouts and no home runs in 10 games before he was bumped up to Triple-A, where he succeeded in 2022.

His first week was a struggle — he was 3-for-22 with no extra-base hits and six strikeouts. But things began to improve. Over his next 30 games, he hit safely in 24 of them, clubbed 8 home runs and slashed .301/.360/.593 with a 129 wRC+. With September around the corner and him being on the 40-man roster, the possibility of a call-up loomed large.

Except, he didn’t want to think about that just given where he had been less than a year ago, not even able to take a shower or go grocery shopping without assistance. But he was called into Iowa manager Marty Pevey’s office. That’s when he got the news.

And he knew who he had to tell first — his mom.

“She was really happy, jumping up and down,” Canario said as he recalled the WhatsApp video call when he broke the news.

González jumped on a flight from the Dominican Republic on Friday morning and will be in Cincinnati in time for the second game of the doubleheader against the Reds, when her son could make his major league debut.

“Without her, I couldn’t do anything,” Canario said. “Having her was super important. It was the most important thing.”

González will have another chance to cradle Canario when she arrives in the Queen City. Only this time she’ll be hugging a major leaguer — one who wouldn’t be there without her.

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