SAN FRANCISCO -- Angel Pagan referred to his mother, Gloria, as his first manager. Not a coach. Not a teacher. Manager.
The term fit. Besides being involved with Angel's first team, a T-ball squad he joined at age 6, Gloria met her son's every baseball-related need. The bond they shared, through athletics and otherwise, was unbreakable."She's a big part of my career," said Pagan, who played catch with Mom until three or four years ago. "It makes her feel really special." To some extent, Gloria was being a practical parent.
Young Angel needed an athletic outlet. Once he learned to run, he didn't stop. The Pagans lived in a small apartment in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Besides his parents, Angel had a brother and sister, thus crowding the living space further. So he needed room to roam."I was a very, very energetic kid," said Pagan, now the Giants' center fielder. "She didn't know what to do with me. I was driving her crazy. So she put me on a baseball field so I could spend all the energy at the same time." Angel also needed a constructive outlet, given the perils that Rio Piedras presented.
"She wanted us to take a different path," he said. "It was tough to come out of that place a good person. Selling drugs or something. It was a bad neighborhood. A lot of my friends couldn't survive that world. But she made me strong enough to forget about that path and go to the positive one."Finally, Gloria simply wanted to bequeath her love of the game to Angel.
"She had baseball in her blood," Pagan said, citing his mother's desire to play so much that she joined a men's fast-pitch softball team and played first base.You can imagine how tough Gloria had to be to compete alongside men.
"That's the same way she was when she was my manager," Angel said. "She wanted to teach me that no matter how hard things are, you can go ahead and survive."Through baseball, she also taught Angel some basic lessons about life. Be responsible. Arrive on time. Better yet, arrive early. Stay dedicated to your task.
In this respect, she continues to serve as an example. Once or twice a season, Gloria, who still lives in Puerto Rico, visits Angel and his family to watch him play. Otherwise, she continues to work for the government.
"She likes to stay busy," Pagan said.Angel also played basketball, and he developed an ardor for boxing which continues to this day.
"But there was something about baseball," he said. "I fell in love with the sport."
He has his mother to thank for that.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.