LOS ANGELES -- Eight months into fatherhood, Chris Withrow has a whole new appreciation for Mother's Day and his mom, Judy Withrow.
"I've been playing baseball as long as I can remember and my mom has been taking me to T-ball practice and Little League practice, tagging around on travel-ball teams," said Withrow, who has emerged as a key piece of the Dodgers bullpen this season with a 0.57 ERA through his first 15 appearances.
"She's been there from Day One and she's still right there. I get a text every day after I pitch. She's been a huge supporter from the very beginning."
Mom still lives in the Odessa, Texas, area, where the 25-year-old Withrow grew up and still makes his home. After years of those T-ball and Little League and travel ball, Withrow starred at Midland Christian High School. The Dodgers took him with the 20th overall pick in the 2007 Draft, which they received as compensation for the free-agent signing of Julio Lugo.
Scouting director Logan White compared Withrow at the time to John Smoltz in delivery and body type. Withrow's father, Mike, pitched in the White Sox Minor League system and was his pitching coach.
Since the Draft, Withrow's climb to the Major Leagues has hit a few speed bumps. A few nagging injuries and some wildness led to his transition to relief, a role he now relishes. But it's one that keeps his parents back in Texas uncertain when he'll pitch.
"Especially playing on the West Coast, when we're out in California it's two hours later back home, she'll text me like, 'Hey, nice job. I'm going to sleep now that you're finished,' he said. "They're up late watching the games. I can always feel the support."
Last Sept. 18, Withrow hit another of life's milestone when wife Jaclyn delivered their first child, Walker Reid. So Withrow is seeing from a father's perspective the demands placed on his son's mother.
"It's a tough job, especially for our first one," he said. "It's kind of new to us, and she does a better job than I can ever imagine. Even before she had the kid, the way she handles the whole situation. And now that we have the kid, now that the little guy's here, it changes our perspective on life. We now are caring for another one and she does such a great job taking care of him when we're gone and also being a support factor in my life.
"It's hard to understand the sacrifices that are made. My dad also played. It was before I was born, but the sacrifices you have to make as a player, being away from the family a little bit, it also makes it better when you come home and see the big smile on your baby's face and your wife's happy to see you. So I understand what they went through and I appreciate it even more, looking back on all the times that they may have missed something they had planned because we had baseball."
He said his Mother's Day wish never changes from year to year, or from day to day.
"For Mother's Day, I always wish for good health, that's the main thing," he said. "I'm just so thankful for all the time that they've spent getting me to where I am now."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less