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News » Stan Hochman: Phillies GM Amaro always will have his mother in his corner

Stan Hochman: Phillies GM Amaro always will have his mother in his corner

Stan Hochman: Phillies GM Amaro always will have his mother in his corner
GROWING UP, the Amaro boys were fire and ice. Tennis, Wiffle ball, hoops in the driveway, the result was almost always the same.

"Ruben, he wanted to win at everything," Judy Amaro Perez recalled. "He was very, very competitive. David would shrug and say, 'If it means that much to you, hey, you can win,' and there were times when he'd let him win. But they never fought. No fights, no punchouts, nothing like that."

David graduated from Duke. He's in real estate. Ruben graduated from Stanford. He's in Baseball, the newly minted general manager of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies .

He is off to a black-and-gray start, the color of X-rays. Surgery for Chase Utley and Pedro Feliz, a trade of prospects, the hiring of assistants, approving two replacement coaches. Will Mom offer any suggestions?

"Never," she says swiftly. "But I do ask a lot of questions. And mostly, he says, 'Relax, Mom.' "

His mom says he will bring a player's perspective to the job, prepared for the oxygen-lean peaks, ready for the fog-shrouded valleys. Thick, thin, high, low, sometimes in the same month.

"Look at his own career," she said, her voice raspy after teaching five classes in Spanish at Frankford Friends School. "Lenny Dykstra got hurt that year, they called Ruben up. He'd get two hits a game, steal bases, score the winning run. It was magical.

"And then, he went into a slump. Maybe 0-for-30, I'm not sure how long it lasted."

It was 1992, and at first it was great fun for the writers and the fans. Local boy makes very, very good. Grandson of a Mexican superstar, son of a big-league shortstop, former batboy, hitting .600-and-something for his hometown team. For a week. Mom glowed through that week, grimaced through the next week. She has seen Baseball's fire and Baseball's rain, so nothing surprises her.

"Ahhhh, 1964," she sighed. "All my years in Baseball, all the different hats I've worn, that was the biggest disappointment. You hate to use the word tragedy to describe it, in light of some of the horrible things happening in the world, but that was a Baseball tragedy.

"People who say Baseball is boring, let them look at the end of that season. Things you expected to happen, didn't happen. Things you never expected to happen, happened.

"I don't share the opinion that the pitching was overused. It was just, simply, a nightmare."

She was a teenager when she met Ruben Amaro Sr. "My sister Marlene taught English to Pancho Herrera and Tony Taylor," she explained. "Ruben would drive them to our house for the lessons.

"I was a fan, all those summer nights, portable radio, front steps, listening to By Saam and Bill Campbell.

"I graduated high school that May. We were married that December. We just ran off and got married."

Jewish girl from Northeast Philly marries Cuban Baseball player raised in Mexico.

"My mother was very forward-thinking," Judy recalled. "She was fine with it."

They split in 1987. She married Will Perez 6 years ago. "A wonderful man," she said. "Please put him in the story. He gets overshadowed. He says it doesn't bother him, but it bothers me."

She has continued the family "tradition," teaching English to Latino players. "I taught Vicente Padilla English and he was very good," she said, grinning. "He still uses a translator, but he doesn't really need one.

"And [Phillies president] David Montgomery is aware of the many Latino players in major league Baseball. He had me teach classes in Spanish to front-office people, so they can communicate with the players."

Ruben Sr. was a coach on that 1980 team that won the World Series, Ruben Jr. was the team's batboy. "I rode in that parade," she said. "And what I remember is that sea of red when we drove into the stadium. You could feel the love. I lost it. I cried and cried and cried."

And this year? "We didn't ride in the parade," she said. "We sat behind the Phillies' dugout and waited for the team to arrive. Ruben blew us a kiss and that was memorable."

Two days later, Ruben was named general manager. David was there. He has two sons, 16-year-old Andrew and 18-year-old Robert. Robert is a big, strong prospect, who recently signed a letter of intent at Virginia. Someone the Phillies might sign, to complete Judy's trifecta, Baseball wife, Baseball mom, Baseball grandma?

"I don't think so," she said, leaving unspoken those haunting fears of a sometimes cruel, always passionate fandom.

So, she is asked, would she, in her heart of hearts, be happier if Ruben got his dream job in some other big-league city?

"No," she answered swiftly. "It was a blessing that he played in a city where he was born and raised. That was like a miracle. And now, I'm comfortable that he will do this job. It won't be easy.

"I welcome the challenge for him. We all have thick skin. The comparisons will come, the conjecture will come. He will handle it." *

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Author:Fox Sports
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Added: December 2, 2008

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