ST. PETERSBURG -- Mother's Day is significant to Mikie Mahtook given the sacrifices his mom made for him and the guidance she offered.
Mahtook's father, Mike, died of cardiomyopathy when he was 4.
"Unexpectedly, he was healthy," said Mahtook, who was named after his father. "He'd been a college football player. He played at LSU. He was in shape. He was actually playing tennis with a bunch of doctors. And he dropped on the court and instantly died. He was 32.
"It was one of those things where he showed no symptoms. Nobody knew he had it. He played sports his whole life. It's kind of one of those freak things that happen and nobody should ever have to go through."
The hardship of losing his father was nothing compared to the hardship experienced by his mother, Mary Ann, who not only lost a husband, but was left to raise Mikie and his twin sisters, Catherine and Christina, who were 2 at the time.
"All I could do was just to take it a day at a time," Mary Ann said. "Otherwise it would get too overwhelming."
Mikie remembers the day his father died, but was too young to fathom what happened and what his mother faced.
"Now that I kind of know the concept of money a little bit, and how things work, and what paying bills is like and things like that, I think I can now understand what she went through," Mikie said. "She sacrificed her social life, her personal life, for the good of her three children. Not many people can say they did that."
Mikie described Mary Ann as athletic, but she didn't play sports. That didn't stop her from playing catch with her son, or hitting balls to him.
"She would take me out in the front yard," Mikie said. "She taught herself how to hit ground balls and fly balls to me in the front yard. It helped out a lot. It prepared me to go to practices."
Mary Ann also knew when to lean on Mikie's many uncles to step in when a man's hand was needed.
"She knew exactly what she was doing," Mikie said. "There was a lot of trial-and-error along the way. She didn't make many mistakes. She had a good feel for when she needed to step in and when she needed somebody else to step in."
Mikie's sporting events evolved into social activities for Mary Ann and the twins.
"My sisters and mom grew up in basketball gyms and at baseball fields," Mikie said. "They were stuck in this world from the very beginning and they supported me the entire time."
Mikie ended up playing baseball at LSU, the school where his father played linebacker for the Tigers' football team. He graduated with a degree in Sports Management and a minor in Business in advance of being selected by the Rays in the first round of the 2011 Draft (31st overall). He made his Major League debut on April 10 in Miami. Mary Ann and his sisters were there to share the special moment -- a family moment and a moment between a mother and her son.
"It was crazy amazing," Mary Ann said. "You anticipate what it's going to be like if it ever happens. But you can't, because it happens when you least expect it."
For all that Mary Ann Mahtook has accomplished in dire circumstances, she comes through as someone full of joy and a mother who cherishes her children.
"I don't think I did anything differently than most mommas, just gave my kids a lot of love," Mary Ann said. "I do feel very blessed that my kids turned out the way they did."
Mahtook knows how blessed he has been to have Mary Ann as his mother.
"She's one of the toughest critics on me, and one of the toughest people on me, of anyone," Mikie said. "She never let me get complacent or satisfied with where I was at. She knew. She's amazing."
Mahtook has started "The Mikie Mahtook Foundation," which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the education and prevention of heart disease, as well as other charitable causes.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.