Schafer has enjoyed Jeanette Valdes' cooking for years, dating back to his days with Martin in the Brewers' Minor League chain. But the tradition goes much further back, all the way to Maldonado's boyhood in Puerto Rico, where Valdes was the primary caregiver for three children active in baseball and softball.
She worked long days registering voters for one of Puerto Rico's political parties, but none of her children ever missed a game or went hungry.
"I always wanted to make things easier for them," Valdes said during a phone interview. "Food was ready when they woke up, so they could eat breakfast and go to the park. I used to wake up at 3 o'clock in the morning to start making food."
Her specialties include rice and beans with pork chops, tostones (fried plantain slices) and chicken soup, Maldonado said.
Often, she packed meals for her children -- and other children -- to eat on the go.
"I didn't mind all of that," Valdes said. "I think when you're a mother, you have to be responsible for your kids. If they love baseball, you go with them to the baseball field to support them. There were days when I would get out of work and go with Martin to the park, then go to another park for Carlos, my other son. And my baby girl, too. Every Saturday and Sunday was like that. My friends would always, say, 'God bless you.'"
Valdes was born in New York City but moved to Puerto Rico when she was 11, and grew up to raise three children of her own. Carlos is older than Martin and they have a younger sister, Adelys.
"She was a mother and a father to me," Maldonado said. "She worked Monday to Saturday, so we always had everything we needed for school and sports. And she taught us to take care of ourselves."
"It was real hard," Valdes said. "But I knew [Martin] was a special player when he was 11 years old and we went to Tennessee [for a tournament]. When I saw him play against those other players, champion players, I could see he was a good player. He was going to make it."
Maldonado's grandmother made the same prediction years earlier, when she noticed Martin's natural intelligence on the field, even as a 5-year-old. Martin was the latest in a long line of catchers, including his father and his mother. Valdes was a good softball player as a young woman.
When the Angels drafted Maldonado in the 27th round in 2004, mom made him promise to remember where he came from. So after he established himself in the big leagues with the Brewers, Maldonado threw a Three Kings Day party for kids in his hometown, Naguabo, with help from his representatives at Praver Shapiro Sports Management and the Brewers Community Foundation.
His mother has attended every year since.
"Sometimes people, when they get big in their life, they forget where they come from," Valdes said. "You have to give. If God gives you something nice, you should share that with persons who have less than you have. Martin is doing good."