Wherever Correa goes, family has his back

Astros top prospect's arrival culmination of work ethic inherited from father

Wherever Correa goes, family has his back

CHICAGO -- Carlos Correa Sr. had gone many nights without much sleep, training his son, Carlos Jr., from a young age at 5 a.m. before breaking and then resuming into the night.

The night before his son made his Major League debut, Carlos Sr. and his family, once again, didn't sleep. It wasn't because they were nervous, but because they were excited.

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"He works so hard; we have nothing to be nervous about," Carlos Sr. said through Frankie Higginbotham, Correa's interpreter and agent, while holding out his hand to show that he wasn't shaking. "[Carlos Jr.] doesn't take for granted who he is. He works hard, as if he needs to work every day because he's not ready."

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Correa works quickly. It was just three years and four days ago that Correa's family was in New Jersey to watch the Astros select him with the 2012 Draft's No. 1 overall pick. Correa is ranked by MLB.com as the No. 2 prospect in the game.

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"Ever since he was drafted, he told me he was going to work extremely hard to make this happen as soon as possible," Carlos Sr. said. "To be able to have it on the same day the Draft is happening is something special."

On Monday night, Correa -- 20 years, 259 days old -- became the youngest player in the Major Leagues this year, starting at shortstop and batting sixth for Houston against the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field. Correa recorded his first big league hit with a fourth-inning RBI infield single off White Sox lefty Chris Sale.

And before he was set to play, Correa's family -- a group of nearly a dozen -- arrived at the park to see Carlos for the first time since Spring Training. They all wore Astros T-shirts with Correa's name on the back, made nearly a week in advance (and before his shirt or jersey will be released) for the moment he might be called up.

Still, Correa's family had kept up with him by watching all of his Minor League games while he was playing for Triple-A Fresno, and they were the first to know of his callup once he was told.

"The first thing I did was talk to my family, because it is teamwork," Correa said. "It was something we did together. They made a lot of sacrifices, so it was a great moment for us and we were really excited for this opportunity."

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"We told him to be who he is and enjoy it, because it's not going to happen again," Carlos Sr. said.

Really, Carlos Sr. has been there through every game. Carlos Jr. went hitless during a doubleheader while at Double-A Corpus Christi, and before the next game, his dad called to tell him to stop slouching. The next game, Correa went 3-for-4 with a home run.

Even without much experience, Carlos Sr. worked on nearly every facet of the shortstop's game, putting him through simulated games to take nearly 40-50 at-bats or bringing in pitchers to help him handle curveballs or sliders.

Correa's family took odd jobs after a hurricane hit to allow the young infielder to keep playing when he had to travel more than an hour just to play with another travel team.

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Even his Little League team in his hometown of Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, gave its profits to Correa so that he could continue practicing. Now, the city of approximately 23,000 is live streaming his big league debut in its plaza for all to watch. Higginbotham has received hundreds of phone calls or texts about Correa.

"It's been an immense sacrifice and satisfaction to be here right now," Carlos Sr. said. "It's a group effort."

Thanks to a night of short rest, Correa has apparently inherited his sleep routine from his father.

"[I slept] maybe two to three hours," Carlos Jr. said with a smile.

Greg Garno is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.