LeMahieu's father brought positivity and love

LeMahieu's father brought positivity and love

DENVER -- DJ LeMahieu is letting his father sleep a little more these days. He's not rousing dad from bed at some dawny hour, wanting to get in several hours of baseball before it gets too hot outside.

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But Tom LeMahieu still brings a smile to the face of his son, the Rockies' defending Gold Glove Award winner and could-be 2015 All-Star second baseman. As MLB.com celebrates Father's Day, the LeMahieus celebrate a relationship that began as playmate-to-playmate and stayed that way even though dad was teaching and raising him.

As a toddler and through elementary school, DJ LeMahieu depended on his dad to teach him how to compete, usually through made-up games, and father doubled as his coach until high school. But now, LeMahieu's father plays a way more important role.

"He didn't play in the Major Leagues, didn't claim to play in the Major Leagues," LeMahieu said. "But for me, he's the guy who's always positive.

"At this point in my career, you need all the positive you can get. It's real easy to be hard on yourself in the big leagues. I talk to him almost every day. I'll go 0-for-4 with four strikeouts, and he'll somehow find the positive out of it."

All the expensive lessons and expert coaches combined can't do for a player what Tom LeMahieu did for his son.

The LeMahieus were living in Visalia, Calif., when DJ was about 4 and taken by the game of baseball. Days in the Central Valley quickly grew hot, so any daytime activity needs to happen early. DJ made sure to that.

"My dad would hit me ground balls and throw batting practice, and we made it a game," a smiling LeMahieu said in a story he often tells. "He'd hit me 10 ground balls. If I misplayed one, it was a run for him. Then he'd throw me BP and we'd play a normal inning. We'd play nine innings, almost every day. For me at a young age, fielding ground balls was always competitive. If I missed a ball, it could cost me a run."

There was another penalty for missing.

"I had to run it down if I missed it."

His father had the philosophy from the old "Fat Albert" cartoon: Fun, and if you're not careful you may learn something before it's done.

"I didn't want it to become something where he was getting tired of it," said Tom LeMahieu, who made an early Father's Day trip when the Rockies were in Miami last weekend. "Every now and then, I'd ask, 'Do you still want to play?' And he'd say, 'Oh, yeah.' Not only did he want to do it, but he was competitive about it. Even to this day, if you come up with something to do and make a game out of it, he's into it."

DJ appreciates that when it became time for others to do the teaching and coaching, his dad filled in the blanks with love and support.

"He became more of a mentor than a coach," LeMahieu said. "A lot of dads, they want their hands on everything. For him to step back and say, 'Your coaches are your coaches, so do what they say and listen to them' -- that was perfect. He's not a know-it-all, doesn't claim to be. His biggest advice to me was take a little bit of information from every coach."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.