Jesse Sanchez

For Tomas, his mother means everything to him

For Tomas, his mother means everything to him

PHOENIX -- Yasmany Tomas' 25-minute drive west to Chase Field from his home in suburbs begins around five hours before pitch and starts with a phone call to Havana, Cuba, two minutes into the ride.

Tomas says he's usually silent for the first 30 seconds of the call.

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"Yasme," the voice on the other end of the line often says, "I'm glad you called. Today will be better than yesterday. Tomorrow will be better than today. Don't worry, Yasmito, everything is going to be OK. You just need to be more patient at the plate. And why haven't you called me in two days?"

"Sorry, Mom," Tomas usually answers. "We've been on the road and we got in late."

The D-backs outfielder and his mother Melba Rosa Bacallao are separated by hundreds and often thousands of miles. But the pair remains connected with afternoon phone calls from Tomas while he cruises the Arizona highways and with video chats from the slugger's kitchen in Chandler, Ariz., or from hotel rooms when the D-backs are on the road.

Tomas, who defected from Cuba in June 2014, has not seen his mother since her month-long stay in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, that started in mid-December later that year. The plan was for Melba to be by her son's side when he signed the six-year, $68.5 million deal with the D-backs, but her flight from Havana was delayed and she didn't arrive until a few hours after the deal was made official.

"I wanted her to be there to see her son make his dream come true," Tomas said in Spanish. "She raised me and did everything for me. I wanted her to see that I made the right decision to leave Cuba."

Tomas told his mother he was leaving Cuba less than 48 hours before he defected the island. She was stunned but didn't try to talk him out of it, he said. She eventually gave him her blessing. Tomas had made his mind up, anyway. He was leaving Cuba for a better life in the United States. He wanted to be a Major Leaguer.

"One of the hardest things about leaving my country behind is not being to see my family and hug my mother," Tomas said in Spanish. "Imagine somebody that raised you since you were a baby, watched all of your baseball games since you were five years old and loved you unconditionally. Then not seeing that person anymore or having that person at your games. It's very hard, but that's part of life and the path I chose to be here."

Tomas' cellphone is filled with photos of his mother. He doesn't know when he's going to see her in person again.

"Of course, I want to see her as soon as I can and I'm hopeful that this is the year it happens," Tomas said. "I'm becoming a resident of the United States and maybe that will help. It looks like things are improving between Cuba and the United States and maybe it will be easier to go back to Cuba in the future so I'm keeping an eye on that. I really don't know, but I hope to know more after the season ends."

Family matters to Tomas. His wife Melissa gave birth to their daughter Mia Isabella in November. He also has a young daughter named Analia back in Cuba from a previous relationship. He can't wait for the day Melba holds Mia Isabella in her arms.

"I think my mother is proud of the man I have become," Tomas said. "She tells me all the time that I have my own family and my own kids. And to be a good father because that's my most important job. She's right. I have been listening to her advice my entire life."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.