"She was tough, I'm telling you," Blanco said recently. "She was a brave woman. She always told me, 'The only way you can survive [cancer] is to be happy and believe that you can beat it.' "
Gregor witnessed his mother's upbeat determination, and he took that attitude with him as he embarked upon a professional baseball career. As an established Major Leaguer, he dreams of launching a foundation that will promote breast cancer awareness. In both endeavors -- baseball and contributing to the war on cancer -- Rosa Blanco remains a vivid influence for Gregor, 32.
"She always taught us great things about life," said Blanco, who grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, with a twin brother, Gregory, and a younger brother, Gregsman. "She always said, 'Follow your dreams, go for your dreams, don't let nobody tell you different. If you want to accomplish something in life, you can. Just go for it.' She always talked to us about the future and life and not letting anybody get your head down."
Asked how his mother built such an unsinkable attitude, Gregor said, "I guess because she passed through tough times when she was younger. She started working when she was 14. She didn't have anything to eat. She had a rough childhood. She always said to my dad and everybody, 'One day I'm going to have a house with a red roof.' That was the dream she wanted to accomplish, and she did."
Occasionally, Rosa Blanco's sons visited her while she worked in the credit card division of a Caracas bank. Gregor noticed her popularity among co-workers and the respect she commanded from them. That, too, served as an example to her sons. Whatever they did in life, she wanted them to be leaders.
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"She always taught me to be the best guy that I can be, in any way," Blanco said.
Though Rosa Blanco died three years before Gregor reached the Major Leagues with Atlanta in 2008, sharing his success with her was one of the first things he did when the Braves told him he had made the Opening Day roster. Blanco received the news before an exhibition game in Atlanta, then ran out to center field to deliver a message.
"I looked at the sky and said, 'Well, Mom, we did it,' " Blanco recalled. Speaking in the Giants' clubhouse, he added, "Every day that I come here, I always bless her and thank her for the opportunity."