Arroyo's willingness to learn goes back to Mom

Arroyo's willingness to learn goes back to Mom

SAN FRANCISCO -- An attentive parent senses what a child needs. One particular afternoon, Kimberly Drummond knew that her son, Christian Arroyo, needed to field some ground balls to sharpen his baseball skills.

So they found a nearby park, where Arroyo, then around 13 years old, gobbled up grounders whacked by his mom. That in itself wasn't unusual. Hitting fungoes is not a gender-specific activity.

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However, this practice session was a little different, primarily because Drummond was eight months pregnant with her daughter, Olivia.

Drummond laughed at the memory.

"I just didn't want him to throw the ball back too hard," she said.

Such is the relationship between Arroyo, the Giants' promising rookie infielder, and his mother, who raised him as a single parent in the Tampa area for about 10 years. Their happiest memories from that period are of each other.

"We used to go to the beach together, we'd go to movies together, get ice cream or dinner," said Arroyo, 21. "My mom was really Supermom."

That was evident on another adventuresome afternoon. Arroyo, who recalled being 7 or 8 and bitten hard by the football bug at the time, tried his hardest to emulate a gridiron great by donning wristbands, a headband and high socks galore. All he lacked was an opponent.

So he asked his mom to tackle him when he ran with the ball. Drummond dutifully threw herself into the activity.

"She would dive after me and jump after me," Arroyo said. "It was nuts."

Characterizing their bond as tight or loving is inadequate. To Arroyo, every day is Mother's Day.

"Basically everything I try to portray myself as," Arroyo said, "is a reflection of my mom and my upbringing with her."

Drummond's influence on her son began not on athletic fields, but in classrooms. Shaped by her emphasis on education, Arroyo was named salutatorian of his graduating class at Hernando High School in Brooksville, Fla., and was poised to accept a scholarship to the University of Florida before the Giants selected him in the first round (25th overall) of the 2013 Draft.

"You never know what can happen in your life," Drummond said. "You can have a career-ending injury. You want to have an education to back that up so you can always be successful."

Said Arroyo, "She didn't force it upon me. She just really made sure that I took my academics seriously and got good grades."

Arroyo remains a willing student. Appearing in his 14th Major League game in last Monday's series opener at New York, he struck out four times in four at-bats. Arroyo realized that he had abandoned his basic offensive approach and set out to recapture it. In the series finale two days later, he lined a bases-loaded, tiebreaking double in the ninth inning to propel the Giants to a 6-5 triumph.

Arroyo's clutch go-ahead double

"He has the ability to want to learn," Drummond said. "He was always a student of anything he did."

Arroyo's early lessons in maintaining an honest effort came from his mother, who worked 12-hour shifts as a dealer at Tampa's Hard Rock Casino.

"I never really felt like we were struggling, but there were times I'd see her crying," Arroyo said. He responded to such anxious moments by reaching the heights of childhood generosity. "'Mom, you can have all my money in my piggy bank,'" Arroyo recalled telling her. "Granted, it was a couple of dollars, but I always used to tell her that whatever's mine is yours."

Drummond feels that the challenge of adjusting to Major League life belongs solely to Arroyo. Though they exchange text messages daily, she said, "I've kind of given Christian his space since he's made this transition. He's doing what he's always done, just at a much higher level."

Of course, Arroyo remains forever grateful to the woman who lifted him toward that pinnacle.

"My mom was the greatest," he said. "... She really did grind it for me. She was always there. She always put me before herself."

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.