Contreras making up for lost time with mom

Contreras making up for lost time with mom

PHILADELPHIA -- It's been a long time since Jose Contreras has felt this way -- a lot of years, a lot of hardship and a lot of innings pitched. There is a newfound youthfulness in the bounce in the 38-year-old's step.

Contreras said he feels like a kid again, thanks to the latest addition to his household. He's had a renewal of faith, in no small part due to the arrival of his mother, who is now living with him for the first time since they were together in Cuba eight years ago.

And on Sunday, Contreras shared an emotional Mother's Day with the woman he had been deprived of seeing since he came to the United States in 2002.

Contreras' mother, 75-year-old Modesta Camejo, arrived here two weeks ago, after being granted the right to come to the United States from Cuba. She has visited Citizens Bank Park every day since.

On Sunday, in a special presentation before the game against Atlanta, Contreras brought his mother onto the field to be introduced to the home crowd. He handed her a dozen roses, hugged and smiled for pictures with her. The tears welled up in Modesta's eyes.

Contreras was anticipating the moment a day earlier.

"It's going to be a really special moment," Contreras said Saturday, with his teammate, Danys Baez, as a translator.

Modesta attended her first game last Friday, and it was the first time she had ever been to a game played by her son -- a former Cuban pitching sensation. Because the family's home was so far from where Contreras's Cuban baseball team played, and transportation so difficult to find, she had been unable to see her star son pitch.

Contreras defected to the United States in 2002, signing with the Yankees as a prized prospect a year later. The subsequent years and successes -- his Major League debut, a World Series win in 2005, an All-Star nomination in 2006 -- were relayed to his family back in Cuba over the phone.

Though his wife and two children came to the U.S. in 2004, Contreras' mother, father and siblings remained in Cuba. Before last Thursday, when Contreras met Modesta at the airport, he had seen her only once in seven years. They met up for a brief vacation in the Dominican Republic last year.

His father, Florentino, passed away in October 2004, and Contreras was unable to attend the funeral. He listened to it over the speakerphone.

When Contreras came through the bullpen doors onto the outfield grass in the 10th inning of Tuesday's 2-1 win over St. Louis, his mother, sitting in the stands, burst into tears. It was a bittersweet reminder of Florentino, who would've loved to see his son, now a bulky right-hander, in action.

"She said she feels bad for my dad because he's the one that should be here, because he's the guy that really loves baseball," Contreras said. "He's the guy that should be watching you run across the big league baseball field."

But it's mom that got to walk across the field, too, on Mother's Day. Contreras and his mom joined Chad Durbin and his mother in a special presentation before Sunday's game. Durbin said he didn't mind sharing the day for a story so compelling.

"I told my mom it was an honor to be out there with them," Durbin said.

"It's going to be special," Contreras said Saturday. "I'm going to have a chance to spend time with her on the field and see her most of the day. I'm going to try to spend as much time as I can with her."

It caps a whirlwind week for Contreras, who has emerged as Philadelphia's finest reliever in his first season with the team. He pitched another scoreless inning on Saturday, lowering his ERA to 0.93 with a 97-mph fastball that hasn't lost a step since his younger days in Cuba.

Off the field, with Modesta now staying at his home with his wife and children, the 38-year-old Contreras feels like a kid again, too.

"In the beginning, it was like, 'Oh, she's here,'" Contreras said. "But you don't realize that she's going to be here forever. I was trying to do too many things, trying to recover that time that we lost.

"But I'm getting used to seeing her every day, seeing her in the house during the day and getting up and seeing her the next day, the routine every day, like it used to be -- the way it was when I was a kid," he said. "Now I'm coming back to a normal life with a family. It's the way it should be."

Sunday's presentation revealed that kinship as the crowd cheered the reunited Contreras family.

It's been a long time coming. And Modesta is quickly making up for all the moments she missed.

"She's been to every game," Contreras said, grinning. "She loves it."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.