Bogaerts achieves dream without father around

Bogaerts achieves dream without father around
September 10, 2013, 7:15 pm
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Xander Bogaerts was too young to remember. The breakup happened when he was two years old, the details of it are non-existent in his memory. What he knows is his father wasn’t around, a fact he cannot change and hasn’t tried to either. He made it in baseball by focusing on the support of those who were by his side, not the one who left.

"I lived a normal, good life back home," he said sitting at his locker inside the visitors clubhouse in Yankee Stadium. The 20-year-old rookie shortstop had recently been called up to the Boston Red Sox and was unknowingly a few hours from hitting his first Major League home run. His jersey hung inches away, the last name "Bogaerts" emblazoned above the number 72 in capital letters.  

He considers his mother, Sandra Brown, to be both mom and dad though. She raised Bogaerts, his twin brother Jair (who also played in the Red Sox system) and older sister Chandra while providing for her family as a social worker. Uncle Glenroy stepped in as a father figure as well, teaching him and Jair how to play ball. In spite of the fact his father, Jan, moved to Hong Kong for his import-export business, Bogaerts received plenty of affection growing up in Aruba.

"(My mother) really loves her kids and would do anything for us," he said prior to knocking one out of the park on her birthday. "I’m really thankful she didn’t leave us because she could have just said, 'They’re too much trouble for me' and just left. It’s good that she stayed strong."

At this point in his life, Bogaerts doesn't miss what he never had. He estimates he has seen his father anywhere between three to five times since he relocated to Asia. The travel from Aruba to Hong Kong is extensive, and the young athlete isn't a fan of flying. "The last time I saw him, that’s a good question," he pondered.

There are phone calls and text messages, but even those don't come in frequently. While he speaks to his mother "all the time," the consistency is glaringly less with his father. After going nearly a year without talking, Bogaerts received a congratulatory text when he was called up to the Red Sox in August.  

"I don’t even know if he’s a baseball fan, but I’m his son so probably he’s happy for me," he said. "Maybe he’s far, so maybe that’s why too. His wife is really a big baseball fan so probably she told him. I mean, he’s really happy for me but he’s not here."

That's the outlook Bogaerts has on the situation. He points out more than once his age when his parents separated, reiterating the difficulty in longing for a life he never knew.

"I was small so I never missed him or anything like that," he said, later noting, "By him not being around, you obviously live without him and know that he’s not going to be there and you get used to it. It wasn’t a big deal for me."

If it were up to Bogaerts, though, he would have had both his mother and father around in an ideal situation. He remembers seeing children with two parents and said, "you want to be one of those people, but sometimes life has different things." He has never asked his mother too many questions about the separation nor has he tried to find out why his father doesn't reach out more often. Bogaerts has theorized perhaps his father feels remorse for not being there for his children, a hypothesis he has not looked to explore.

Instead he thinks about how he can be there for his family when he has one of his own down the road … far, far down the road.

"I’m still a kid so I don’t have kids," he said. "I’m 20, I’m trying not to pay attention to kids. In the future, I want five. That’s a number that always popped in my head since I’ve thought about it. … I get five, my brother has four, so we can have a baseball team (laughs). … I definitely don’t want to be a dad that has to leave his kids also like he did. I definitely want to be there for all my kids."

One day Bogaerts hopes to watch his children play baseball. If his father were to do the same, seeing him at the park would still hold a significance to him in spite of their past.

"It would show him that I reached a long way," he said. "He knew I always loved baseball growing up and I worked really hard to become a baseball player, just for him to see the dedication that I’ve put into baseball."

As for what he would like his father to know?

"I’d probably say that I wish he had stayed when we were two," Bogaerts said. "But like I said, life does weird things sometimes."

Right now it is taking him on a whirlwind journey to the Major Leagues, where the top prospect is able to look back on his past, appreciate those who helped him to get to the point where he is today, and optimistically move forward with a career he is jumpstarting at only 20 years old.

"Life goes on," he reflected. "And it’s really too short to think about too much stuff."