St. Louis Cardinals: Happy Mother’s Day (with an interview with Andrea DeJong [Paul’s mother])

The St. Louis Cardinals, and all of MLB, will use pink bats today to celebrate Mother’s Day.

The St. Louis Cardinals will complete their series on the west coast today- on Sunday- and will use the recognizable pink bats in honor of all mothers around the world. This day will be especially poignant for Kolten Wong and Stephen Piscotty as they remember their late mothers.

I was honored and thrilled to have had the chance to interview Paul DeJong‘s mother, Andrea, for this Mother’s Day special. Before diving in, let me share with you how grateful I am to my own mother. As Mrs. DeJong was answering my questions to her, I kept thinking of my own mother. I will insert these thoughts in spots below and will share my memories of the selflessness and sacrifice that my mother, Paula Miles, gave to/for me.

Another quick side note before I get to the interview. I would be incredibly remiss if I failed to thank Mrs. DeJong for her time and her willingness to participate for us. Thank you as well, Mrs. DeJong for being a regular reader of ours here at Redbird Rants. Happy Mother’s Day to you, Mrs. DeJong.

To the interview then.

Do you have any great stories you could share of raising your children and in particular, Paul?

I have always pushed for my kids to find “their” passion and then be all-in. There were a couple of times when they said, “I wish you would have made me do X,” but that’s not really my style. If you want something, I believe you should go get it. Internal motivation is the only sustainable kind.

Paul and I are both first-borns so I know how he thinks. He wants to be the best and wants to win. Every time. Family game nights can get interesting.

Keith and I are both active parents. We divide and conquer based on our strengths. Mine are logistics and management, so I became a Pony Baseball Field Director and league board member. I get stuff done, and Paul can attest. Keith’s are coaching and motivating kids, so he was the coach. He took great pride in teaching each child on the team to hit the ball. But Paul is his greatest student. They still talk about hitting approach on the phone.

My personal mother story:

My mother was beyond adroit as well with responding to and managing my life. She and my father put me in anything that I wanted to try. I tried guitar (didn’t like it), then piano (I studied for 11+ years), baseball (I too played for many, many years with my father as coach too), and then theatre. I was allowed to follow whatever passion I had so long as I kept both feet on the ground.

My mother was a perfect example of staying solidly rooted but flowering where planted. My mother was always joyful, supportive, but strict in the fact that I would be a good well-rounded person. I was their “only” but I was never allowed to behave as typical only-children do.

I am so grateful that my mother did all that she did for me as I am sure that Paul is thankful for all that Mrs. DeJong did for him.

When did you know that Paul showed promise to be a ball player? Was there a particular moment?

We like to tell the story about one of the coaches on his first team (age 5, Shetland coach-pitch). About halfway through the season, he told us, “your son’s going to play in the major leagues someday.” Keith and I looked at each other and laughed… then said, “well, Coach Bill played in the majors, so it must be true.”

Can you tell us how it felt when Paul made his debut and when he got his first hit?

On the day before the debut we put our house up for sale, a happy but emotional time, then spent the day painting the walls. I was packed to take a road trip to Memphis with a girlfriend to watch Paul play. Late that night, I got a call from Paul who said, “I know you were coming to see me tomorrow, but I won’t be there. I’ll be in Denver.”

I was a bit confused, since it was all I could do to keep track of the AAA team, and had no idea where the big guys were playing. 😊

We scrambled to get tickets to Denver and, as you know, we arrived well before Paul did. I spent most of the game staring at the dugout, wondering if he would make it. Keith and I didn’t think they’d put him in the game under those circumstances, so it gave us a jolt to see him in the on-deck circle.

I wanted a closer look, so I managed to sneak down to an empty seat close to the backstop and filmed the at-bat for myself. I am still shocked that I didn’t drop my phone. I was shocked in a way, but also kind of expected nothing less. Paul hits the ball hard and it doesn’t matter the level of play. He just adjusts.

What advice do you remember giving Paul while he was growing up?

Always do your best. Even if you have an A in the class, don’t blow off the final. Follow the rules – if you don’t agree with the rule then try to get it changed.

What advice do you give him today?

Stay connected with your roots (family first) and don’t get too big for your britches. The fans appreciate the personal connection and giving back to your community is very important.

My personal mother story:

My mother taught me to look, listen, and don’t react. This was a borrowed statement but she emphasized that no matter what I should remain still in life and if I feel the need to react to hold it until I got home. This was a life-saver throughout my life.

I remember one time in particular when I failed to get cast in a role for a show that I just knew was mine. I left school, went home, and threw myself on the bed crying. My mother showed so much strength in that moment. She told me to get up, go back to school, keep my head high, and do the role that I was given to the best and that is all that anyone can ask.

I did as she said and I have now come to know that she sat and cried herself after I left. Watching your child go through heartache is tough and she showed that she could withstand it to make me better. I love her for this sacrifice.

Are there things that you worry about while Paul and the cards are playing?

I worry that Paul always has his guard up and that it will be difficult to find his soulmate. I’m not looking for grandkids now, but someday would be nice.

Do you have any thoughts you can share about how you feel as a mother to an active player in light of the losses experienced by Kolten Wong and Stephen Piscotty?

It was heartbreaking to watch the stories about Mrs. Piscotty and Mrs. Wong. I saw some of myself in the videos. The bond between a baseball mom and son cannot be broken.

I still cheer loudly at the games, and if my seat is nearby, I’m sure Paul could hear me in the box. I hope it never becomes necessary, but I’m sure Paul would do whatever it took to make sure I was safe and comfortable. Although we don’t see each other every day anymore, we do stay connected by text and phone and I know he’s thinking of me.

My personal mother story:

My mother and I also stay connected via the phone and I love when we get to see each other. My six children love their Bobo and every opportunity to spend time with her is treasured.

Lastly, any advice you would like to give to mothers who are raising kids in sports?

Allow your love of the game and the team to prevail over the temptation to put your child first. Volunteer in youth sports to make it a great experience for ALL kids. There are opportunities to give your child a head start – play catch with them every day and keep it fun. There were many tears on our road – it doesn’t just take skill, it also takes luck. Not every child will turn pro so just relax and if it’s meant to be it will happen.

My conclusions:

Thank you again, Mrs. DeJong for your candid responses. Thank you for agreeing to stand in for mothers everywhere and for sharing such fun stories.

For those who do not know, Mrs. DeJong has three children- Paul, Matthew, and Emma. All three are exceptional and each is succeeding in his/her way. This is a testament to the way that she raised them.

Thank you to my mother for showing me the way to live. Thank you for sacrificing your time and your opportunities so that I could succeed and find my way. Thank you for making me a man who knows how to love his wife and his children. And thank you for teaching me to never give up.

Thank you as well to my wife for being the best mother to our children. I am indebted to my wife for her love and care– she is the heart of our family, just as my mother was the heart of my nuclear family while I was growing up. My wife and my mother are the two strongest women I know and I love them both for this quality.

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Paul DeJong looks to continue his second season as the St. Louis Cardinals short stop. Keep an eye on him as he looks to be a big component of seasons to come.

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