PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — The birth was beautiful. Miraculous. Unlike anything he has lived.
Above all, after it all, Evan Longoria is eager for his daughter to come home.
The third baseman has become many things with the Tampa Bay Rays in five seasons: a three-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner, a recipient of a $100 million contract extension that will make him a franchise centerpiece for the next decade. On Wednesday night, he added “father” to the list, when he and his girlfriend, Jaime Edmondson, welcomed their daughter, Elle Leona Longoria, into the world at 4.1 pounds, 18 inches in Boca Raton, Fla.
On Saturday morning, Evan was back in the Rays clubhouse at Charlotte Sports Park, beaming about the new addition to his family. The experience of a lifetime was a mix of emotions — all proud.
“It happened so quickly,” Longoria said. “(Edmondson) really was only in there for three hours total. When it came, it was quick. I wanted to be in there. I was going to be in there no matter how long it took. … It was amazing. I’ve experienced a lot of things in this game, and it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”
The daughter’s name has deep meaning for both Longoria and Edmondson. Longoria said Edmondson told him “she would be happy” if he picked their daughter’s name, a responsibility which, to Longoria, added more than a bit of pressure.
“Elle” is inspired by the nickname Longoria calls his mother, Mary Ellen. Meanwhile, Leona, the daughter’s middle name, comes from the name of Edmondson’s grandmother.
“Thankfully,” Longoria said, “Jaime liked it.”
Elle was born about six weeks early, but because she was past the 34-week development milestone — a key mark in a fetus’ progress — Longoria wasn’t concerned Wednesday night. He said doctors won’t allow the baby to go home until she’s at least 35 weeks into development, which will occur Monday, because she must learn to eat and regulate temperature on her own. Edmondson has high blood pressure, Longoria said, and since the baby had reached the 34-week mark and was ready, doctors thought it was best to proceed with labor.
Longoria knew the event was imminent and was prepared, having packed his car with three bags — one each for him, Edmondson and the baby — in case his girlfriend began labor. He made the two-hour, 45-minute drive to Boca Raton — “The longest two hours and 45 minutes of my life,” Longoria said — and welcomed a new chapter in his life.
“I’ve been pretty settled with (Edmondson) for two years now,” Longoria said. “I don’t think anything bad is going to come of it. I think it’s going to be great for me. I think it’s going to be great to settle in and be a family. Once you get back home, it’s definitely going to have a positive effect, I think.”
Among his early memories …
On seeing his daughter for the first time: “For people who haven’t been at an actual child birth, it’s like the most … beautifully ugly thing you’ve ever seen.”
On seeing parts of himself and Edmondson in his daughter: “It’s amazing the more you look at her, how much you see yourself, certain features that you have in (her) and certain features that Jaime has that I see in her.”
On the delivery: “There were no complications. Jaime was fine. She was incredible throughout.”
With his active week complete, Longoria plans to return to baseball soon. He wasn’t listed in the lineup for either of the Rays’ split-squad spring training openers Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox. Longoria said he probably won’t play until Monday, against Boston at Charlotte Sports Park. Meanwhile, Rays manager Joe Maddon said the return could come Tuesday, when the Rays host the Houston Astros.
Longoria’s departure was hard for Edmondson, who tweeted Friday night, “It was hard to see daddy leave today but Baby Elle is strong & we look forward to the day she gets to go home.”
“We’re going to talk about playing him on Tuesday,” Maddon said Saturday. “I’ve got to talk to him about that, just to get him back into BP and running and throwing, etc. There’s no rush. We’ll take our time with him.”
After a night to remember, though, time can’t move fast enough for Longoria. Some things in life are too beautiful to wait for.