Mike Moustakas reflects on mother’s passing after career day at plate
Connie Moustakas would have enjoyed her son Mike’s performance on Saturday, would have relished every one of his club-record nine RBIs.
"She would have loved today," Mike said after the Royals’ 14-6 victory over the Orioles. "She would have been real excited about it. But she would have liked it more for the fact that we won the game. She always said the team comes first."
From the time Mike was in Little League, Connie Moustakas was a true baseball mom. She would keep score, even squawk at an umpire on occasion. She loved baseball, and loved that Mike — her only son and the youngest of her four children — was devoted to the sport.
But on Friday, when Mike turned 27, he did not get the call he normally would get from his mother on his birthday, first thing in the morning.
The Moustakas family lost Connie on Aug. 9, lost her after an illness of about 2½ years.
For the longest time, no one could figure out what was wrong with Connie, who lived in Northridge, Calif., with Mike Moustakas Sr., lived in the same home for 27 years.
She went from doctor to doctor, even visited the Mayo Clinic. Earlier this year, Mike said, doctors finally discovered cancer on top of her liver, among other issues.
Twice this season, Mike went on the bereavement/family medical emergency list, fearing that his mom was about to pass away. Twice, Connie Moustakas rallied, displaying the same kind of toughness and stubbornness that she passed on to her son.
He played for so long knowing she was ill. Now, he must play on without her.
"It’s weird," Mike said. "It’s just an empty feeling. Nothing is ever going to fill it. But I know every single day when I go to work and play baseball she gets to watch me in person now. She’s up there watching me, probably telling everybody, ‘That’s my son down there.’"
Connie did not see Mike play in person last season, when the Royals made the playoffs for the first time since 1985. She had planned to drive up with Mike Sr. to San Francisco for Game 3 of the World Series. But she was not well enough to attend.
The Royals lost the Series in seven games. An offseason passed. Another season began. In early May, Mike got a call from Mike Sr. saying that Connie was not well. He left the Royals and flew home with his wife, Stephanie, and ended up missing three games.
"We stayed in the room with her," Mike said. "My mom has never given up on anything in her life, never quit. Somehow, she ended up turning the corner. A doctor said she wasn’t going to make it through the night. She ended up making it through the night.
"She was doing great. She came out, was talking, coherent, answering questions. It was my mom again. She wasn’t just laying there. She told me to come back and play baseball because she loves watching me play."
In early July, Mike received a call just like the one he received in May, only this time from his wife. He again went on the bereavement/family medical emergency list.
Again, Connie’s fighting spirit prevailed.
"The doctor said she wasn’t looking good, then all of a sudden, the next day, she snaps out of it," Mike said.
Mike returned to the Royals after missing four games. The day he rejoined the team, on July 10, he learned that he had won the Final Vote, becoming a first-time All-Star and the Royals’ seventh representative in the game.
Connie later enjoyed donning Mike’s All-Star jersey.
"She was wearing it in the hospital," Mike said. "She was walking around, giving orders like she always used to. She was so proud that I was an All-Star."
Less than a month later, she was gone.
Mike said it was an off-day. He was pretty sure it was an off-day. Then again, everything happened so fast, he wasn’t completely sure.
Actually, Aug. 9 was a Sunday. The Royals played that day, beat the White Sox, 5-4. Mike and Stephanie went out to dinner afterward. At around 11:30 p.m., they were sitting on their couch, watching a movie, when Mike Sr. called.
"I knew it wasn’t good," Mike said. "I picked up. He was crying. I started crying. My wife started crying."
Mike Sr. had been at the hospital with Mike’s older sisters, Tina, Alexis and Kim, and other family members. Mike, at Connie’s instructions, did not get home to say goodbye. His father had told him that Connie wanted him to "keep going out there, keep playing with the boys, playing the game hard like she always taught me to."
The Royals were home again the next night, home against the Tigers. One day after losing his mother, Mike played the entire game at third base and went 0-for-4.
"It was tough, but I came to the field and there wasn’t one person who didn’t give me a hug, tell me how sorry they were for my loss, how much they loved me and my family," Mike said.
"That’s what is special about this organization and this team. Everybody somehow came to my side, picked me up when I was down and made sure I felt the love that everybody has on this team for me.
"It was pretty special to be able to come to work the next day and have 24 guys and the coaching staff give me a hug and let me know how much they care."
Mike declined to say how old Connie was — "she wouldn’t want me to tell you that," he explained with a smile. He said she worked as a paralegal, worked until she was not physically capable anymore.
What kind of woman was she? The kind, Mike said, who never thought she was wrong, "never took BS from anybody."
But my, how she loved her son.
"Every day, I miss her," Mike said. "It’s weird not being able to pick up the phone and call, hear her voice.
"I always let her know that anytime I did anything good, it was for her. Even if I didn’t do anything good, she was always proud of me. She’d let me know that I was still in the big leagues, to keep having fun going out there. That’s what was awesome about mom. She was always proud of me, no matter what happened."
Last October, when Connie could not attend postseason games, she kept telling Mike, "I’ll be out there soon. When I can get up and walk around, I’ll be out there."
She never made it, at least not in person. But on Saturday, when Mike hit a two-run single to tie the score, 4-4, he looked up and pointed to heaven with both arms after reaching second on the throw.
"She’s out there with me every day now," Mike said. "She held up her end of bargain."