Manny Mota gives his sons to the game

March 31, 1991|By Claire Smith | Claire Smith,New York Times News Service

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The way Manny Mota, a 34-year veteran of professional baseball, figures it, the game has contributed so much to his life, to his family's well-being, that he just cannot help reciprocating.

"This game has been so great, there's no way to express how grateful I am," Mota said last week. "So I just want to give something back."

Mota -- employed by professional baseball for 34 of his 53 years, including the last 22 with the Dodgers, now as a coach -- does that.

In his native Dominican Republic, where his popularity is said to be unrivaled, he has run health clinics and food drives, as well as organized and equipped a 16-team Little League there for 24 years.

But Mota, a veteran of 20 major league seasons as a player, has not stopped at that. He is in the process of giving perhaps the most unique and precious commodity of all to baseball: Manny Mota is giving his sons.

Mota's oldest son, Jose Manuel, 26, is with the San Diego Padres organization.

Andres Albertos (Andy), 25, and Manuel Rafael Jr. (Gary), 21, are in the Houston Astros system, and Domingo Rafael, 22, is in the Dodgers' system.

Mota, his pride obvious, tends to talk of his family's good fortune.

Others tend to talk of good genes, as in those handed down by a career .304 hitter who was said to have had such good bat control he could role out of bed on Christmas Day and stroke a single up the middle.

Andy, an infielder, has already won two minor league batting titles in four seasons and is a career .305 hitter.

Jose, a switch-hitting second baseman, batted .300 for Class AAA Las Vegas last year.

Domingo, chosen in the free-agent draft last June by Los Angeles, hit .343 for Kissimmee and was named an all-star in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

Gary, tabbed as one of the top 20 hitting prospects in the June draft last year by "Baseball America," was drafted in the second round by Houston.

He hit .258 with 12 doubles, 4 triples and 3 home runs in 69 games for Auburn of the Class A New York-Penn League.

Others may be looking for signs of Manny Mota in any of the four, but the father is not.

Mota, whose popularity in his homeland is often compared to that of Roberto Clemente in Puerto Rico, saw that the pressure of carrying the family name almost overwhelmed Andy during that youngster's just-completed first winter league tour in the Dominican Republic.

"So the one thing I tell my kids is don't try to copy me," Mota said. "I tell them 'Don't let the name be an influence. Depend on yourselves. Earn it with hard work and dedication.'"

Can any or all of the four of Mota brothers make it in the major leagues?

"It's in their hands," Mota said. "All I can hope is that the good Lord gives them the strength to have their own dreams come true."

Andy has come the closest so far. Invited to the big-league camp, he competed for the Astros' second-base job this spring. But the youngster, in a big-league camp for the first time, hit only .222 in limited appearances and was recently optioned to the minors.

Andy, who has his father's easy-going, engaging nature, refuses to be discouraged.

"I think I did well and I worked hard," he said.

They were. "Andy needs a little more time, but he knows what to do with a bat," Bob Watson, Houston's assistant general manager, said. "Once he gets a position in the big leagues, I

have a feeling he's going to hold it for a long time."

That's part of the father's dream. But it's not the only dream.

For Manny and Margarita Mota wished more for their six sons and two daughters than just marvelous athletic skills. They willed them to be well-rounded human beings, too. Mota, who talks proudly of all their aspirations and accomplishments, believes they are.

"Cecilia is an interior designer," Mota said of his first-born. "LuLu is in college and wants to be a teacher." Antonio Nicolas, 14, already a three-sport athlete, desires to follow his brothers, Mota continued. Rafael Manuel, 16, does not.

"He doesn't even like baseball," Mota said of Manuel, almost with an air of pride. "He wrote a letter to his mother and myself asking, 'Please don't force me to play.' He loves music and he wants to be an airline pilot. I think that's great."

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