May 16-- SAN DIEGO-A mother emerged from the tunnel leading out to the field at Petco Park and searched for her boy. At 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Franmil Reyes is one of the most imposing figures to ever pull a Padres jersey over his broad shoulders, but his easy smile stretched even further across his bearded face as he spotted his mother.
On a big league field together for the first time, a mother and son embraced for several moments.
They shed tears.
They remembered just how far they'd come together, where they still hope to go.
"For me, that was an absolute joy," Reyes' mother, Dominga Uribe, said through an interpreter after an emotional reunion. "Unfortunately, his dad passed when he was 5. I had to play both mother and father to him and his brother. I always instilled good values in them to make sure they worked hard.
"For him to be here now, it's pretty special."
Reyes' work is hardly finished.
His pro baseball-best 14 homers carried him out of the Pacific Coast League and onto a major-league roster for the first time in his career. With Wil Myers and Hunter Renfroe still making their way back from injuries, the time is ripe for an extended look at a 22-year-old outfielder who led the system in home runs and RBIs last year in Double A and was well on his way to doing so again this year in Triple A after a much-needed pep talk this winter.
He'd broken his hamate bone in the Arizona Fall League. The Padres had left him off the 40-man roster, exposing him to the Rule 5 draft. His hopes had sunk.
So Reyes phoned his mother.
"I told him to maintain his focus and keep working hard," Uribe recalled. "He's a battler. He's a warrior, just like I am."
Franmil Reyes was 16 years old Nov. 1, 2011, when he joined the Padres system, his $700,000 bonus ranking among the top checks deposited during the 2011 international signing period. Another 16-year-old Dominican, Franchy Cordero, also arrived via a $175,000 deal reached that day.
The workouts leading up to that momentous signing ceremony-Reyes on the top field and Cordero down below-still stand out in former farm director Randy Smith's mind.
"That's two special kids, both physically and mentally," Smith, now a senior adviser to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, said by phone from Japan. "Franmil with his size and power was at or near the top of the chart and Cordero's speed, power and athleticism were on par with anybody's. But what stands out about both those guys is what good kids they are and how hard they worked to get there."
Well that-and their power potential.
Cordero's 489-foot homer in Arizona last month still stands as the longest home run in the majors this season. His long-time friend-they roomed together during their Dominican tryout and at Fort Wayne, Lake Elsinore and earlier this year at El Paso during Cordero's rehab assignment-logged the fifth-highest average exit velocity among all minor leaguers, according to Baseball America, after he blasted eight home runs during a mind-boggling five-game power surge this month with El Paso.
Once, Cordero marveled at "all the bombs" Reyes hit as a teenager. On Monday, he hugged Reyes as he joined him in San Diego for the first time.
"It wasn't surprising," Cordero said through an interpreter. "Even coming from the Dominican Republic this year, it was something he said was a goal to be part of the team this year. That's all the credit to having ... worked to get here."
As with all tall players with long levers, Reyes' work in the minors included shortening the loop in his swing. He refined an approach that pushed his walk rate to a career-best 13.6 percent. He shed weight to move about easier in right field, where he teamed with Cordero in left and Manuel Margot in center on Monday as the first all-Dominican outfield in Padres history as his mom watched from the stands.
A day later, Dominga Uribe-who flew from New York in time for Reyes' debut-jumped up and down alongside her nephew as her boy rounded first base with his first major-league hit, a line-drive single to center field in the sixth inning of a 4-0 Padres win.
A boy she raised on her own alongside his brother Franklin, a 19-year-old first baseman in the White Sox system, after their father died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. A boy who sold avocados in the streets to help her put food on the table. A boy who'd wake at 5 a.m. to hit before school. A boy who'd grown into a young man, already a father of three young daughters.
Still her boy.
And that baseball, Reyes said with a smile Tuesday afternoon, would be hers.
"I've been through a lot with my mom," Reyes said "It's really special to make her proud of me."
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