For McGehees, Mother's Day symbolic return
Marlins third baseman and family eager to celebrate after stint in Japan
SAN DIEGO -- Mother's Day is a reminder to the McGehee family that there is no place like home.
Home to Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee, his wife, Sarah, and two children -- Mack (7) and Cooper (4) -- is being back in the United States and returning to the Major Leagues.
A year ago, their lives were dramatically different. After a rough 2012 with the Pirates and Yankees, McGehee accepted an opportunity to play in Japan for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, where he was a teammate of Masahiro Tanaka, the famed right-hander now with New York.
"My career has taken some twists and turns and things that we didn't necessarily expect," McGehee said. "Along with our personal life, with some of the things we've been through as a family, I've been blessed to have a wife who has been so supportive of my decisions."
The decision to uproot and play overseas wasn't easy, but McGehee believed it was right. Without Sarah's approval, it may not have happened.
"When I had the conversation with her about going to Japan, you kind of go into it assuming it's going to be a tough sell," McGehee said. "But it didn't take any convincing at all, really."
From a family standpoint, the McGehees also had to take into consideration the medical attention needed for their son, Mack, who has cerebral palsy.
"It was just very involved," Sarah said of getting the proper care in Japan. "The hospital we went to it for was amazing. They did everything they could to help us, but it was like an hour drive by taxi. Finally, the team started driving us there to help us out. Taxi rides for an hour was ridiculous, the cost."
The family worked through everything together. Sacrifices were made, and not all holidays observed in the United States were recognized in Japan. So while mothers across the United States were being recognized on Mother's Day in 2013, in Japan, the day passed with little fanfare for Sarah.
"I don't even remember Mother's Day last year," she said. "We were all still new there. I think all of that was kind of a blur. I don't think we really found ourselves until maybe the last half of the season."
Mother's Day was pretty much lost in the shuffle.
"It's not as big a deal over there," McGehee said. "But it's big for [Sarah], and my mom as well. It's a special day to reflect. Without all of our mothers and wives, and whatever our situations may be, we probably wouldn't be here. It's a good way to reflect and appreciate all the people who are our support system."
They made the most of the situation. On the field, McGehee was part of a championship team and put up strong numbers, batting .292 with 28 homers and 93 RBIs.
The Marlins took notice, being in the market for a third baseman. McGehee signed a one-year deal with Miami in December. He's now a big part of the lineup.
The decision to return to the Major Leagues also was a family effort.
"Again, Sarah stepped up and said, 'I trust your decision. If that's what you feel like is going to be best for us, then let's do it,' " McGehee said. "Without her support, I wouldn't have been able to do it in the first place."
McGehee is from California, and Sarah from Jackson, Tenn., where the family makes its home.
Being in a position to meet the medical needs for Mack came into the equation.
"That was huge," Sarah said. "Probably one of the biggest things about coming back is he did not receive any therapy while we were in Japan. It's always hard. He's been in therapy since he was 1. Not being able to do that, I think we both felt a little guilty of him missing out."
From Japan, Mack received the leg braces he still wears.
"We had to go like four separate times to get the braces done, and then they kept breaking," Sarah said. "It was always something. When something like that comes up, you have to get an interpreter. Everything is just involved. The smallest thing becomes a big deal. Coming back and being able to get those things done pretty easily, was nice."
Still, leaving Japan was tough. Despite a language barrier, the family met friends they continue to stay in touch with.
"Towards the end, I started to get more acclimated and made friends, who spoke very little English, and I spoke very little Japanese," Sarah said. "But we still stay in touch. We still text."
Living on Miami Beach during the season, the McGehees are still going through the process of getting Mack's therapy, which may not start until June.
"Every time you move to a new place, you have to have a new evaluation by that therapy facility," Sarah said. "Then they recommend how much you should go to therapy. Sometimes there is a waiting list to even have the evaluation. Once you have it, sometimes there is a waiting list to start therapy."
When raising awareness for those inflicted by cerebral palsy, Sarah points out that the basics, like shoes, can be difficult to find. Many children don't have the correct-fitting shoes for their braces. Often they need to be extra wide.
McGehee is endorsed by New Balance, and he receives an allotment that the family offers to charity.
"Then we usually double it ourselves," Sarah said. "We donate all of these shoes to all the kids at Mack's therapy, so they all have the correct fit. In every way we can, we try to help out."
At the Marlins' annual Winter Warm-Up in February, Mack participated in a Miracle League Game at Marlins Park.
Sarah said the family has a passion for the Miracle League program. Mack is a baseball fan, but he has a stronger interest in music. He's taking guitar lessons. A couple of years ago in Pittsburgh, the group Daughtry performed at PNC Park, and members of the band signed Mack's guitar.
From an educational standpoint, part of Sarah's weekly routine is homeschooling the children.
On Mother's Day, the Marlins will be facing the Padres at Petco Park. The day will be recognized by Major League Baseball, and Sarah and the children will be along for the trip.
"For those of us who are married, our wives are the biggest part of things," McGehee said. "They deal with a lot of bad moves, a lot of travel, and a lot of frustrations and things that they have no control over.
"I'm fortunate that I've got one who has kicked me in the butt when I've needed it, and also has been there to listen to me vent, complain, pout and all that stuff. Mother's Day is a good day to remind ourselves of all they do for us."