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High Schools | Eric Sondheimer

She Is at the Center of Baseball Family

May 11, 2003|Eric Sondheimer

John Kane is 6 feet 1 and 235 pounds, so it's difficult to imagine he once fit into his mother's arms.

Debbie Kane would sit in a rocking chair for hours, holding him as an infant so he wouldn't cry because he had colic.

"Some days I wouldn't get out of my pajamas," Debbie said. "My husband used to leave in the morning and he'd come home and I'd still be in the chair."

For Debbie, part of motherly duties means sacrifice: Waking up in the middle of the night to comfort a sick child. Cooking dinner for a group of boys who never stop eating. Learning to enjoy watching a baseball game even before knowing the difference between a ball and a strike.

Debbie was almost in a panic mode when she had three boys.

"I said to my husband, 'What am I going to do? I don't know what to do with boys? I don't know anything about sports,' " she said.

Debbie quickly adapted. When her husband, Danny, introduced the boys to baseball, Debbie joined in.

The boys have reached their teenage years. John, 18, is a standout senior pitcher-catcher at Granada Hills Kennedy High. Joe, 15, is a starting sophomore second baseman on junior varsity, and Jason, 14, is a promising eighth-grade catcher.

And Debbie is their biggest baseball booster.

"I like it because they like it," she said.

Now, if you ask the boys about their mother's baseball knowledge, they give her an A for effort.

Said Joe: "She actually pays attention and knows what she's talking about."

Said John: "When I strike out, she gets on me. She's very positive. She tries to coach me sometimes."

Said Jason: "If I make an error, she says, 'Do a good job next time.' "

Debbie watches up to 10 games a week, taking turns with her husband traveling to various sites. She volunteers to work at the Kennedy snack shack and must juggle parental responsibilities with earning money at an accounting job.

"It's really hectic, but I love it and wouldn't change anything," she said. "I love watching them play."

John has emerged as one of the top players in the City Section. His pitching and hitting have helped Kennedy (17-7, 11-1) move into first place in the Valley Mission League. He's batting .475 with eight home runs and 37 runs batted in and is 5-0 with a 1.37 earned-run average.

"He's opening some eyes," Coach Manny Alvarado said. "He's slowly becoming a prospect."

While their father taught them about baseball, the boys haven't forgotten their mother's contributions.

Jason, the youngest, remembers having ear infections as an 8-year-old. He needed surgery on an eardrum and was continually throwing up. His mother was at the hospital, holding his hand.

All three boys suffered cuts that required stitches. Their mom was always with them at the doctor's office, her soothing voice helping lessen the pain.

"I have tears coming down my eyes every time," Debbie said. "It was worse for me than them."

The boys love their mother's cooking because she makes enough for two days' worth.

The boys even do chores. John washes the family cars, Joe vacuums, Jason takes out the trash and puts away the dishes.

The boys don't fight too often, though Joe and Jason share a room and have different cleaning habits.

"My middle one is a neat freak, and my little one is messy," Debbie said.

It doesn't hurt that she produces a little fear in the men of the house."She's the only woman in the family, so we're all scared of her," Jason said.

Last year, on Mother's Day, the boys gave her a baseball-shaped vase filled with flowers.

Today, they'll take a moment to show appreciation for the sacrifices she makes.

"It's a special day for her," Jason said.

Said Joe: "I will think how grateful I am to have her as a mother. She takes good care of me."

Said John: "She's always there for me."

The boys love their mother, even after she revealed to a sportswriter that they used to attend Big Bird concerts.

That's the most respected mom; even when she tells an embarrassing story, no one seems to care.

Eric Sondheimer can be reached at eric.sondheimer@latimes.com.

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