By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
BUFFALO, New York – Not a day goes by when TJ House doesn’t appreciate his mother.
By design, Mother’s Day is a reason for him to honour Darlene House, the woman who gave birth to him in Louisiana and raised him in Mississippi into the baseball player that he is, currently in his first season with the Toronto Blue Jays organization after eight years with the Cleveland Indians.
But there’s another day on the calendar each year when the 27-year-old southpaw takes an extra moment to specifically thank his mom – Father’s Day.
When House was 13, his father – after whom Glenn Anthony, or Tiger Junior, is named – opted out of his role as a dad to the young baseball player and his sisters. The elder House chose to depart from his family, with no interest in maintaining contact, supporting his wife, or continuing to get to know his children as they entered adulthood.
“He had other plans in his life,” the left-handed hurler for the Buffalo Bisons said. “That’s how things roll. You don’t get to pick and choose what kind of life you live, you just take the punches and you roll with them. We haven’t really been in touch. It’s more so his decision. That’s not my choice.”
House lost his father then, but has continually come to realize since then just how much his mother executed and accomplished in the years that followed, going above and beyond to make sure that all of the pieces to his puzzle always remained in place.
“Being in a single-parent home since I was 13, my mom took on a lot of responsibilities,” the 6-foot-1, 205-pound lefty said. “I know it was hard sometimes because I have a big family and she was trying to work and provide, and I’m trying to have my baseball career, and sometimes it was hard to be everywhere at once.
“So we had a lot of people who would help out, but she did an astounding job. I couldn’t imagine being in that situation. She was always a great mom, and when she could be there, she would be there. Sometimes when I was playing travel ball it was hard for her to get to Georgia or Florida, because I have siblings and she couldn’t leave them, but she was outstanding.”
Darlene House made life easier for her eldest son – who, including step siblings, now has four sisters and two brothers – even when it was especially difficult for her. The first time his mother battled breast cancer, House was in second grade, just seven years old. He didn’t understand what was going on. All the young athlete knew was that his mom had a bald head and she was sick.
When the cancer came back, House was the man of the house, a sophomore at Picayune High School, just two years away from being selected in the 16th round of the 2008 draft by the Indians. He had educated himself about the disease by the time it resurfaced in their lives, but he learned much more about his mother by the time Darlene beat it again.
“As I got older, I kind of started to understand the gravity of the situation,” House said. “I knew that it could be worrisome, because I understood what could happen in the end. It could turn bad, it could turn out well.
“But for me watching her go through it, I knew that she was going to beat it because of the willpower, and her personality, and how she woke up every day. You wouldn’t know she was in pain. She’d be miserable, and then she would go out in public and she was fine. She was smiling. I know deep down inside that couldn’t have been nice.”
His mother’s experiences have helped House shape his outlook on life, giving the lefty hurler – who currently has a 2.38 ERA and 33 strikeouts through six starts and 34 innings for the Bisons – unique insight into all that baseball can give and take, and helping his attitude on some of the simpler aspects of the game when the going gets rough.
“She was going through all that while I was growing up, and to see that she persevered through it all sometimes I think – I get mad at a baseball game?” he said. “I can’t even imagine what she went through. She had to wake up every day feeling terrible, having no hair, and still going out in public, going to work. She never stopped working.
“And that perseverance rubs off on you, and you put everything into perspective. If she can do that, then I have to be able to go out there and play every day happy. I mean, if I can’t, then what kind of person am I? She is a great role model to have.”