*Editor’s note: With baseball season fast approaching, it’s time we gave you some insight into the world of the major league ballplayer. To kick things off, we’ve solicited the wisdom of a talented writer who also moonlights as a nanny to the stars, if you will. Revealing a behind the scenes look at the MLB lifestyle is Raija Sanford (@RSanford23 on Twitter), who you can check out on her blog here. Anyone could tell you about the Mariners’ rotation or the fate of the season-to-be. But no one else will let you in on Josh Beckett’s mockery of his pregnant wife…
By Raija Sanford
I have gone to private schools my entire life. In that circle, one hires a nanny; one does not become a nanny. But somehow, I became a nanny, and not just any nanny, a Major League Baseball nanny.
When I started babysitting for new families my friends always asked me about them and I would say, “Well, the husband plays professional baseball.” And somehow their follow-up question was always, “Oh. So what does the wife do? Why do they need a nanny?”
Well, let me tell you…
Shopping. Yoga. Manicures. Pedicures. Dinners. Movies. Zumba. More shopping. More dinners. Sometimes even in a different order. If you had the time and money, wouldn’t you do the same?
Once we get that straightened out they usually ask, “Okay, and what do YOU do?”
WELL, let me tell you…
I open my bedroom door at all hours of the night when the four-year-old knocks and says he is afraid of the three-foot tall bobblehead doll of his dad and wants me to hide it in his closet, just until the morning when it turns back into his dad from the scary, shadowy, baseball-playing midget in the corner. “But it’s your DAD!” “But Raija! I’m SCARED.”
I reload the pitching machine in the home batting cage until young Junior is satisfied with the number of cuts he’s taken for the day. Or we switch and I hit him grounders until he feels he’s put in enough work to ensure he’ll play Major League Baseball like his Papi one day. (He looks on in disgust when his cousin misses two grounders in a row. Weak.)
I translate the kids’ Spanglish when the housekeeper doesn’t understand what “Yo quiero chocolate milk” means. The kids don’t understand that screaming it at her will not magically make her understand what “chocolate milk” is.
I run through airports with diaper bags and crying kids while they announce our names over the loudspeakers and that we “need to report to the gate immediately.” They’re crying because they think that they’ll be stuck in Seattle for the entire offseason if we don’t make this flight. And they’ve heard the rain rumors.
I serve as counselor when the wife needs to vent about the other baseball wives. SO. MUCH. DRAMA. Some friendly advice: never talk to them about religion or politics. Or baseball.
I meet sketchy mustachioed men off random I-90 exits in Issaquah when we need to pick up the cars that have been shipped out from Tennessee.
I change the subject when a pro-life wife from Ohio starts talking to a pro-choice wife from California over lunch at an In-N-Out Burger about a mutual acquaintance’s “options.” And they’re both pregnant too, so they’re feeling feisty.
I smile politely when the hyper waiter at the Japanese restaurant “recognizes” the baseball player (in other words, sees his chains and designer jeans and thinks he looks wealthy) and asks if he is on TV or plays sports and the player tells him, “Yes, I play soccer.” I guess it’s the waiter’s fault for not knowing Dominicans don’t play soccer.
I try not to stare when I see Josh Hamilton and his tattoos up close. Or when I bump into Matt Kemp at the hotel before the All Star Game and he’s wearing a three-piece suit and looks amazing (and Rihanna is nowhere in sight so this is my chance) and the sparkle from his Arthur Rhodes diamond earrings causes me to stumble…
I contain my laughter when Josh Beckett (wearing cowboy gear, obviously) points at his pregnant wife and boisterously yells, “I did that to her! HAHA!”
I try to explain to the four-year-old son why his father had a (dirty) pseudonym when he checked into the hotel in Houston. And Phoenix. I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with Berry Kush.
I (barely) avoid choking on my cup of water when we walk into a suite at Angels Stadium and Scott Boras is there to greet us and we all sing Happy Birthday to his wife. That pretty much makes me family, don’t you think?
I politely remind the neighbors that they don’t really need to know all the details of this baseball family’s life and they probably won’t be in touch with them after this season, so enjoy it while it lasts, and please don’t try to be sneaky.
I simultaneously cringe and giggle when the wife tells me to “hold onto those naughty bags” as I go down the waterslide into the lake. And when she holds up a bikini to my chest at a Forever 21 store in Phoenix and says, “you could for sure make this work.” Oh, how close we’ve grown…
I tune the kids out when they yell at me for taking too long to adjust the driver’s seat after I switch cars with their father, the six-foot-four-inch, 230-pound MLB DH.
I gently remind the wife that it is pretty easy to get to SeaTac (get on I-5, go south, follow signs for “airport”). She panics, ends up “where all the rainbows are, y’all, like where there’s men kissin’ on each other in the STREET” (Capitol Hill), and calls the driver to go pick up her friend while she comes to Safeco Field to tell us how trying her day has been.
I clean up explosive diapers at the T-ball field that have leaked onto the player’s (expensive) shirt right before he takes pictures with his son’s team before heading directly to the stadium. Sh*t happens.
I drink Moscato by the pool for the wife when she’s pregnant and can’t enjoy it herself. One glass is okay though, right?
I gather survival kit supplies for the home theater — which is the only room in the house without windows — when there’s a tornado approaching Dallas and none of us know what to do because we all grew up on the West Coast. We don’t know what a tornado is or understand why there is baseball-sized hail in Texas in May. Meanwhile, at the stadium, the team is blasting merengue music and partying in the clubhouse and have no idea there’s a tornado outside.
I make sure the kids wear shoes in the house at all time so Papi doesn’t get upset (it’s a Dominican thing). “¡Ponte los zapatos!”
I fight with children when they make outrageous statements such as “Obama hates God.” This is Seattle, bitch. Take that nonsense back to Texas with you.
I perform covert missions and take the Escalade and housekeeper to Target for an hour so the wife can look for her belongings she (correctly) suspects the housekeeper has stolen.
I watch grown Major League Baseball-playing men jump on the kids’ trampoline until one of the veteran players tells them it “might not be the best idea…” So, instead, one promptly cuts his foot on the bottom of the pool. Nobody else had done this all summer so we’re not quite sure how he managed to injure himself but, hey, that’s why he’s an All Star. He does what others cannot.
I look the other way when four players may or may not have been drinking some (kegs of) beer and decide it’s the right time to take a leak off the deck.
I attempt to remember the names of five (some were MIA) of Jose Reyes’ daughters on the shuttle to Chase Field. Apparently Jose does not have a “type” per se, because these girls came from a wide range of gene pools.
I sit there quietly pretending not to hear anything when the decision of where to take me for dinner causes a disagreement in the car and everybody is tense and the wife just wants to go to The Olive Garden but the husband insists on showing me a true Southern dining experience. Luckily, the sweet tea rectified the situation.
I type up fancy drink menus after carefully listening to the player’s specific instructions, including his personal “special,” (tequila, Squirt, and a splash of fresh lime juice), to display on the bar when the whole team comes over for an off day party.
The wife and I use subtle maneuvers to lead the kids away from the zebra enclosure where some especially frisky zebras are engaging in sexual activity at the Los Angeles Zoo. “Mommy, why is that zebra making those noises…?” “Raija, are they playing?” Yes, that’s exactly what’s happening…now where were those elephants?
In six years of babysitting and nannying for baseball families I have seen a different side of the lifestyle of professional athletes and their families, and have been granted a front row seat for the ups and downs they endure. I can’t think of a better way to have spent my summers. These opportunities have taken me to incredible places like Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Nashville, Phoenix, and Tacoma. From bird funerals for “Lord Peckington,” to dance parties in the playroom, to helping the mother-in-law cover up the fact that she scraped one side of the Lincoln Navigator, there has never been a dull moment.
Now I just need to convince these families we need a reality show.