For Phillies righthander Carlos Carrasco and Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider, a pair of Top 100 prospects, the events they endured in their personal lives this off-season help put the game they play for a living in perspective.
Carrasco, the top prospect in the Phillies system, faced a horrific situation on Feb. 3 at his home in Venezuela, where professional athletes have at times become targets for kidnappers seeking a large ransom.
The incident occurred on a Sunday at 5:30 p.m., after Carrasco, who still lives with his parents, three sisters and a handicapped brother, left his house to pick up his mother. Seeing one of Carrasco’s sisters and a brother-in-law entering the house, the burglars forced everyone inside.
"They were watching me when I picked up my mom," Carrasco said. "It was a setup."
Carrasco’s sister had a gun pointed at her head as the robbers, with dreams of a big payday, waited for Carlos to return. A few minutes later, the pitcher reentered his home and received the scare of his life.
"When I got back, they went in there," he said. "They told us that they will shoot us if we did anything stupid."
The Carrascos played it safe and let the burglars leave with a computer, jewelry, flat-screen television and cash.
Carrasco was relieved when the thieves were finally captured about a week later, but it’s not easy knowing his family still is living in potential danger.
Snider, the Blue Jays’ top prospect who will likely skip high Class A Dunedin this year and head straight to Double-A New Hampshire, just turned 20 years old last month. Yet, as Larry Stone wrote in this excellent piece about Snider, adapting to Double-A will be nothing compared to the off-field adversity he has already battled.
But Snider’s enlightenment has come in incredibly heartbreaking fashion. In a two-year span, Snider has lost a grandfather and grandmother with whom he enjoyed a close relationship. A close friend and one of his youth coaches have also died in recent years.
And then, last Sept. 9, came the greatest blow of them all: Snyder’s mother, Patty, who had battled through an excruciating health crisis — she lapsed into a two-week coma in 2002 that led to major liver problems and jolted 14-year-old Travis into accelerated adulthood — died in a car accident on the Mukilteo Speedway.
Snider clings to the solace of having been able to reconnect with his mom before she died. He had returned to Mill Creek just days earlier following the conclusion of his highly successful second pro season, in which he hit .313 with 16 home runs and 93 runs batted in for the Class A Lansing Lugnuts.
"I was able to spend a couple of days with her before she passed away," Snider said Tuesday, taking a pause from a long day that included early hitting in the cage, an intrasquad game and an arduous weight workout.
"I definitely don’t take that for granted. She was able to come out to the Midwest League All-Star Game and see her son play in a pro all-star game.
"Obviously, my dream was to have both parents there at my first big-league game. But I know she’s up there with my grandma and grandpa and friends and coaches that have passed on before me, looking down on me. I take them to heart every day before I step on the field."
What’s remarkable about Snider is that exactly one month after his mother’s death, he was on the field for Scottsdale as the second-youngest player in the Arizona Fall League. And he dominated the AFL, albeit in just 98 at-bats, hitting .316/.404/.541 in the backdrop of personal tragedy. The numbers, of course, aren’t what is relevant. Snider’s and Carrasco’s stories should remind us that sometimes there are more important things that a young player has to deal with compared to reaching the major leagues.