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  • Courtesy Eva Rood with, from left, Henry Henry, Carlos Belen, Jeisson Rosario, Esteury Ruiz and Tirso Ornelas at Parkview Field. Rood and her husband, Doug, are hosting Rosario, Ruiz and Ornelas at their home this season.

  • Courtesy Erica Johnson Carter Tre Carter and his mom, Erica Johnson Carter, pose together. She has attended several games.

  • Tre Carter and his mother, Erica Johnson Carter. Credit: Erica Johnson Carter.

Sunday, May 13, 2018 1:00 am

'Caps get support from many moms

Carter's mother, hosts, help players feel they're home

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

As the TinCaps' Esteury Ruiz rounded third base after his second home run of the season April 21, he spotted one particular fan in the Parkview Field stands.

As he jogged home, he formed his hands into the shape of a heart and showed it to her.

That fan is Eva Rood, the infielder's host mother, whom he lives with in Fort Wayne. Rood and her husband, Doug, have been hosting players and making them feel at home for 21 years. Ruiz, 18, said he feels comfortable living with Rood despite being 1,800 miles from his home in the Dominican Republic.

“I feel like I'm home with Eva,” Ruiz said in Spanish through a translator. “It's like a real family.”

Rood does not have a son on the team, but she comes to almost all the TinCaps games, one of a few “moms” who is often in the stands when the TinCaps take the field.

The day before his home run, Ruiz had noticed a photo on Rood's refrigerator of former TinCap and current El Paso, Texas (Triple-A), outfielder Franmil Reyes making the same heart shape. Ruiz asked about the signal and Rood told him that Reyes, who also lived with her, “showed me his heart” after hitting a home run. Ruiz pledged to do the same the next time he hit a home run and kept his promise the following day.

“I almost started crying,” Rood said of Ruiz's gesture. “I couldn't believe it that he even knew where I was sitting (Rood usually sits on the first-base side, but was on the third-base line for this game). ... He found me and it almost made me cry.”

Ruiz, who leads the TinCaps in home runs with five, said the heart symbol has another meaning, as well.

“(Eva) always tells me to play with my heart,” he said.

Rood estimates she and Doug have hosted about 40 players in the last two decades, including Ruiz, Tirso Ornelas and Jeisson Rosario this year. She has two children of her own, but said the players also feel like family to her. Just like for other mothers, watching them play can be a stressful experience.

“(Doug and I) come to every (home) game,” she said. “But sometimes I have heart attacks when they strike out or something. I get upset if somebody (in the stands) says something ... Sometimes I have to get up and walk away because they are, they're like my boys.”

Fellow TinCaps mom Erica Johnson Carter – outfielder Tre Carter's mother – also goes to plenty of games and has been a noticeable figure at her son's games since he was a kid.

“That's just part of who I am, I've always been the loudest mom out there in football, baseball, basketball,” said Carter, who saw her son's games in Kane County on Friday and Saturday. “He can always hear me, so he knows that somebody's there rooting for him.”

Tre Carter, a 21-year-old outfielder who is in his first season with the team, said his mother played a prominent role in his baseball story. 

“It started when I was little, she took me outside one day and started throwing me a ball, her and my grandfather,” said Carter, who was born in Columbus, Indiana, but went to high school in Tennessee. “I ended up picking up a bat, I throw right-handed, but I bat left-handed, so she thought that was a little weird. She tried fixing it, but that didn't work out for her.”

Carter's mother has been cheerleading for him since he started playing baseball and that hasn't changed since he joined the professional ranks in 2016. She still calls him “Bubba,” a nickname she's used his since he was young, which has helped make her recognizable at games.

“When he first got to (low-A) Tri Cities last year, I started screaming 'Let's go, Bubba' but when I started screaming, then another mom came over and she started screaming with me,” Carter said. “Then this young man who follows Tri Cities walked up to me and asked, 'Are you Mama Carter?' I said, 'yes' and he was like, 'Here, this is from Bubba' and he handed me a baseball, so he came and found me.”

Carter, who is originally from Illinois, attended the games in Kane County this weekend with her own mother and sister. Tre Carter said he was excited to see his mother and he appreciates that she's his biggest fan.

“Anything's tweeted or said anything about me, she'll retweet it and post it, say something about it,” he said. “She's loves talking about me. Sometimes I wish she'd stop, but it's all fun and games with her. When I look back and see what she does, it makes me feel happy.”

Ruiz grew up with his grandparents in the Dominican Republic and he speaks of his grandmother in much the same way Carter does about his mother.

“Ever since I was young, I've been playing baseball all over the place in the Dominican,” he said. “She knows my dream is to play in the big leagues and she supports me every time.”