Not a week goes by without Jemile Weeks picking up the phone and calling his mother. In fact, the A's second baseman says it's more like an every-other-day occurrence.
"She's one to try to lend baseball advice because she believes she's got some knowledge after all these years," said Weeks, laughing. "With two boys playing baseball, she'll give her advice from time to time. You don't always want to hear it but she'll be right sometimes. You just give her the respect, and who knows? Maybe it ends up being helpful."
The task comes naturally for Valeria Weeks-McMillian, a pastor in Orlando and mother of two boys and one girl. Each offseason, Jemile and brother Rickie, second baseman for the Brewers, return to the area and, every Sunday, attend church before digging in to a home-cooked meal, always served with a dose of perspective.
It's one Jemile never loses sight of during the year, no matter where his baseball travels take him.
"She definitely keeps me grounded," he said. "It's kept me with the mentality to have something to believe in, as far as our religious beliefs and how we live our daily lives. I can say that having parents who provide that for a child, it keeps you safe from a lot of outside influences. I think my siblings and I benefited greatly from that.
"Once it's planted in you, it sticks. We might venture out here and there, but the foundation is always there. I think that keeps us from exploring things we don't need to explore."
For Valeria, baseball came behind only church and school. But even though the sport didn't mean much to her if math and science homework weren't done, many of her favorite early memories of Jemile came on the field, where his opponents would repeatedly -- and mistakenly -- expect little production from his 5-foot-8 frame.
"That was always funny to me because I thought, 'They really don't know who this kid is,'" Valeria said. "Whenever they did that, the ball always went over their heads. It never failed. The coaches and the parents on the sidelines, they'd say, 'Wow, look at that little kid go!'"
Even when Jemile wasn't of age to don a Little League uniform, he kept his opponents busy.
"He had all of us throwing the ball to him, with one of those plastic ball-and-bat sets," Valeria said. "I would have the ball and he'd say, 'Pitch the ball, Mama!"
Said Jemile: "God blessed us with parents that care. Growing up in our house, you just learned how to be appreciative. You're supposed to be appreciative of the little things, so you know how to be appreciative of the bigger things."