Super Mom? Stacie Barajas, wife of Mets catcher
Stacie Barajas scoured the house for a momentary hiding spot, a quiet refuge from the ear-piercing sounds of children, away from the commotion that fills her days.
Cell phone in hand, she closed the door behind her and exhaled softly. "You know, I don't know how I find time to do it," she said with a laugh.
Quiet time is a luxury a mother of six cannot afford - especially when her husband is a baseball player.
"They've got two lifestyles," Mets catcher Rod Barajas said. "When they're with their baseball husbands, and then they have a single-mother lifestyle, basically."
While Rod is handling the Mets' pitching staff, his wife is keeping their brood - Andrew, 14; Bryce, 9; Aunalilia, 8; Rod Jr., 5; Jace, 4, and Aubrielle, 2 - in line back home in Del Mar, Calif.
Rod can't help but wonder how his wife manages to get through the day, how she's able to play caretaker, schoolteacher and housekeeper without harboring any resentment. Especially on this day.
"Mother's Day doesn't always fall on the second Sunday of May," Barajas said. "For us, it's whenever I get to see her. That's the day when we get to spoil her a little bit and make her feel special.
"There's times, being a mother, where you can be overwhelmed and you feel like people don't appreciate what you do. And whenever I do get to see her, I try to let her know we care for her and couldn't do it without her."
After 11 years of marriage, Barajas knows the way to his wife's heart isn't through extravagant gifts. It's with heartfelt words, scribbled in crayon or marker. Words such as: "My mom is good at making me feel special.''
"Those things melt your heart," Stacie gushes.
That's why Rod can't help but feel guilty. Guilty for the time he's away, and for the downtime he's able to find within a 162-game schedule. "You do feel a little bad that you're able to go out to dinner with the guys, go to a basketball game or something, and there's no chance for her to do that. She's just so unselfish, she puts everybody in front of her. She knows what she was put on this Earth to do, and that was to be a mother. And she's probably the best one ever."
The couple met through a mutual friend almost 13 years ago, when Rod was playing for the Class A High Desert Mavericks in Southern California. And it didn't take long for sparks to ignite.
"You know when you hear your friends saying, 'I met this guy and it was love at first sight'? I was always like, 'Yeah, right, c'mon.' But a month or two months later, I told my dad, 'This is the one.' "
Said Rod with a smile: "She caught my eye, I caught her eye and the rest, as they say, is history."
Eleven years - and six kids - later, their bond is stronger than ever. But coping with the separation, especially on Mother's Day, is challenging.
"I don't think it's just baseball wives," Stacie said. "It's any wife or mother whose husband has a job that takes him away for a day or months at a time. I'm not going to lie, I miss him. At times I break down, but you have to be strong for the kids. If they're crying because they miss their dad, then I can't break down."
Instead, Stacie and the kids relish the times they do get to see him - including on television. The kids were jumping up and down after Rod hit a pair of home runs, including a walk-off blast, in the 6-4 win over San Francisco Friday night.
"When it's baseball season, she tries to take all of the pressure off of me, just lets me concentrate on my job and she handles everything," said Rod, who leads all catchers with nine home runs after signing a $1-million (plus incentives) contract in February. "She just finds a way to keep everything running by herself when I'm gone, and she is just an absolutely amazing woman.
"And I tell her - probably not often enough - there's no way I can do what she does. And not too many people in this world can."