MESA, Ariz. -- Every Jan. 6, for the past four or five years, Alfonso Soriano distributes toys to the children in his home of Quisqueya, Dominican Republic. He and his mother, Andrea, started the gift-giving.

"I grew up with nothing, and I have the opportunity to give, so why not?" Soriano said.

They picked Jan. 6 because it was Andrea Soriano's birthday.

"That's 'Kids Day,'" Soriano said of the much-anticipated holiday in the small community, located near San Pedro de Macoris. "That's my mom's birthday. We do that for her and the kids. Every year, we do toys for the kids."

This January, for the second year, they added school supplies, like notebooks and pens, for the thousands of children at the school there. Soriano would like to purchase 10 or 15 computers and create a studio that the students can use.

But next year, Soriano will have to do it alone.

Andrea Soriano died in mid-January of a heart attack.

"My mom was everything for me," Soriano said.

Her death came as a total shock. She was examined in Chicago last summer and underwent a procedure on her heart. Soriano, his wife Angelica, their four children, his mother and his in-laws all went to Orlando, Fla., in January to go to Disney World. Soriano's father died about five years ago, and the Cubs outfielder has taken care of his family, especially his mother.

"She told me that she felt like a baby again," Soriano said of the Florida trip. "I said to her, 'I'm your son, but now you're my older daughter.' We came back on a Monday and she went back home and I stayed at my house.

"The next day, she called at 6 and she was fine," Soriano said. "Three or four hours later, my brother called and said, 'Your mom isn't feeling good.' I was very surprised because she was feeling fine. She had a heart attack. In the half hour from the house to the hospital, she passed away."

Andrea Soriano died in the car about halfway from her home to the hospital.

"I feel sad," Soriano said, "but at least I had a chance to have a good time with her and give her a lot of good things."

Andrea Soriano didn't see her son play in person very much. She was at Wrigley Field in July 2009 when Soriano belted a walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning to power the Cubs to a 5-1 victory. It's a game he won't forget.

"What I do in baseball is because of my mom," Soriano said. "She taught me respect and to love what I do. She was the mother and father for me at the same time. I grew up with her and my sister and two brothers. Anything I do is just for her."

All of Quisqueya attended the funeral. By coincidence, the Cubs had a front-office contingent in the Dominican Republic, including chairman Tom Ricketts, his brothers Pete and Todd and player personnel director Oneri Fleita. They were trying to finalize details for a new baseball academy in the Dominican. They attended the funeral and watched, somewhat horrified, as the casket was beaten up and damaged following the ceremony.

"If you don't break it, somebody will come in at night and steal it," Soriano said.

Isn't that hard to watch?

"That's what they do in the Dominican," Soriano said, matter-of-factly. "You have to break it down, poke some holes so people don't steal it. It's crazy."

Soriano arrived at Cubs camp on Saturday eager to get started on the season. Mike Quade, his outfield coach for the past 3 1/2 years, is now the manager and led the club to a 24-13 mark after he took over. Soriano is healthy, which is some of the best news the team could hear.

But he has a heavy heart.

"In the little town where I live, we're a big family," Soriano said. "Everybody knew my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother. They know I play baseball. When people ask, 'Where are you from?' and you say, 'Little Quisqueya,' they'll say, 'Oh, Soriano's [home].'"

Soriano was very impressed by the community's turnout and support. They're still mourning Andrea's death.

"Everybody had the same feeling when my mom passed away -- sad," he said.