Last year, his first in the Majors, Jordany Valdespin made more money than he had before. Valdespin had successfully navigated the journey that most never do, from talented Dominican teenager to established big league ballplayer.

His mother, Maria Guzman, was working as a housemaid back in the Dominican Republic.

"No more work," Valdespin told her. "Stop."

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"Stay and relax, and I'll work for you," Valdespin recalled saying. "I'll do my job every day and I'll give you everything."

So it came to be that Valdespin, a player maligned early in his career for a reputation of selfishness, began giving back financially to his family. Valdespin's parents had always supported his dream of becoming a big leaguer, and he counts his mother as the most important person in his life.

Most nights before he goes to sleep, Valdespin video chats with his mother on his computer. They talk often about baseball -- Valdespin explains to her the rules of the game and recounts his performances -- and life in the Dominican.

"She's the boss," Valdespin said, laughing. "I give all the information to her every day, every night. She's my boss."

Each spring, Maria flies to stay with Valdespin in Florida, a relatively short plane ride from her home in the Dominican. She "rests, relaxes," according to the outfielder, but also treats him to some of his home-cooked favorites.

"Rice, chicken, beans -- oh baby," Valdespin said, laughing.

She also flies once a year to visit her son in New York, where he is working to become an integral player for the Mets. Once a spare part, Valdespin has started often at all three outfield positions this year, learning the outfield after initially reaching the Majors as a second baseman.

His fame, however, has come primarily as a pinch-hitter; Valdespin's game-winning home run off Jonathan Papelbon in Philadelphia highlighted one of the most memorable games of last season, and his walk-off grand slam at Citi Field last month marked an early high point for the Mets.

When planning this year's New York trip for his mother, Valdespin hoped it might coincide with Mother's Day, wanting to celebrate the most important person in his life. For Maria, the trips may be vacations -- opportunities to see her son in his new home, relax with him in Long Island City and enjoy time with family.

But for Valdespin, the annual visits are opportunities to honor his mom. Criticized throughout his professional career for his carefree attitude, Valdespin grows serious when discussing his family.

"Your mother is very, very special in your life," Valdespin said. "She's the big thing you have. You're working hard for her. When you have her next to you, it's like an extra gift. When she dies, she can't give you anything. So I'm working hard for her. I try to give everything to my mother, because you never know when she'll leave.

"So that's what I do: I focus on my job and do everything to her. A mother is the best thing you can have."