Amaro relays father's lessons to daughters
Phillies GM raises daughters at ballpark, just like he was
PHILADELPHIA -- Sophia Amaro looked antsy, as any 7-year-old might, while waiting for her father to finish up his work one day earlier this month. She wandered around, stood up, sat down, and finally, when her dad had finished, she got to play.
Playing, that day, for the young daughter of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., meant walking around an empty Citizens Bank Park and taking in the sights from all angles of the stadium. Her dad, in his second season as senior vice president and GM, took her up to the far reaches of the left field stands to get a bird's eye view as the Phillies took batting practice below.
"I didn't realize Citizens Bank really looks different from here," she told her father. "I'm always used to watching it from the other side."
The "other side" would be the suites above home plate, where Amaro's two daughters, Sophia and older sister Andrea, regularly sit to watch games. Despite the privileges that come with being the children of a Major League team's GM, Amaro has always tried to expose them to different aspects of the game of baseball.
"I think it's just neat for her," Amaro said of Sophia. "At her age, I think it's just cool for her to be around it and comfortable with it. I was with it all the time as a kid, with my dad. A lot of kids don't get a chance to be around this stuff."
Born into a baseball family, Amaro has been shaped by the game, so he has used many principles he learned from baseball as lessons in parenting.
Amaro spent more time with his father, a former Major Leaguer infielder who played 11 seasons with four teams, than most kids growing up. He was a bat boy for the Phillies, while his dad served as first-base coach in the early 1980s, and it was there that Amaro was first exposed to the daily life of professional baseball.
Amaro played eight seasons for the Angels, Phillies, and Indians, before getting into the front office, but he fondly remembers his days observing some of baseball's stars from a unique perspective at a young age.
"My dad would tell me to try and keep my mouth shut, and try and learn from some of these guys -- watch the way they go about their business," Amaro said.
He learned about hard work, sportsmanship, and respect for the game from watching those professionals up close. And he also learned from his father, whom Amaro said was an early riser with an intense daily routine.
"It's something I've always held with me," Amaro said. "And I try to impart that with my kids as well. I try to make sure that whatever they do, they work hard, and give effort, and they respect."
The daughters can exhibit that on the soccer field, where Andrea plays for the YMS Under-11 Xplosion '98 club -- a travel team that competes almost year round. Amaro, who grew up playing soccer, admitted it's often a struggle to stay out of his daughter's sporting life.
Amaro said he constantly has to fight with himself to hold back from becoming too much of a "soccer dad." He remembers playing youth baseball and cringing every time he heard his dad's patented whistle, which often was used to critique something Amaro was doing poorly.
That was never something Amaro wanted to thrust upon his kids.
"He was trying to help me get better," Amaro said. "But I learned that at some point, you've got to let your kids go and do what they can."
He also said his exposure to sports has taught him the value of coaching, a piece of advice he tries to impart to Andrea.
"There are times when Andrea will come to me, and complain that the coach got on her for something, and I'd call the coach and thank him," Amaro said. "I'd thank him for doing that, and tell her, 'This is your coach, he's trying to make you better. He's not trying to break you down. He's trying to help you learn, and you should listen to him, because he knows what he's talking about.'"
Sophia and Andrea have also grown up with Citizens Bank Park as their dad's office, and some of the veteran players on the Phillies have watched them grow, too. Amaro understands that his daughters' interests aren't solely concentrated on baseball -- he, in fact, wanted to play professional soccer, and not baseball, growing up -- but he likes having them exposed to the players to see a different side of the athletes than what is seen on television.
"It's important for them to understand that these are just people," Amaro said. "These are regular people doing a job, a fairly glorious one, obviously, but they're just people. While it's special for them to be around here, at the same time, it shouldn't be something that they're awed by."
So that's why 7-year-old Sophia can feel at home, crawling across her father's lap in the Phillies dugout, while he talks to the media before a game. And while Amaro has never tried to pressure his daughters to be close to the game, they will always remain tied to it.
"I just try and let them do what they want," Amaro said. "Last night, for instance, I asked them if they saw the game and they said, 'Dad, we were watching the Flyers!'"
Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.