Chirinos and son enjoy summer at ballpark

HOUSTON – No matter how long a previous night’s home game lasted, Robinson Chirinos was always up in time to have breakfast with his son David during his six seasons with the Rangers. The veteran catcher cherished the 10-minute drives to drop David off at school in the Dallas area.

Chirinos has missed that part of the routine since joining the Astros this season. The Chirinos tried to make up for that void by spending most of the summer together with the Astros, inside the clubhouse and out on the field with some of the biggest superstars in baseball.

Before returning back to Dallas for the start of the school year, David Chirinos followed in the footsteps of the sons of José Cruz, Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio and Roger Clemens. David was a charismatic and helpful presence inside the clubhouse and on the field during batting practice, home and away.

One moment he was chatting with Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel, another moment he was hanging with Astros manager AJ Hinch or chatting with former American League MVP José Altuve.

“He’s had a good summer,” Hinch said of David. “He’s gotten to be around this team, and he’s really been adopted by our entire team. He’s a fun kid, and he’s got great banter with all the players. He loves being at the ballpark.

“We don’t have a lot of older kids in our clubhouse, but he’s the one that’s been around as much as he can when he’s not playing in his own league in Dallas. Players love him, and he loves being here. You want to reward the kids that love to be here.”

A year ago, Robinson would have to encourage his oldest son to join him at the stadium. Something clicked for David this summer, though.

Robinson never had to ask David to join him at work. David was eager and ready to be with the Astros every day.

At about the same age Robinson says he truly fell in love with baseball back home in Venezuela, David became more passionate about the game.

“This year I saw the change in him waking up and saying, ‘Papa, let’s go. I’m ready now,’” Robinson said. “He’d get ready and have the ‘Ganas’ (desire) to be at the stadium…

“I’ve always said that at that age – nine, 10, 11 years old – is when you fall in love with the game. I think that makes the difference so that baseball doesn’t become another job. I remember when I was a (boy) I fell in love with baseball. I come to the stadium, and I don’t feel obligated to go to the stadium.”

The pair took full advantage before David returned to school. Moreover, Robinson acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy to be away from his family during the school year.

Robinson misses those daily chats over breakfast and on the drive to school.

Robinson, who was 23 when his son was born, has prided himself on duplicating the environment his parents Roberto and Marvella created for him when he was a child in Punto Fijo, Venezuela.

Roberto Chirinos raised six children – three boys and three girls – as an oil refinery worker. He never played baseball, but he loved the sport that Robinson and his two older brothers played.

“I can tell you that if it wasn’t for my parents’ support I wouldn’t be here,” Robinson said. “My father worked in the oil refinery in Punto Fijo. My mom was the one who supported me with baseball practices. I had a beautiful infancy playing baseball, tournaments.”

Robinson, 34, was only 14 when a scout for the Chicago Cubs noticed him at a national tournament. The Cubs offered him an academic scholarship to finish high school at their Venezuelan baseball academy.

A few days after that offer, Robinson and his father sat in the stands at a local baseball diamond.

“Would you like to study and go to the university and have a career or would you like to play baseball professionally?” Roberto asked Robinson.

Robinson didn’t need much time to answer his father’s question.

“I was 14, but I can tell you that two years earlier I already had the desire to play in the big leagues, to be a professional,” Robinson said. “When I got that question, I was prepared. I said, ‘No, I want to be a big leaguer.’ And thank God now I’m living my dream I’ve had since I was a child.”

Chirinos, who signed a one-year deal with the Astros last December, has had a solid career. He made his debut with the Rays in 2011, appearing in 20 games. He returned to the majors for a brief 13-game cameo in 2013 with the Rangers before settling into the majors for good in 2014 in Arlington.

Chirinos’ 3.1 Wins Above Replacement is already the highest of his career, topping his previous high of 2.6 WAR in 2017.

Despite the success on the field, though, there has been a void in his life during the school year. He misses his daily breakfast with David and the chats on the drive to school, which is why he made sure they were together as much as possible this summer.

“This year, it’s been difficult not to do it,” Robinson said. “I’ve cherished that we’ve been together every minute and every hour to talk. I know that the next month and a half I have left in the season I won’t be able to see him like I’d like to see him. It teaches you to cherish every detail day to day.”

In that regard, Robinson and David Chirinos definitely capitalized on their time together at ballparks around the majors this summer with one of the top World Series contenders.

Those trips to the stadium, however, were more than just about making up for time missed during the school year on opposite parts of the state.

Robinson spoke to David often about the value of being around major leaguers on a daily basis. He reminded him that not many children are blessed with the opportunity to hang out with big leaguers and ask them questions.

Very few voices know the joy that the Biggio, Ryan, Cruz and Clemens boys felt growing up following their famous dads in big league clubhouses.

“Time goes by quickly,” Robinson said. “Not many people can have the opportunity that Craig (Biggio) had or Clemens had that I have to have your sons grow up here to see what this environment is like at such a young age.

“As I told him I didn’t have a chance to go into a big league clubhouse until I was called up to the big leagues. I didn’t know what a clubhouse was. I didn’t know how it looked inside, how people were. Now he speaks to the manager. He talks to the pitchers. It’s an environment that will help him tremendously to open up and see how he is.”

Robinson has rejoiced seeing his son fall in love with baseball. David clearly embraced the opportunity. He and his father played catch before batting practice almost daily.

At times David could be found working on his pitches on the mound at Minute Maid Park. In the middle of his final trip of the summer, he was even given a few pitching tips from lefthander Wade Miley in the bullpen at the White Sox’s Guaranteed Rate Field.

“Wade told me that he was in the bullpen with David and he taught him some things,” Chirinos said. “Wade said, ‘He likes to pitch, so I gave him some secrets on mechanics that might help him.’

“For a big league pitcher to give you advice when you’re 11, it will make an impact in your baseball life. It’s tremendous because it’s something that not everybody can do. I feel truly blessed to be able to do that.”

Featured Image: Courtesy Houston Astros

Inset Images: Courtesy Houston Astros