Unlike his three major league sons, Benjamin Molina was not a catcher. He was just everything else.
"I still talk to him every day," said San Francisco Giants catcher Bengie Molina, the oldest of the big-league siblings. "A lot of times I hope he could tell me he's OK, wherever he is."
Benjamin Molina died suddenly last October, two weeks after the end of the major league season, while doing what he loved. He was teaching young men the game in his native Puerto Rico.
He suffered a stroke between games of a youth league doubleheader on the field he built from scratch near his home. That's the same field where baseball and life lessons were imparted to Bengie and his brothers, Jose of the New York Yankees and Yadier of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Bengie Molina has a black, long-sleeved shirt with a picture of his father's face on the front hanging in a locker stall at Scottsdale Stadium. He has the same picture in a large frame, with four smaller photos at each corner.
The message "We always remember you" in Spanish is on the shirt and photo. Molina plans to keep the framed photo with him all season, even though his father is never far from his thoughts.
"I talk to him sometimes when I am a little stressed about the game or when I am worried about my girls," said the 34-year-old Molina, who has two daughters. "Little things like that. I want to make sure he knows he is always missed. The worst thing is remembering when you were a kid and when he took your hand and said, 'Watch out for the cars' when he crossed the street with you, or when he hit you groundballs. Those are the little things that get in your head."
Benjamin Molina taught baseball only after putting in a full shift on a factory assembly line. The lessons were about humility, work ethic and a respect for others.
Molina's father and three of his friends turned an overgrown lot into a baseball field, the first step coming when they aligned themselves at the four bases and scratched away the grass with their shoes at each spot.
"You're a human being first. Then you are whatever you do next, whether you are a factory worker or work at McDonald's. It doesn't matter who you are," Molina said. "If I can chip in with my little help, I will do it any time."
Those around Molina notice his attentiveness and his dedication to improvement, as seen in his career year in 2008, when he hit .292 with 33 doubles, 16 home runs and 95 RBIs.
Molina had nine more doubles and 14 more RBIs than in any of his previous 10 major league seasons while catching 136 games.
A two-time Gold Glove winner, Molina threw out 35 percent of the runners attempting to steal, tied with his brother Yadier for second best in the NL.
"He's a manager's dream, a catcher who can catch and bat cleanup," said Giants special assistant Felipe Alou. "He catches every day and he looks like he always has enough energy left to get a base hit in the ninth inning to win a game. He's a real tough out late in the game, and there are not a lot of guys like that. He's a great two-strike hitter, one of the best in the game. And he always tries to help the young guys."
Giants left-hander Noah Lowry has worked with Molina since he arrived as a free agent in San Francisco in 2007 on a three-year deal that ends after this year.
"There is nobody who cares about the game as much as Bengie," Lowry said. "The way that he calls the game leaves you no doubt. He takes it to heart. When we go out to battle out there, he's on your side. He cares just as much as you do. He's smart. He's prepared. He's a good communicator. You can't ask for anything more."
Neither would his father.
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