Miguel Rojas’ Saturday started with a pair of emotional tributes. On his Instagram story, Rojas posted two pictures about two hours apart focusing on his mom, Norma Naidenoff.
The first was of her laying on the ground taking pictures on a trip in Chicago.
“Pon a bailar a todos en el cielo mami, ahora celebra tu eternidad, te amo y extraño mucho,” reads the caption, which translates to “Make everyone dance in heaven mommy. Now celebrate your eternity. I love you and miss you so much.”
The second was Naidenoff smiling while looking over Rojas’ sister Noelia and son Aaron.
“Te extraño pero te recuerdo así feliz,” reads the caption below that photo.
“I miss you, but I remember you so happy.”
Both also had the date — May 28. Saturday would have been Naidenoff’s 63rd birthday. She passed away in January after multiple battles with breast cancer.
Rojas, the Miami Marlins’ starting shortstop and de facto team captain, has been carrying the loss with him for the past four months.
Those two photos, he said, encapsulated Naidenoff.
“That’s what she was,” Rojas said. “She was like pure joy, emotions and happiness.”
Rojas embodied those same qualities in the sixth inning of the Marlins’ 4-1 win over the Atlanta Braves when he hit a solo home run to left field, a hit that served as Miami’s game-winning run.
As Rojas rounded second base, he pointed his right hand to the sky. He put his hand on his heart after crossing home plate before returning to the dugout. He got a hug from pitcher Pablo Lopez, a close friend on the team who also knows what it’s like to lose a parent.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Rojas said, “but at the same time, I’m happy and I’m proud. Having her on my mind helps me overcome so many things. At this point, it hasn’t been an easy year for me and everybody knows that. … I just want to use that as fuel for me to continue to do good and continue to help this team.”
Rojas finished the day with three hits, including the home run, and made a slew of web gems in the field. He turned an inning-ending double play in the first, tagged out Ronald Acuna Jr. at third base after getting a great throw from first baseman Garrett Cooper to end the sixth inning and slid feet first to grab a Michael Harris II ground ball to the left side to get the first out of the ninth inning.
“It seems like there are things that happen in this game — and in the world in general — that it’s hard to explain when it happens and you can’t [explain] why it happened, but it seems to happen on those dates,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “A special day for him.”
Rojas smiled as he talked about how his sister in Venezuela sent him a video of her screaming as he hit the home run. The support as he honors one of the cornerstones of his life is important, especially as Rojas reflects on the positivity Naidenoff possessed in just about every situation.
She was a doctor by profession but a singer at heart. Rojas in 2018 helped her release a nine-song album of her singing famous boleros and classic Spanish ballads. It had a healing effect for her and helped her keep her mind off the tough times she was going through.
Even when she was battling breast cancer — her first diagnosis came in 2011 before entering remission in 2012 only for it to return again in 2016 and once more in 2021 — she did her best to stay upbeat.
So even when things gets tough, from a slump on the field to the adjustment of life without his mother to anything else life throws his way, Rojas works to embrace his
And all of it came together into one moment Saturday with that home run.
“I don’t need to keep the ball,” Rojas said. “I just want to keep the memory.”
Just like Naidenoff, that moment is one that will always stay with Rojas.
This story was originally published May 28, 2022 8:39 PM.