Brandon Barnes has always been extremely close to his mother, so when he got the call last year that he was finally going to get his shot in the big leagues after eight years in the Minors, he couldn't wait to pick up the phone to call the woman he calls "Momma."
Barnes' mother, Marta Azizian, was one of her son's biggest sources of inspiration and pride when he was toiling away in the Minor Leagues for eight long years. He wanted to quit on more than one occasion, but Marta wasn't going to have any of that.
"He would call and just say, 'Mom, I really want to quit,'" she said. "You had to tell him, 'No, you can't. Stick it out.'"
So when Barnes was told last August to pack his bags and head to Houston and join the Astros, Marta was thrilled. Barnes made his Major League debut on Aug. 7, 2012, and went 0-for-3 against the Nationals in Houston, but a mother's pride was bigger than the box score.
"I had just left Oklahoma City and had just got home, and two days later, Brandon got the callup, and I was so excited for him, but I was so heartbroken I couldn't turn around and go to Houston," Marta said. "I had just spent two weeks with him. The call was the best day of my life, as well as Brandon's."
Barnes, 26, has been in the Astros' organization longer than any current player. He was drafted out of Cypress College in California in 2005 and plodded his way through the Minor Leagues, overcoming doubters and defying odds along the way. And overcoming self-doubt, too.
"Eight years is a long time to watch your son sometimes almost suffer because he's hurting, not only mentally but physically," Marta said. "It's tough. When he wanted to quit, it's hard as a mother to watch your son go through it."
While getting the call from Brandon that he was going to the Major Leagues was an unforgettable moment for Marta, being able to watch her son play at Angel Stadium was magical in its own right. Brandon grew up just a few blocks from the ballpark and always dreamed of playing there.
He finally got his chance April 12 when the Astros -- the newest members of the American League West -- made their first West Coast trip of the year. Marta was one of more than 30 friends and family members in the stands watching Brandon.
"We'd always drive by here and watch games here," she said earlier this year while in Anaheim. "He wanted to play here. It brings tears to your eyes. It's actually surreal to watch him play here."
Marta's dedication to her son's love of baseball started well before he was a professional or even had thoughts of playing in the pros. When he was a kid, a sick and frustrated Brandon wanted to go home and leave his team. Mom had other ideas.
"He was sick and crying, and I pulled him away out of the dugout and I started driving home," she said. "I said, 'You can't go out there and cry. You're sick.' I started to drive away and said, 'No, I can't do that.' I drove him back and made him sit there in the dugout and made him watch the rest of the game. I couldn't take him away from the team and made him stick it out."
Having his mother push him has meant the world to Brandon.
"She took care of me," he said. "She always pushed me, not to play sports, but was always there to support me in whatever my decision was to play baseball and football. She was always out there for practices and games. She and my dad never missed a game. It's just a special moment for all of us to be able to enjoy being in the big leagues, and being able to see me play in a big league uniform and in a big league stadium."
Marta can't wait to see what the next chapter in life holds for her son, daughter-in-law Shawn and granddaughter Kenadie. No matter what, she'll be behind him like always.
"Brandon's the perfect man," she said. "He lives his life for God, his wife and his child."