The most difficult times, CC Sabathia said, come when the team is on the road. From a hotel room in some American League city, the Yankees pitcher will punch the familiar numbers into his iPhone and wait for a FaceTime video call to connect, hoping to catch a glimpse of what is going on back home in New Jersey.
The screen loads and Sabathia always knows that his wife, Amber, has had her day filled by keeping their four children busy, on schedule and happy. That feat impresses Sabathia, and as Mother's Day approaches, he's thankful for her presence.
"She's got that motherly instinct," Sabathia said. "We both were young when we had our first kid, and from the moment that he came out, I think 'Mother Goose' just kind of took over. She's a great mom. I know it's been tough trying to raise four kids with this lifestyle that we have -- sometimes she's a single mother. She has to hold it down, and she does a good job of that."
The Sabathias have two sons, Carsten Charles III (10) and Carter (3), and two daughters, Jaden (8) and Cyia (6). Since 2009, their family has made a home in the suburb of Alpine, N.J., a quick drive across the George Washington Bridge from Yankee Stadium.
Amber and CC were high school sweethearts in Vallejo, Calif., and they have been married for a decade. Amber said that being a mother has been the most important thing in her life.
"To me, my biggest accomplishments in life are my four kids," Amber said. "To me, they mean everything, and I can't imagine life without them. I know that sounds so cliched, but it really is -- what I do day to day, my whole world revolves around the four of them."
During the season, Amber's job doubles in responsibility. Sabathia does what he can from afar, but with starts to be made and pitches to be thrown, he knows that much of the at-home work will have to be done by Mom.
"With me being on the road, she has to be the disciplinarian; she has to be both sides," Sabathia said. "I know it gets tough. When I'm home during the offseason, it takes the pressure off, but being on the road so much during the season, it's hard."
"CC always says that he gives me credit, because during the season, every road trip I become a single mother," Amber said. "I live in both worlds. I don't know how single parents do it, man or woman. Being a single parent is extremely hard. I do it during the season when he's on the road, because that's his job and that's what we have to do."
Despite the challenges, Amber said that she truly enjoys her many responsibilities. In addition to being the executive director of the PitCChin Foundation, Amber recently started a baseball-themed youth clothing line, CCandy.
She is also a Girl Scout leader and a girls cheerleading liaison for the city of Tenafly, N.J. Amber said that the stability of knowing that Sabathia will be pitching in New York for the long term has helped to make those activities possible.
"In CC's free-agent year [of 2008], we went from California to Florida to Cleveland to Milwaukee, back to California for the offseason and then to New York when we signed -- all in one full calendar year," Amber said. "You want to keep your kids involved and active and have their whole world not just be baseball -- you want them to do Tae Kwon Do or dance class, and have as much of a normal childhood as you can."
At home, Amber said that she keeps a chalkboard that is color-coded with all four of the kids' respective activities, as well as the Yanks' schedule. On a recent Saturday, with the team in the Bronx hosting the Angels, Amber attended three of her kids' ballgames -- back to back to back.
"We're definitely a baseball family," Amber said. "My kids love going to the ballpark, the family room, the games and on the road. It's an adventure, and they were all born into it, so it's all they know. I think that's what keeps it going."
Amber said that CC's personal rule of checking the game at the George Washington Bridge has helped keep balance. Amber has heard stories about players coming home in foul moods after losses or slumps, but she said that has never been CC's style.
"He's the absolute same person, no matter what," Amber said. "He can go out and have the worst game, he can go out and have the best game, and when he comes home -- we made a deal a long time ago. He knows that home is home, so he never wants to bring the field back to home. It never comes across that bridge to New Jersey."
Sabathia said that Amber "was born to be a mom." Illustrating her impact, he recalled a recent discussion between Amber and their oldest child -- known as Little C -- about the importance of sticking up for others and not being a bully. The message quickly sunk in.
"About a month later, Little C came home and he was the student of the month, because he stuck up for a little kid that was getting bullied," Sabathia said. "They gave him 'Student of the Month' for that."
Amber said that her best advice to mothers of young families is to be patient, as well as enjoying the children now, because at some point, they will grow up. The most important part is keeping the family together as a unit.
"The one thing I tell any mother is, you've never felt the love that you will feel for your child," Amber said. "We all love our husbands, our boyfriends, our significant others, our parents. We love our friends. The love that a mother has for their child is unexplainable. Until you've felt it and until you become a mother, then you know."