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Diamond Heirs
Michael Farber
June 19, 1995
It was Felipe Alou's destiny to become a baseball star, and then the game became his family's legacy
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June 19, 1995

Diamond Heirs

It was Felipe Alou's destiny to become a baseball star, and then the game became his family's legacy

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Moises felt a child's pain and wished a child's wish. He wanted his parents to get back together. Didn't all his friends have two parents with them? Felipe would write and call Moises. He would see Moises occasionally during the winters. The boy's school tuition was paid. There was food on the table. But Felipe never made a fortune in baseball, the way Moises has—last week he signed a one-year, $3 million contract—and there wasn't much spare money at home. Moises never owned a bicycle. His mother couldn't afford one.

"But I was the happiest kid in the world," Moises says. "My dad would pick me up sometimes when he was home, and we'd go to a beach house in Salinas and go fishing. We'd drive around, and people would stare at us. People would come up and want to shake his hand. You know how good that makes a kid feel? Maybe afterward it was, 'O.K., see you in a couple of months,' but I felt proud when I was with him. He was the most famous player, maybe the most famous person, on the island, and he was my father."

Felipe was not, however, his son's teacher. Moises came relatively late to baseball. He played on the basketball team in high school. What he learned about the family business came from his uncle Jesus or his baseball coaches in the Mota League. Moises attended Canada College in Redwood City, Calif., like his brother Jose before him, and there he developed as an outfielder. Pittsburgh drafted him in 1986. Four years later, when the Expos acquired Moises as part of a package for pitcher Zane Smith, someone asked Felipe Alou, then managing Class A West Palm Beach in the Expo system, how good his son was. Felipe said Moises was going to make a good fourth outfielder.

Felipe was more used to managing other people's sons than his own, even though he'd had Jose in West Palm Beach for two seasons. When Felipe became manager of the Expos in May 1992, Moises had at least three closed-door meetings with his father to find out why he wasn't playing more. Felipe benched him in '93 after pitchers figured out Moises was a first-pitch fastball hitter and began fooling him with first-pitch sliders. Felipe also caught Moises, in Philadelphia, violating a team rule that prohibited players from taking beer with them when they left the clubhouse. Shortly after the beer incident The Spoiling News wanted to take a picture of the Alous together for a Father's Day story, but Moises hissed, "I won't have my picture taken with that man." Moises, who had 18 home runs and 85 RBIs in '93 before breaking his leg, felt like he had been grounded.

"If it had been [centerfielder] Marquis Grissom, I'm sure my dad wouldn't have used him as an example," Moises says. "The thing you have to understand about my dad is, he's straight. When little Felipe and Luis [Felipe Alou's sons with Elsa Brens] are in Montreal and the team is out taking BP, they wait in his office. His kids, the brothers of one of the best players on the team, and he won't let them walk around the clubhouse because he thinks it might bother the other players or management....

"I think his 10 kids have turned out good because he's a good person. We're very close now. We go fishing together a lot. He's a good manager to play for, because he tells you where you stand. Maybe one day I'll even learn to understand him."

Felipe says there is no longer anything for Moises to understand. Felipe subscribes to the theory that at the beginning and end of their careers, players are in the hands of their managers; but when a player becomes a regular—like Moises, who hit .339 with 31 doubles, 22 home runs and 78 RBIs in 107 games last year and was batting .319 entering last weekend—he's on his own. "I thank God for the kind of son he gave me: fearless, aggressive and with a lot of baseball talent," Felipe says. "I use both hands. The left hand is soft. The right hand is strong. Moises has freed himself from my right hand. But I do watch him. We don't want anything to happen that will hurt our family name."

Alou standards are high. You do not foul a trail you have blazed. When 16-year-old Felipe Rojas, Moises's half brother, wore his cap backward during a softball game last winter with big leaguers like Felix Jose and Stan Javier, Moises upbraided him for being cocky. An Alou is never cocky. "I hate this can't-miss thing about my brother," Moises says. "I want to make things harder for him, make him appreciate things more."

The can't-miss kid plays for the Academia de Beisbol Franklin Rodriguez team on the same field in Santo Domingo where Felipe Alou used to play. A lithe 5'10½", 170 pounds, Felipe Rojas, the first switch-hitter in the family, is easy to spot. "Jesus tells me it scares him to see the boy do everything so well," Felipe Alou says. "Like a 25-year-old, not a 16-year-old. He is in such control of his body." As Felipe Rojas approaches first base during a baserunning drill, he is the only player who instinctively veers wide to get a better angle to make the turn. Felipe Rojas also stands out because he is wearing new baseball pants and a fitted Expo cap, not an adjustable drugstore model. Under its brim he has written, in English: I'M GOING TO FIGHT FOR YOU—#17, 18, 51. Those are the uniform numbers of his father, his half-brother Moises and his cousin Mel.

"I think he's going to the same college Jose and Moises went to," says his uncle Jesus, the Marlin scout.

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