Sons Of Mota Hot On Trail Of Dad's Footsteps

Domingo Mota never will forget watching his father, Manny, play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"I remember praying every time he came to bat," said Domingo, a second baseman for the Class AA Memphis Chicks. "You'd be up there sitting in the stands at Dodger Stadium and you'd hear, `Now batting, pinch hitting for Dusty Baker, Manuel Mota.'

"Your heart was pounding, hoping he did well every single time."

Manny, the Dodgers' long-time batting coach, did fine. He played 20 major league baseball seasons - mostly with Los Angeles - and finished with a major-league record 150 pinch hits and a .304 career batting average. His final major league at-bat was in 1982, when Domingo was 12.

Now four of Manny's six sons are trying to follow their father, 54, into the major leagues. Domingo, Jose, Andy and Manny Jr. all are playing in the minors. Fourteen-year-old Tony isn't far behind.

"He has a lot of tools," Domingo, 22, said of Tony. "A switch-hitter with great speed and a good arm."

Andy and Jose made brief appearances in the majors last season - Andy, 26, with the Astros and Jose, 27, with the Padres. Jose is now an infielder with the Class AAA Omaha Royals, a Royals affiliate.

Andy and Manny Jr., 21, are in the Astros organization. Andy is an infielder with Class AAA Tucson of the Pacific Coast League and Manny Jr. is an outfielder with Class A Asheville, N.C. of the South Atlantic League. Mota also has two daughters.

"Manny Jr. is the most talented," Domingo said. "He's 6-1 and 200 pounds. He has power and an awesome arm."

Domingo is in his third year of pro ball. He was drafted by Los Angeles in 1990 and traded to Kansas City in December, coming to the Royals with outfielder Chris Gwynn in exchange for first baseman Todd Benzinger.

Because of his father's success and popularity in Los Angeles, Domingo said he would have liked to remain in the Dodgers organization. But he wasn't reluctant to move on.

"The trade was good for me with all the (top) players the Dodgers have in the minor leagues," Domingo said. "It shocked me at first, but then I said, `I'll go there, work hard and not complain.' It shocked me because I was doing good, but Kansas City wanted me and I liked that."

Domingo hit .275 in 104 games with Class A Bakersfield (Calif.) last season. He had eight home runs and stole 37 bases.

With the Chicks this season, Mota's batting average has hovered around .235, but he has prospered after recently being moved from the bottom of the batting order to the leadoff position. In his first six games at the top of the order, Mota hit .400 (12-for-30).

Although his father has never seen him play minor league baseball because of his Dodger duties, Domingo said Manny's influence can't be underestimated. Sometimes Manny can correct a flaw in Domingo's swing if he describes "exactly what I'm doing" over the phone.

Jose said Manny knows his sons' swings so well that "it doesn't matter whether we contact him through a letter or by phone, he knows what we're doing wrong."

Often, Domingo said all he needs from Manny is a confidence boost. They talk about once a week.

"When I talk to him, and I'm feeling down, he says to go out there, play hard, hustle, listen to the coaches and don't worry," Domingo said. "It's always, `Work hard and things will turn around.' "

Domingo said he talks to his father about once a week.

"He is always checking on me," Domingo said. "It's always, `Hey, how are you doing? Hey, how are you feeling?' He wants to do anything to help us out. But as a father, wouldn't you do the same thing if your son was playing?"

Since Manny can't attend Domingo's games, Domingo said they rely on videotapes to analyze his swing. In Bakersfield, Domingo lived only 90 minutes from his father's home and visited him several times to correct hitting flaws.

Domingo said he and his brothers aren't clones of their father, an occasional outfielder best known as one of the game's best pinch-hitters ever.

Jose, in his eighth pro season, played 17 games for San Diego in 1991. He was signed by the Royals as a free agent Dec. 5, six days before the Royals dealt for Domingo.

"Last year, when I found out Jose had been moved up, I started jumping up and down all over the place," Domingo said. "He had put up the numbers. He deserved it."

Jose was hitting .309 at Class AAA Las Vegas when he was promoted.

"I know Domingo was excited because I've gone through some unfortunate times in my career, where I've been looked over," Jose said.

Andy, who Domingo describes as a good hitter, hit .189 in 27 games for Houston last year. At Class AAA Tucson, he batted .299 in 123 games.

Mota's sons have earned respect in baseball. Omaha manager Jeff Cox is among their fans.

"That's a credit to Manny Mota," said Cox. "I've had the opportunity to deal with Jose on an everyday basis. And I spent some time this spring watching Domingo, and for three separate years I managed against Andy.

"I can say one thing about them. All the sons of Manny Mota are class individuals . . . and very instinctive ballplayers."