WASHINGTON – Jean Segura buried his son in the Dominican Republic this week, a boy named Janniel who was a few months short of his first birthday.
Segura sat Friday, four days later, at his locker here under the number 9. There'd be a game soon. Segura had returned from home to play in it. A teammate wrapped him in a hug from behind. "Gura," he said. And Segura held the man's wrists that were crossed over his heart. He smiled and blinked his thanks.
Segura is but 24, an age in which almost nothing can't be done. Or undone. Almost nothing.
He'd grown up in San Juan de la Maguana under a tin roof, fallen in love with baseball there, turned pastures into diamonds and trash into gloves and balls and bases. His story isn't so unlike those of the other boys who come out of the Dominican countryside, except that it is his, which alone makes it unique. That was his home and his family and his school he'd left at 16, and this was his journey to America and the big leagues and the Milwaukee Brewers, which alone makes it special. The story would always be about what could be done given the desire, what could be undone given the opportunity.
And what's Jean Segura to think now? His boy is gone. What can be done about that? What can be undone?
Segura flied to center field in the second inning. As he'd stepped into the batter's box the fans, most of them wearing the red of the Washington Nationals, had applauded. Some had stood. They don't know Jean Segura. They believe they know his story, though, about a father and a mother and a child, and what the Brewers called an illness and a sudden death, and a terrible telephone call just a week ago Friday night. They know the story, because it happens, and the people left behind have only a hole in which to pour their tears, their regrets and their calendar pages. The hole never fills.
"I spoke to him yesterday," Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "The only thing I can say to him, 'Whatever you need. I'm here for you.' Like a friend. Like a brother. 'When you need somebody to talk to, I'm here for you.'"
Segura is a quiet, almost introverted, but happy teammate. He met earlier Friday with his manager, Ron Roenicke, and general manager, Doug Melvin. He said he was OK and that he wanted to play, and Roenicke said he liked what he saw in Segura's face.
"He wants to get back out there and do what he likes," Roenicke said. "I didn't have any idea what was going to happen. It's good to see him.
"I told him, 'There's going to be days you're going to struggle. Come talk to me.'"
Between now and then, Segura will play ball. He'll dump games into the hole, and routine into the hole, and carry on. Because you can only carry on. A day, a week, forever, whatever it is, however long, because it'll never be right, never make any sense, and someday maybe you can laugh again and mean it, so you carry on. That's why Segura was here, at shortstop, for the Brewers. He'd flown in Thursday night with members of his family. He'd returned to work. To the routine.
He spoke Friday afternoon to the writers from mlb.com and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who regularly cover the team. He told them he felt it was important to return to the ball club, to this clubhouse, to these people. For him, it was important.
"God helped me to get through this," he told them. "My family, my friends, my teammates, the organization. This is something I can't control. I just pray to God to get me through the right way. Whatever he gives to us is the best way in life."
Therefore, he said: "It's important to me and to members of my family [for me to play.] It was a tough moment for me and my family, but being here is awesome – in the same locker room with my friends and teammates, to see the support they all give to me, even other teams. … I feel strong to be here, to work, and do the best I can to help the team."
He said he was "doing pretty good right now" and that he'd take the days as they came. The people around him, the Brewers who welcomed him back, the fans who watched, they cared. They mourned for a child so young, for all that could not be done or undone.
"I don't know how to explain," Gomez said. "I can't even imagine it happening to yourself. My heart is broke."