ST. PETERSBURG -- No matter where Ricky Nolasco is pitching, the Marlins right-hander can count on receiving a message of support following each of his games. After every start, Nolasco's father, Emilio, sends a text message to his son.
"A lot of times, I'll send a message and just say, 'Congratulations,' " Emilio Nolasco said. "Or I'll say, 'Next time, you'll make it next time.'"
Having your ups and downs as a player and team are part of the game. Playing nearly every day for six months lends itself to successes and failures. What is constant in the Nolasco family is the father's willingness to reach out to his son.
"We are all human beings," Emilio said. "Nobody is perfect."
Even though Emilio Nolasco lives in Southern California and his son plays in Miami, technology allows them to easily connect.
"My dad, he still to this day will text me after every game I start," Ricky said. "Sometimes, he will just crack a joke. Other times, he will say, 'Good job' or whatever."
With the everyday grind of Major League Baseball, those subtle personal moments are often very reassuring.
"Any time I needed something, my dad never hesitated," Ricky said. "He just said to my mom, 'Go buy it for him', and stuff like that. He was just always a big influence on my life and my career."
Nolasco, Miami's 29-year-old right-hander, is one of the unsung heroes in franchise history. The Marlins acquired the right-hander, along with Renyel Pinto and Sergio Mitre, from the Cubs on Dec. 7, 2005, for Juan Pierre.
Now in his seventh big league season, Nolasco has become the Marlins' all-time leader in victories. On May 22 against the Rockies, the right-hander collected career win No. 69, surpassing Dontrelle Willis, who had 68 from 2003-07.
Nolasco also holds the franchise record for strikeouts.
"I'm very proud of him," Emilio said. "I'm proud of my kids, every one of them."
Emilio Nolasco grew up on a ranch in Mexico, but he raised his family in South California. In Mexico, Emilio didn't play baseball. He didn't have the resources or proper equipment.
"We had no gloves, no nothing," he said. "We don't play much. Just to kill the time."
After the Nolasco family arrived in California, they attended a few Dodgers games a year, and baseball became part of their lives.
Whenever the Marlins travel out West, there is usually a large number of family and friends who attend the games. Roughly 150 watched when Nolasco faced the Padres at Petco Park in May. His family also travels to Arizona and Los Angeles to see the Marlins.
"My dad was definitely not a baseball player," Ricky said. "When he came here, we watched the Dodgers and stuff. We liked baseball. He and my mom and my whole family were big supporters."
Growing up in California, it was obvious at an early age that Ricky had promise in the sport.
His mother, Guillermina, would regularly drive her son to the ball fields. When Emilio got off from work, before going home, he often went straight to the park to see his son.
"My brothers did a really good job setting me straight," Ricky said. "I didn't drift off to anything else."
Ricky's brother David was especially influential.
"In high school, I started putting up really good numbers my sophomore year," the right-hander said. "I think my brother knew I would be able to take it to the next level.
"I transferred high schools for the baseball program. They bought me a car when I was 16 so I could drive, because it was farther away."
Ricky graduated from Rialto High School in 2001, after being a two-time All-State and two-time League MVP.
"He used to hit home runs all the time," said Emilio of his son, who now has one big league home run. "He always was good."
The Cubs selected Nolasco in the fourth round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft.
"My junior year, all the scouts came," Ricky said. "My senior year, I knew I was going to get drafted. My dad wanted me to go to college, just because it was something he never got to do, and he knew it would be good for us, either way."
The opportunity to play ball professionally and the money offered were enough to sway Nolasco to sign with the Cubs.
"I couldn't turn down what they offered," Ricky said. "I really didn't want to go to school. I wanted to play professionally. He was happy with the decision I made. He's always there for me, good or bad."