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Games People Play – 5-24-2006

By Rick Racela

It’s the role of good parents. It’s what they do. Whether it’s shuttling their children from place to place or spending hours completing paperwork for college, participating parents do it all. In no family is that more true than North Cape May’s Hrubos (pro: rewbus) household. Mike, a contractor, and Fran, a nursing supervisor, are raising five children. The Philadelphia natives have been involved in each child’s activities, spending thousands of hours and dollars in the process. Natalie Hrubos, the oldest, graduated Penn State earlier this month with “high distinction.” At 21, she’ll take her dual journalism and political science degrees and 3.8 grade point average to Temple University Law School in the fall. She interned with The Press of Atlantic City as a collegian and crafted weekly columns for this newspaper dating back to her high school years at Lower Cape May. Aside from some youth indoor soccer, Natalie let her four younger brothers engage in the athletics. The oldest of the four young Hrubos men is 19-year-old Michael Patrick, a Montclair State College sophomore majoring in health and physical education. As with all of his sons, dad coached young Mike since T-ball and youth soccer while Fran was team mom and scorekeeper. And this was for every season and for every child. Mike and Fran gassed up the van or the SUV, packed the gear, and headed for the next game or practice with their children and often carted neighboring kids with them. Young Mike played baseball at every level, including little and junior leagues, American Legion and high school. At every step, his parents were there. Next come 17-year-old twins, Kevin and Brian. They’ll walk the aisle at Lower Cape May this spring before studying music at Rowan University in September. Kevin and Brian were a key part of last year’s Group 4 South Jersey Final runner-up Caper baseball team. Like their older brother, the twins played baseball at every level and as well as street hockey. They’ve enjoyed team and individual success, including divisional championships in little league, and league titles in hockey and junior baseball. While competitive and talented, the twins are known for their quiet, professional approach. Dad, who moonlights as an umpire, is most proud when he’s told about how well-behaved his children are on the playing field and in the classroom. The youngest is Danny, a left-handed swinging Caper sophomore who may end up the finest in a legacy of excellent Hrubos hitters. The second baseman/outfielder resembles his brothers in playing style because he lets his production do the talking. The family has a batting cage in the backyard of their Lower Township home. They’ve spent countless hours honing the fundamentals under dad’s calm and often playful approach. The elder Mike prefers humor to shouting and has separated himself from other youth coaches over the years by staying calm and allowing youngsters to be themselves and to have fun playing games. While each Hrubos child has understood that there’s a time for seriousness and a time for humor, they’ve always carried themselves with respect and dignity. They hustle on the ball field and work diligently in the classroom. Their father, a Navy veteran, was an athlete at Philly’s Frankford High School before injuring a knee. Their mother was with the drill team and intramural athletics at Cardinal Dougherty. Like all parents, they wanted the best for their children, so they took it upon themselves to play major roles in all activities. It’s an especially sensitive issue for the elder Mike, who lost his mom at nine and didn’t always get along with his stepmother. Family is clearly important to Mike and Fran and they’ve spent their 23-year marriage cultivating an atmosphere of love and respect. They’ve taught their children to go out and work hard for what they want. Dad, who also enjoys fishing, advises parents that they must be patient and be willing to “put a lot of time in.” He says “kids just want to play and be kids” and that parents must understand that, first. It’s getting into late spring and that means another season of American Legion baseball. The family SUV will once again be loaded with bats, balls and players and off they’ll go to another field somewhere for yet another game. Wherever the travels of the five Hrubos children take them, they won’t have to pack their innate knowledge how to live, love and play. They won’t need to study how to be good, hardworking citizens who give back to their communities. They were shown life’s most important traits at home.

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