When Cavan Biggio steps to the plate this afternoon in Houston, he’ll see a familiar face in the crowd: his mom, Patty. He’ll likely be wearing a bracelet she got him, an ID bracelet he wears daily with the words “Gratitude, Fortitude, and Kindness” engraved on the back. Those three words have guided Patty and the Biggio family through marriage, three kids, and not one, but two major-league careers.
Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the women who’ve literally raised a nation, to acknowledge all the unpaid and unheralded work that goes into bringing up the next generation. The impact mothers have had on athletes’ lives, in particular, can’t be overstated. Having grown in Major League Baseball alongside her husband, Patty Biggio is now watching her son walk a similar path.
Patricia Egan grew up in New Brunswick, N.J., the youngest of four. With three older brothers, she was constantly surrounded by sports, and in high school, she was a cheerleader and gymnast. By the time she entered the nursing program at Seton Hall, she had already worked at her local hospital for years, starting as a waitress at St. Peter’s Medical Center’s coffee shop at just 11 years old and working her way up. “I have a real passion for helping others. I loved nursing, I loved the patient care, the patient contact, the family contact,” she told The Athletic. “Nursing was always in my blood.”
While studying to pursue her career in nursing, she met a wide-eyed kid from Long Island with a great smile and dreams of being a ballplayer. She was working as a bartender at the student pub on campus her junior year when Craig Biggio walked in. Some of her friends were dating his teammates, and though it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, Patty knew immediately there was something there.
“Adorable, first of all. Very cute,” she said. “Great smile, and he was just a really nice person. You just knew it right away. And he was very determined to date me.” They started as friends, but Craig persisted in asking her out; their college friends still joke about his pursuit of her to this day. “He was just so kind and easy to be with, and just really fun,” she said.
Dating a college athlete didn’t change much in Patty’s focus. She remained committed to nursing, juggling her new relationship with her class load and working three nights a week at the hospital. “I honestly didn’t go to a lot of his games,” she said, though the few times she did see him play left an impression. “I did recognize that Craig was an extremely hard worker,” she said. “And extremely fast. I remember first watching him play and saying he was like lightning.”
Upon graduating in 1988, she went to work as an ER nurse at St. Peter’s. Craig had been drafted in the first round by the Houston Astros the year before and was assigned to Single-A Asheville. They started a long-distance relationship her senior year, no easy feat when you’re dealing with a minor-league travel schedule and 12-hour nursing shifts. But according to Patty, the excitement of that time, of working in an ER and of being young and in love, superseded any difficulties. “I wouldn’t describe it as difficult. I would describe it as exciting,” she said. “All I wanted to do was be with Craig. … We were very happy, planning to get engaged. And also, I loved what I did. I knew so many people because I’d worked in so many areas of the hospital. And so that was exciting to achieve this goal. I loved nursing. I was excited to go to work every day.”