MIAMI — Norma Naidenoff’s laugh is what people who knew her will remember most. Everywhere she went, she lit up the room with her máximo disfrute.
With Mother’s Day this Sunday, Marlins shortstop Miguel Rojas is still coming to terms with the family matriarch no longer being around. Norma passed away from breast cancer in January — within a week of her father (and Miguel’s abuelo).
Naidenoff leaves a lasting impact on her son and daughter, Noelia. After separating from Rojas’ father when Miguel was 7 years old, she exemplified how one person could provide for the entire family. Rojas now strives to do the same for his relatives back in his hometown of Los Teques, Venezuela.
“My mom was the one that was always working for the whole family, not just for me but for my grandparents to be able to take care of me without doing anything else,” Rojas said. “My mom was working a lot of hours a day. When you’re a doctor, you have to be on duty maybe overnight and stuff like that. I grew up not seeing her much during the week because I have to go to school early in the morning and all that.
“But just for her to be working to provide not just for me, but for my whole family at that point, at the end of the day, we were a real close family because of her providing for everybody.”
Despite Naidenoff’s work schedule as a pediatrician, she always made sure to show up when Rojas represented his state or country at tournaments. When games took place Wednesday through Sunday, she was there Friday night. Everyone knew the team was going to have a better game because “Miguel’s Mom” was screaming for the players and lifting spirits with her energy.
Growing up, Rojas planned to sign a baseball contract, become a big leaguer and build his mother her own clinic. Now, he hopes to raise breast cancer awareness with help from the Miami Marlins Foundation. Over her final six years battling breast cancer, Naidenoff never lost hope. Five days before she passed, she kept telling her son that everything was going to be OK and she would get better.
“That’s the kind of person that my mom was,” Rojas said. “She was the kind of person where it doesn’t matter the circumstances, she always had the positive mindset and the positive vibe to actually live life that way. That’s something else that my mom taught me throughout all my life and I actually can put it into perspective even more now. I’m battling with my own stuff, I’m going through slumps, and it’s not even remotely close to what my mom was dealing with.
“Sometimes I’ve got to be more grateful than just worry about the things that are going on in my life, because there are other people going through different things.”
Though Naidenoff was a doctor, Rojas realized early on that his mother’s true passion was singing. He paid for recording sessions, and she released an album. A few years ago, Rojas used her rendition of “Yo no sé vivir sin ti” as his walk-up song with her in attendance. It moved Naidenoff to tears.
These days, Rojas listens to Naidenoff’s music as a way to feel close to her memory. The losses of her and his grandfather, Rafael, are still fresh as he tries to process his emotions. In the meantime, Rojas is honoring them by wearing the No. 11 from his youth, when Rafael was his coach.
“Now that she’s not here with me anymore, I can play those songs whenever I want and I can listen to her voice,” Rojas said. “I feel like that’s something really special, because I’m not going to go through my phone and go to all messages and voicemails and voice notes on my phone. I can go on my Spotify or YouTube or whatever, and I can listen to her singing.
“That’s one of the things that I’m going to take for the rest of my life. I’m so glad that I did that for her. That was one of the things that I’m most proud of.”