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Fatherhood a game-changer for 3 of area's biggest stars

BaseballChris DavisFather's DayBaltimore OriolesMother's DayOriole Park at Camden YardsAdam Jones

Ravens receiver Torrey Smith still has trouble getting his arms around the moment when his new son was placed in them two months ago.

"Words really can't describe it," he said. "It's really a miracle. I've heard people say it, but I never really understood it until I saw my own son come on out to this world. It's definitely a moment I'll never forget and I was blessed, but you understand there's a lot of responsibility that comes with that."

Smith will celebrate Father's Day on Sunday for the first time as a new dad, and he isn't the only high-profile Baltimore athlete who has been introduced to first-time fatherhood recently. Orioles center fielder Adam Jones welcomed a baby boy in March, and Orioles first baseman Chris Davis' new daughter came into the world barely three weeks ago.

No one has to tell any of them that life just got a lot more complicated and a lot more meaningful. It's already obvious they are approaching this new responsibility with the same intensity that has taken them to the most elite level of professional sports. Just ask Jones how much the experience has already changed him and his tough-guy facade just melts away.

"Completely," Jones said. "I think the individual selfishness is the first thing to go. I didn't realize that I could love another human being the way I love myself and more. It's a joy to have every day. He's not worried about what I'm doing. He's not concerned about where I'm going. He's just concerned that mom and dad are there. That's pretty much how I look at it. I want to be there for him every waking moment, obviously, but playing a sport you don't get to. It's a life-changing experience. It makes you put the irrelevant things in life in perspective."

Not that the games these fathers play are irrelevant. Davis picked up his little Ella for the first time and knew that she had instantly become the most important thing in his world, but he said Thursday that it doesn't change anything about the way he goes about his business in a baseball uniform.

"It doesn't take away from the importance of this game in our lives," he said. "It gives you a different perspective. We work really hard and sacrifice a lot of time away from our families to be here and to do this and to be good at it. So, you still want to be successful, but at the end of the day you do have to remember that it's still just a game and there are bigger things in life, and I definitely think a kid kind of reminds you of that."

Manager Buck Showalter has watched dozens of young players become first-time parents over the course of his career, so he might be a more objective judge of whether it is a transformational experience that positively — or negatively — affects their performance on the field.

"Does it change them physically … does it change their statistics? I don't know," he said. "I remember the first time I walked up to that bassinet, I looked in there and thought, 'Man oh man, I've got to be pretty good at what I do for a living because this is counting on me.' So is her mother. That's kind of sobering. The first time you go, 'There's somebody really counting on me to be really good at what I choose to do.' "

Smith has to laugh a little when somebody asks him what it's like to suddenly be a father, since he spent so much of his young life helping take care of his younger siblings. He arrived at the University of Maryland years ago with the nickname "Microwave King" because of his ability to feed his brothers and sisters on a tight schedule. He was changing diapers when he was 7, so changing them now isn't a big deal.

"People are saying, 'Oh, you're changing diapers. You're doing this. You're doing that,'" Smith said. "I say, 'I've been doing that for a long time.' This is just that it's my child. I tell people that the difference between this and my brothers and sisters is that I can't pass him off."

Growing up without his birth father around much was a challenge, obviously, but instead of looking back in anger, Smith has used that experience to fuel his determination to be there for his new son, Torrey Jeremiah, at every important juncture in his life.

And, on this Father's Day, his story is also a story of reconciliation, since his new son has helped bring him closer to his father after all these years.

"That's the blessing of it all," Smith said. "My dad, I have known him, but we never really had that kind of connection for various reasons, but actually with me having my child, it has kind of brought us a little closer in a lot of ways. I feel like even though he missed out on a lot of things in my life growing up, I'm fine. I'm a grown man. I turned out all right. I feel like his absence made me a better man and is going to make me a better father.

"Now, he's excited about being a grandfather. I don't want him to miss out on that, being that I can control it. My son has been a blessing in many ways, and he's actually brought me and my father a little bit closer."

Kids have a way of drawing families together, even unrelated families. Jones and his fiancee, Audie Fugett, inhabit the same circle of friends as Torrey and Chanel Smith. Their new babies are a little young for play dates, but obviously not for the same playpen, if the accompanying photo is any indication.

Jones shares Smith's drive to provide his son with a world of opportunity. Jones said he and Fugett already have talked about the private schools August might attend in a few years and how much emphasis will be placed on both education and athletics.

"Well, I'm me, and my future wife played basketball in college and her dad played in the NFL, so there are some genes," Jones said. "I'm 6 [feet] 3 and she's 5-10, so the chances of him being athletic are pretty high, but that isn't going to be the only way to success in his life. Her side of the family are big-time lawyers. Obviously, education is first and foremost."

Smith said he's looking forward to a relaxing Father's Day with his new family, but Davis and Jones will have to go to work. The Orioles play the final game of a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday at Camden Yards, where all of the dads on the field and in the stands will be saluted.

"I think it's cool the way we are able to honor our moms and dads with Mother's Day and Father's Day and in our line of work, and Major League Baseball makes such a big deal about it," Davis said. "This one's a little different for me, being a dad for the first time, and that'll actually be the first time [his wife] Jill has come to a game with Ella, so I'm looking forward to it."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts "The Week in Review" on Friday mornings at 9 on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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BaseballChris DavisFather's DayBaltimore OriolesMother's DayOriole Park at Camden YardsAdam Jones
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