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CHICAGO -- A single sheet of paper sat on Willson Contreras chair in front of his locker when the Chicago Cubs rookie showed up for practice on Friday. Wayne Gretzky Jersey . It was a form letter asking players to list the names of people picking up the four tickets set aside for family members ahead of the NL Championship Series opener.Someone asked Contreras who would be picking up his.Nobody, the 24-year-old catcher said, trying to force a grin.Behind that rueful smile is a long story. Baseball provided Contreras a path out of the tough times back home in Venezuela and swept him to the top of the major leagues. But even that lofty position hasnt enabled him yet to get his parents, Olga and William, a visa to follow him to the United States. Their application for a temporary visa to watch him during the playoffs wasnt successful, either.Everybodys back home, Contreras confirmed. Its hard to get them here at this time of the year.They will be watching on TV from a new home he bought them, in a neighborhood with security guards. It was there that they saw their older son drive a tying single up the middle in Chicagos opening-round clinching win against the Giants.Contreras even has food delivered to their home, so his parents dont have to venture out to the grocery store, where long lines await. But fears about their safety never slip his mind for long.Hopefully, Conteras added a moment later, next year, theyll be here.Wait until next year has been the Cubs unofficial motto for a century and counting. Yet it carries just as much longing for the young Venezuelan as the most grizzled denizen of the citys North Side. Contreras made it to these shores a half-dozen years ago, followed soon after by younger brother, William, who is playing in the Braves organization. The boys never forget on whose shoulders they stood, making that huge step possible.At this time last year, Contreras was playing Double-A ball in Tennessee and he paused to carve Ernesto into the dirt before each at-bat, honoring the grandfather whod died back home barely two months earlier. This fall, he worries about his parents safety in a cash-strapped country where kidnapping the relatives of a famous baseball player is viewed as a lucrative business.In 2011, kidnappers there grabbed Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos and held him for ransom; fortunately, Ramos was eventually rescued.We dont talk about it that much, but we know what each other is going through, said Albert Almora Jr., another rookie whose locker is close by. Sometime, after a game, you can come here and see certain guys text messaging and you know theyre talking to family -- Willson, with his folks, in my case, its my dad. Hes fighting prostate cancer. ... So we make it a point to check in with each other every so often.Cubs manager Joe Maddon knew Contreras situation when the team called him up from Triple-A at midseason. As if learning to call games for a veteran and sometimes-finicky staff and bullpen wasnt hard enough, the manager had planned to pile more on his plate. Maddon wanted the one-time infielder to try his hand at first base and the outfield as well as behind the plate.Contreras rewarded Maddons faith by homering in his first big-league at-bat. His teammates made him feel right at home by shooing him out of the dugout soon after, reminding Contreras he still had to warm-up the relievers back in the bullpen. But hes made a good argument for deserving a regular spot in the lineup by hitting no matter which glove he was wearing. But just as impressive, Maddon says, is Contreras ability to compartmentalize all those jobs while still keeping one eye on his family a continent away.As a parent and as a manger, if my kids arent having a good day, then Im not. But when your family is down there, its hard to stay right here, Maddon recalled recently.Having his fiancee here has brought a bit of home along with him. So has finding a handful of seafood restaurants and long walks along Lake Michigan, which is as close to the beach near Contreras home in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, as hes likely to find for the moment.It will have to do.Im able to separate my personal situation from the game and I know that everybody back home is OK, Contreras said finally. So Ill be fine.---Jim Litke is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and https://Twitter.com/JimLitke Iiro Pakarinen Jersey . Malkin got tangled up with Detroits Luke Glendening early in the third period and his left skate took the brunt of collision with the boards behind Pittsburghs net. Jussi Jokinen Jersey . He said Tuesday thats a big reason why he is now the new coach of the Tennessee Titans. Whisenhunt said he hit it off quickly with Ruston Webster when interviewing for the job Friday night. http://www.oilersauthority.com/authentic-kailer-yamamoto-oilers-jersey/ .ca NBA Power Rankings, ahead of the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. NEWARK, N.J. -- The Toronto Maple Leafs picked up size and depth in Sundays NHL draft in the former of Rimouski centre Frederik Gauthier. But they will likely have to wait for their 21st overall pick to make his presence felt in the NHL. "Hes big," Toronto GM Dave Nonis said when asked about his first-round pick. "Hes a big man." Gauthier is one for the future and, at six foot four and 215 pounds, the 18-year-old from Laval, Que., is a load. Hes billed as a strong two-way player who led first-year Quebec Major Junior Hockey League players in faceoff percentage. He ranked eighth among North American skaters, according to NHL Central Scouting. "Ive never seen a kid get back and play defence like he does in 20 years," said Chris Bordeleau of NHL Central Scouting. "In his own end, hes always around the puck. A kid that can play defence like he does at his age, with that kind of maturity, is very rare." Gauthier had 22 goals and 28 assists in his first season with the Oceanic, to rank fourth among rookies. He also helped Canada earn a gold medal at the 2013 Under-18 World Championship in Russia with a goal and three assists in seven games. Nonis said the Leafs had four or five players in mind with their first ppick and had looked into moving up. Bill Ranford Jersey. But they abandoned the effort after deducing that Gauthier would still be there when their turn came around. "He fills a need long-term for us," said Nonis. "I dont expect that well see him shortly but hes come a long way in a short amount of time. He was playing midget hockey not too long ago." Gauthier will come to rookie camp with the Leafs. "Someone asked me earlier how long is it going to take for him. Its going to take as long as it takes," said Nonis. "Theres not going to be any rushing of any of these players. We want to do a better job of being as deep as we can be so we can keep the players where they should be playing until theyre developed and ready to come and play for us." Gauthier, who says he models his game after Jordan Staal, said he was surprised and excited to be taken by Toronto. He had spoken to the team at the recent NHL Combine. "Ill try and make the NHL next year for sure," he said. "And if I dont, Ill go back to Rimouski and play junior and continue at school." Nonis said he looked at moving higher in the draft but the price was too steep. "The assets to move up didnt make any sense." 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