For this first baseman, family is the first priority. If Wally Joyner's not playing ball, he's probably playing with his kids

Wally Joyner is a family man. He has a wife named Lesley, two little girls aged 4 and 2 (Jessica and McKenzie), and a new house that doesn't have all its landscaping yet, plus a dog that usually responds to shouts of ``Chloe.''

He's also the California Angels' star first baseman and runner-up as 1986 American League Rookie of the Year.

During the grueling 162-day baseball season, his life is filled with pregame sessions in the batting cage, the exhilaration and pressure of major-league games, and interminable road trips.

But when he's home, his time away from the ballpark is spent with his wife and children.

``I like to take my wife and kids to Disneyland,'' Mr. Joyner says. ``It's usually the first place we head for when we have this much time, because we can do so many things there as a family.''

``I don't mean we go to Disneyland every time in this situation, but this will be like our third or fourth trip there this season.''

``When I'm not on the road with the Angels, I try to spend as much time as I can with my family,'' he continues.

``I mean, we plan all our meals together, go to the grocery store together, go on picnics together, or just take walks in the park together.''

Joyner says he is so conscious of the huge amount of time he is away from his family - from spring training in March through early October - that when he is home he works extra hard to make up for it.

``Like anybody who travels a lot, I don't want my girls to grow up without getting to know me. I also want my wife and me to have quality time together,'' Wally explains.

``I don't know what other fathers do, but I like to get down on the floor with my kids, share their toys, read them stories, play with them in the sandbox, and just do whatever comes naturally for parents. Sometimes when Lesley goes out shopping alone, the kids and I bake cookies together.''

Joyner says that since most Angels' home games are played at night, his family has three choices for those evenings:

``I figure my wife can take the kids to Anaheim Stadium, and then leave early so they won't be up too late. Or she can stay home with them and wait until I get back, or she can hire a baby sitter for the evening and come to the game herself.

``If Lesley chooses the latter, it means we can ride home together after the game, and maybe stop and eat if we're both hungry,'' he continues. ``But while my wife likes most women's sports, she really isn't into baseball.''

Wally and Lesley Joyner met in 1982 while they were attending Brigham Young University. He was studying for a business degree, and she for one in animal science.

``My roommate was going with a girl on the BYU gymnastics team, and it was he who suggested a date for me with Lesley, who was also a gymnast,'' Joyner says. ``We went to a football game together, liked each other immediately, and continued to see each other after that.''

They were married March 12, 1983, only three months before Joyner was picked by the Angels in baseball's free-agent draft.

Joyner says that when he and his wife went to Japan together at the end of last season as part of a major-league barnstorming tour, it was probably a mistake.

``We had a wonderful time and the kids were well taken care of by my parents,'' he volunteers. ``But we both agreed that two weeks is a long time to be away from your family in our circumstances, and we probably won't do that again.''

So that his wife didn't feel completely tied to her kids and her home this summer, Joyner hired a nanny for three months.

It gave his wife time to read, study, play tennis, or get away for a day with friends. When Joyner is on the road with the Angels, he calls her every day, and mostly they simply tell each other what they've been doing.

Asked if he ever brings the game home with him, Joyner replies: ``I've made it a point to leave any problems involved with my work at the ballpark.

``Baseball has never been the end of the world to me, and it certainly isn't to Lesley. There was life before baseball for both of us, and there will be life after baseball.''

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