This story originally appeared in Mile High Sports Magazine. Read the full digital edition.

He was born to a 20-year-old single mother, bounced between Wisconsin, Alabama and Georgia as a child, and slept in a playpen because it was cheaper than a crib.

But that’s all he knew, and Leslie Paulsen did whatever was necessary to provide for her son, Ben.

“She took care of everything,” says the Rockies first baseman. “She made sure food was on the table, [that I] had clothes, [and that I] had the opportunity to play baseball growing up. She had to make a lot of sacrifices just for me to be in the situation that I’m in now.”

Leslie certainly didn’t draw it up this way. But at the same time, she wouldn’t change a thing. She credits an amazing support system of family and friends for helping her son become a compassionate, driven and perhaps most importantly, adaptable young man.

“He can be placed in any situation or environment and acclimate himself and be very happy,” Leslie explains. “He never has gotten homesick and I take that as a compliment.”

Leslie attended college on an Army ROTC scholarship at Stetson University in Florida, where she met Ben’s dad, Tom, an outfielder for the baseball team. While Leslie was pregnant, the two mutually agreed that she would raise Ben in her hometown of Plymouth, Wisc. with the help of her parents and other relatives. Ben was born in October 1987, after Leslie’s sophomore year at Stetson. She was able to transfer her scholarship to Ripon College, which was about an hour drive from Plymouth, and her family played a huge role in helping care for Ben as she finished her degree. Leslie not only graduated with a degree in Business Management, she earned a ranking of Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. In 2014, she established the Leslie A. Paulsen Endowment Scholarship at Ripon, which awards $10,000 a year to a single parent for college expenses.

Meanwhile, Ben’s dad didn’t come into his life until he was nine or 10, and for the next several years, they would only see each other occasionally. Then in college, Tom was Ben’s hitting coach at Clemson University. It allowed the two to build a relationship and they remain close today. Ben understands the situation with his parents and appreciates everything his mom endured.

“She gave up her twenties to raise a kid,” says Paulsen, who was drafted by the Rockies in the third round of the 2009 draft. “It was nobody’s fault. It was just that they were young and went on separate paths.”

From the time Ben was born, however, it is Leslie who has been by her son’s side. He continues to lean on her for guidance and advice. “She’s always there for support and [has always] been there for me, so that’s nice,” says the 28-year-old. “She’s not just my mother; we’re friends [too].”

“Benjamin gets an enormous amount of security from me,” Leslie says. “I had to be both his father and his mother growing up. I had to be that way.”

Leslie remembers when she barely had two nickels to rub together, earning less than $25,000 a year to support herself and Ben. She would use water, not milk, to make Campbell’s Soup for dinner; they lived in shoebox-sized apartments and drove an old hand-me-down car from her parents.

“We didn’t have any money,” Leslie recalls. “There would be mornings in Wisconsin where it was 30 below and of course we didn’t have a garage. My car would only have drops of gas in it and would always start. None of the cards add up. I look back and go, ‘Wow, how did all of this happen?’”

Things weren’t easy, but Leslie was determined to do everything she could to give her son a good life and opportunities to succeed. Because money was so tight, their time was often spent doing free activities like tossing around a baseball, playing basketball, going hiking and spending time with his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

Though Ben took a liking to baseball at a young age, Leslie says her son was never a star player and nobody really paid much attention to him. But he kept working hard and eventually made a name for himself at Clemson. Leslie emphasizes that she did not raise Ben to be a baseball player, but rather, something much greater than that.

“I raised him to one day be a good husband, father and contributor to society,” says the proud mom. “I have most definitely accomplished this goal. I hope and trust he uses this platform of professional baseball to serve as a representative of the state of Colorado, a role model to other athletes and a mentor to young children, especially those less fortunate.”

Leslie is no doubt Ben’s biggest fan, but she’s not able to watch every game due to her very busy schedule back home in Georgia. Her priorities lie in feeding the homeless every Friday through her church food ministry, reading to students at the local elementary school each week, mentoring an 18-year-old woman raised in foster care on the weekends and traveling to the coast of Nicaragua annually to serve the medical needs of the remote coastal areas.

She’s also a senior vice president at an insurance company in Atlanta.

Ben, who made his big league debut in July 2014, is now a key member of the Rockies.

Mother and son have gone from barely making ends meet to each of them living a comfortable life and being financially secure. They’ve been through a lot together and are equally proud of what the other has accomplished.

“She’s a really successful woman and I’m doing my own thing,” says Ben. “She helped put me in these shoes and raised me into the young man that I am.”

Adds Leslie, “I am honored to call Benjamin my son and am confident he will follow in my ‘servant’ footsteps one day, because as they say in the south, ‘He was raised right.’”