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How Joe Girardi’s daughter followed her dad’s advice to find her passion and start a business

Girardi tried to instill in his kids the realities and value of work. His oldest daughter is putting those lessons to use with her own business.

Joe Girardi (center) with his daughters Serena and Lena, his wife Kim, and son Dante.
Joe Girardi (center) with his daughters Serena and Lena, his wife Kim, and son Dante.Read morePhillies

Joe Girardi was the laborer, carrying bricks as a 7-year old boy and mixing mortar while his father finished a job. He rode in the passenger seat when his father traveled as a salesman and sat by his side at night when he tended bar.

Girardi, entering his third season as Phillies manager, knew what his dad Jerry did for work because he was with him as he worked various jobs in Peoria, Ill. And it was from those experiences that a work ethic — the one used as a foundation for Girardi’s 29 seasons in the majors as a player, coach, or manager — was formed.

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So when Girardi became a father, he did what his dad did. But instead of taking his three children — Serena, Dante, and Lena — on sales routes or to pubs, he took them to the ballpark.

It might have been a bit more glamorous, but those trips still offered the Girardi kids perspective into what their dad did and the work that went with it.

“I always thought it was important because my father did it for me,” Girardi said. “I always encourage our players ‘Your kids need to know what you do so they don’t think you’re just going to play. It’s actually work and if you’re going to be great at something, you have to put a lot of time into it.’ It was just following in my father’s footsteps and doing what he did.”

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Girardi believes the fruits of those trips — a work ethic modeled after their grandfather — is starting to show.

Dante is a sophomore baseball player at Florida International with aspirations to have his own fashion line. Lena is a high school basketball player with college hoop dreams. And Serena, 22, runs her own business as a pediatric sleep consultant. Trips to the ballpark provided the same foundation as those days laying bricks.

Serena launched her business — Sand And Sleep — last summer after graduating from Palm Beach Atlantic University. Serena, who lives in Florida, consults virtually with parents and advises them on how to find a sleep routine that works for their child.

She’s been drawn to babies ever since she was 2 years old and held her infant brother, which pushed her to start her college career by studying nursing.

But after two years, she didn’t feel like that was the right fit. Serena felt almost like a failure as she contemplated switching majors, thinking she should just lean on that work ethic and push through.

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“But the other thing that my wife Kim and I always encouraged was ‘Find your passion. I don’t really care what it is,’” Girardi said. “Serena was in nursing school for two years, and I was one of the major quizzers. I always told her, if you don’t know the answer just put ‘epithelium’ because it came up for everything. I’d be exhausted trying to quiz her.”

“She did really well in school and then she called. She went into a clinical and was like ‘I don’t really want to work in a hospital. Are you mad that I’m changing majors?’ I said, ‘No, find your passion. I don’t care if you change five times. Just go find what you love to do.’”

Serena left school with a degree in public relations and worked as a newborn care specialist, which allowed her to assist new parents after they returned from the hospital. But she often felt just like an extra set of hands. She wanted to be more like an educator, “so when I left parents were like ‘We feel equipped, we’re good for you to go.’”

That led Serena to become a certified sleep consultant and create her own business as a newborn and pediatric sleep coach. So many of the parents she worked with as a newborn care specialist wanted to know when their infant would sleep through the night. And now she was qualified to help them get there.

“Parents may not realize it when they’re welcoming a new baby and everyone says ‘Get your sleep now. You’re never going to sleep again.’ You kind of fly by the seat of your pants,” Serena said. “You think it’s going to be this amazing journey and we’re going to have this amazing baby and then three weeks in we haven’t slept in literally three weeks and we’re about to pull our hair out. So when I can take a parent and give them sleep, it’s validation that I’m following my passion and I’m supporting new moms and dads.”

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Joe and Kim had been married for 10 years before Serena was born in September of 1999 but they were still at a loss when they came home from the hospital. The nurses took care of their baby girl before they were discharged and their family was back home in Illinois. The Girardis were on their own — and the new dad had baseball’s postseason to prepare for.

“We got through it, but I think there was probably a better way,” Girardi said. “... We remember trying to put her car seat on top of the dryer and turning the dryer on and trying to get her to go to sleep.”

“Do not try that at home,” Serena said, cutting off her dad. “That is not a safe practice.”

“You try anything because you’re so sleep deprived, and I don’t think that’s the way it’s meant to be,” Girardi said.

One of the greatest things as a father is one of the coaches said ‘Your daughter is amazing. She helped us so much.’ That makes me feel great.

Joe Girardi

Girardi said he wishes he had someone back then like his daughter as he nervously used his camcorder to film the noises she made while sleeping and then waited until the doctor’s office opened so he could ask for guidance. Serena said she’s always a text message away from her clients.

“I’ve actually given gifts to some of my players and coaches who have had babies and I pay her for her service to advise them,” Girardi said. “One of the greatest things as a father is one of the coaches said ‘Your daughter is amazing. She helped us so much.’ That makes me feel great.”

Creating a business, Girardi said, is hard work. But his daughter said the feeling of helping new parents is amazing and she couldn’t think of a better job. She found her passion.

Serena used to come to Yankee Stadium in the afternoon and have lunch in the clubhouse while her dad prepared for another night of work. She didn’t know it then, but it was a window into her father’s work ethic. And it was the same one he gained by watching his dad.

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“I think I get the best gifts from both of my parents,” Serena said. “My mom is a great people person and almost like an entertainer. She’s really great at connecting with people and a great listener, which is actually a lot of what I do and she gives amazing advice. So even though it may not be on children or babies, I think I learned a lot of that from her.”

“And I definitely would say my dad’s work ethic and his determination and he’s strong-willed like I am, so I think I’ve gotten both of the best characteristics from both of my parents. And my siblings, they’re both extremely hard workers and seeing them inspires me and wants me to be better since I’m their older sister.”