Advocate staff photo by ANDREA MABRY -- Zephyrs manager Andy Haines poses for a picture at Zephyr Field with his wife, Erin, and their children Jace, Katie, and Hannah.

For Zephyrs manager Andy Haines, the time before a game is chock full of duties — keeping an eye on infield and batting practice, communicating with the Miami Marlins to see if his team’s parent club has any special instructions concerning any of the players, making any lineup adjustments and doing media interviews.

But on this night, there’s one extra chore.

“Daddy,” says 3-year-old Katie Haines. “I gotta go poop.”

And her father interrupts a conversation to assist her.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

For Haines, fatherly responsibilities are something he relishes, especially since his baseball responsibilities keep him and his family, wife Erin, daughter Hannah, 6, and son Jace, 17 months, plus Katie apart much of the time,

That includes the last three-plus months when Erin and the kids remained in their offseason home of Columbia, Tennessee, until Hannah’s school year recently ended while Andy was first in Florida for spring training and then in New Orleans for the opening weeks of the Zephyrs’ season.

Spring break and a late April series in Nashville was their only time together.

Off days are rare. Date nights rarer.

“It can be hard,” Erin Haines admitted. “I feel like a single mom sometimes.

“But I also think we’re closer because we are apart so much.”

That time apart also includes Father’s Day, which finds the Zephyrs playing at Albuquerque in the sixth game of an eight-game road trip.

“Everywhere I worked in baseball before this season, the road trips have been pretty short,” said Haines, who is in first year with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League. “Now we’re going across the country.

“The road can be really depressing. It’s getting harder to find family time.”

So Haines makes family time.

Since his family joined them in an apartment in Kenner late last month, on the mornings after home night games Haines is up no later than 6:30 a.m. to be with them until noon or so when he leaves for the ballpark.

That’s even though Haines doesn’t get home until well after midnight and it usually takes him an hour or so to wind down before going to bed.

“It’s awesome,” Haines said. “They won’t let me have my coffee before they want to get out to the swimming pool or do something.

“I almost have a guilty feeling because there’s not enough time.”

Indeed, Jace can’t stand to see his father leave the house. And more than once Andy has at least come back to the door for a hug.

Erin and the kids also attend the home games and Jace, whom Andy already sees has the making of ballplayer, gets to spend some time on the field with his dad.

Hannah’s into gymnastics and cheerleading. Katie likes Bubble Guppies.

“I don’t want to force sports on any of them just because this is what I do,” said Haines, who coached Hannah’s basketball team last winter. “They’ve all sacrificed so much for sports already.”

But, points out Erin Haines, that’s what she knew, or at least should have known, she was getting into when she met Andy, then a graduate assistant at Middle Tennessee where she was a student in a badminton class he was teaching.

“I’d missed the first week of class with thyroid surgery, and when I walked into his class I told a friend of mine I couldn’t believe I’d gotten stuck with him,” Erin said. “We hit it off pretty good, though.”

Andy and Erin have now been married for eight years.

But even before they met, Andy knew his dream of being a major league catcher wasn’t going to happen.

And he was discovering that he didn’t have the patience to wait for the opportunity to become a college head coach.

“I just knew that somehow I wanted to be a major league dugout one day, working with the best players in the world,” Haines said.

And so he started at the bottom — the Gary Railcats of the independent Northern League.

From there, it’s been stops with the Windy City Thunderbolts of the Frontier League and then into the Marlins’ system with Jamestown of the New York-Penn League, Greensboro of the South Atlantic League and Jupiter of the Florida State league until advancing to just a step below the majors this season.

Offseasons have been spent in Columbia where Andy runs a baseball academy along with conducting camps with the idea that Erin could be a stay-at-home mom, at least until Jace is in school when she can return to being a preschool teacher.

“It’s not for everyone,” said Haines, who twice has been named the top managerial prospect in his league. “The divorce rate in this business is astronomical.

“It takes a special lady to be strong enough to let me do what I love to do. I tell her that she’s the father, the mother, everything just so I can have this career.”

And as Haines climbs the ladder, he finds there are more duties involved.

In A ball, there’s little interaction between the teams and its big league club. In Triple-A, the main function of the team is to have the players ready to step up to the big leagues when they are needed.

As such, Haines is likely to hear from the Marlins at any time of the day or night.

He’s also working with older players, some of whom have kids the same age as his. Zephyr Field provides a family room for the players, something not needed in A ball.

And Haines also is aware that he’s being judged more by winning and losing now, so he finds himself more involved than ever. So does Erin.

“Baseball’s always on his mind,” she said. “We’ll be talking on the phone and I’ll be telling him something about the kids, but I know his mind is wandering.

“I just tell him when he’s not so focused on baseball, we’ll talk.”

And while Haines says he would walk away from it for the sake of his family, his career quest remains paramount.

“This is now all about providing for my family the best way I know how,” Haines said. “And now maybe we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, at least as far as getting to where we want to go.

“It motivates me just to look at them and to be with them.”

Even if that involves poop time.