Well it’s Father’s Day, so today’s post is dedicated to all the baseball dads out there. When you think “baseball” one of the first things that always jumps to mind is “fathers and sons.”
We always remember those moments like when your dad took you to your first major league ballgame or maybe took you to the local field to take batting practice (nowadays it’s probably the indoor batting cage, I guess). And when you’re a kid, your dad’s usually the first one who shows you how to throw. And after that, learning to appreciate all the nuances of the game is one of those things that’s passed down from generation to generation…
I’m about to fly off on a tangent, so let me bring it back in…
I want to talk about one of the really cool things that makes baseball different from any other sport, and why there’s no sport than can compare when it comes to building that father-son bond.
[h4]I’m talking about the simple act of playing catch with your dad.[/h4]
(growing up in the northeast we always called it “having a catch” but after playing with guys from all over the country I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea of “playing catch”).
There’s just something magical about it, the ball going back and forth between you… no words need to be spoken, just the popping of the glove…. like an invisible string connecting you.
You tend to take it for granted as a kid, but looking back now I realize how lucky I was growing up. I was lucky to have a dad who always took the time to throw with me out back. I was lucky to have a dad who always supported me and had my back. Heck, If I went up to him tomorrow and asked him to have a catch I know he’d jump up and go hunting for our old gloves. (excuse me, getting misty here…)
[h5]“Hey Dad… Wanna have a catch?”[/h5]
As I got older, I was lucky to have a lot of great father-son baseball moments.
[h5]But let me just share two that really stand out:[/h5]
First you should know that my Dad grew up in Chicago, was and remains a huge Cubs fan (been waiting a long time for that World Series). And he’d tell me stories about going to day games there when he was a boy. Nothing beats the friendly confines – if you’ve never been to a game at Wrigley, get it done!
Well I ended up playing college ball out in Chicago-land, and wouldn’t you know it, when our season was over I got a call about a Cubs pre-draft tryout at Wrigley Field. Pretty cool for a college kid to get out on that field… I remember checking out the ivy, that old iconic scoreboard, the flags blowing out above the bleachers.
And then I remember looking out into the stands and seeing my dad… and I thought about what must have been going through his mind. He was actually getting to see his son pitch in Wrigley Field, where he used to watch his favorite players, guys like Ernie Banks and Fergeson Jenkins, play when he was a boy.
I don’t even remember how I pitched. I just remember it being a pretty magical moment.
No footage on hand, unfortunately, but here’s a cool random video of fathers and sons playing catch at Wrigley Field – it really picks up a couple minutes in… pretty awesome thing they did there.
[h5]And then maybe my favorite father-son baseball moment is one that didn’t actually take place on the baseball field.[/h5]
But if it weren’t for baseball, it probably never would have happened. It came during my second year of pro ball, and I was playing for a team down in Columbus, Georgia… I never knew heat and humidity like that – all you had to do was step out your door and you were drenched.
So the thing about Columbus, GA is that it’s basically home to Ft. Benning. And my grandfather (who unfortunately died too soon, and I never got to meet) was an officer in the US Army, and Ft. Benning is actually where my dad lived for a good part of his early childhood. So in a way, baseball had brought me back to where it all started.
When I think about it, I never really knew too much about my dad’s childhood growing up. All I knew was he worked hard and always did his best to support us and provide for his kids. But I never gave as much thought to it as I probably should have, what it must have been like growing up on Army bases, his dad off in the Korean War, and being moved around the country before finally returning to Chicago.
So when I was playing in Columbus, my folks came down to see me, and we spent a day together visiting Ft. Benning. And we just walked the grounds. And I could almost feel the memories going through my dad’s mind… he didn’t say that much, but he would point out little things like “that’s where my friends and I used to pretend we were soldiers” or “that’s where I used to watch the cadets do their parachute training.”
I saw my father in a different light that day. I got a little glimpse of what life must have been like for him as a kid. It was a pretty special experience for me, and one I’ll never forget. And I never would have had that moment with my dad if it hadn’t been for baseball.
[h5]Happy Father’s Day, Dad.[/h5]