When I began playing little league baseball I was probably the worst player on the team. I wanted so much to be great but I lacked the training I needed to hopefully not become the last player picked for a pick up game, even behind Jerry with his coke-bottle glasses, Roger who at 10 weighed 200 pounds and Doug who always seemed to have at least one limb in a cast.
I had a horrible batting average (I believe it fell somewhere in the negative numbers) and was always stuck in right field, where balls never wandered. My fielding ability was so dismal I would close my eyes, stick out my glove and believe the ball would somehow magically fall into it, which it never did.
The ball field was just ½ block from my home and I could not understand why my father never attended any games. I knew he loved sports, especially baseball and he also knew how important the game was to me.
I remember lamenting to my mother about how I wished dad would somehow appear alongside the other parents. I knew he arrived home late from work each evening, his daily trek being 30 miles each way, but it would sure be nice to have him see me play.
I had a rare Saturday game the next week and who showed up? Dad!
I was so proud to have him there. He sat quietly observing all my great moves; my strikeouts, dropped balls, bad throws. I was so proud, Dad on the other hand, was probably trying to convince everyone that he had no son on the team but was just stopping by to watch a ballgame.
After the game we had a long talk. My father apologized for not being able to attend more games. Work was surely an issue but he also never wanted to become like some of the parents who I saw on the sidelines yelling at their kid, the umpires, coaches, opposing team members and making absolute fools of themselves while humiliating and embarrassing their children.
My ball playing could have embarrassed my father, but he never mentioned it. He did, however, begin to work with me. My hitting and fielding skills improved dramatically, so much so that I eventually became one of the better players on the team.
I learned that he was actually a great ballplayer, played into his 20’s and was offered a position on a farm team. He refused because he was now married, had a growing family with responsibilities and settled for a more stable life as a husband, father and provider for six children.
Dad has been gone for many years, passing while too young, but I want to thank him for being there when I needed him.
Happy Father’s Day!
Here is a great Father's Day video