Fanfare for the Common Man

  • Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Becoming a father is easy. It takes about seven minutes and nine months. Being a father, that’s the daunting part. It takes the rest of your life. Being a father was the most intimidating concept I ever tried to put my arms around. Chris Rock said it best when he described the arduous task of being a father. Our goal is concise and simple: Our job as dads is to keep your sons out of jail and your daughters off the pole. If we can do that, we can call ourselves successful parents. I see fathers every day on the baseball and softball fields watching over their sons and daughters, not having a good time because good times are conditional as to how well their child performs between those white lines. They live and die with each pitch and at bat. Your dad hurts with you.  He feels your pain. When it came to sports and my kids, I wasn’t always the best father. It wasn’t because I rode my kids with a taskmaster’s crop, which I sometimes did; it was more that I had no tolerance for the other kids who obviously didn’t care or try as hard, or lacked the necessary God-given talent to throw something from Point A to Point B where nobody can hit it. I have this incredible knack for saying the worst thing at the absolute worst time about that god-awful shortstop who couldn’t hit sand if he fell off a camel …  with parents standing right behind me as I observed this phenomenon. My dad watched me play from the dugout. He was my coach. His dad was an assistant. Both taught me how to pitch. During a TV interview after getting drafted I said something about how I learned everything I knew about pitching from my grandfather. My grandfather’s expertise when it came to pitching began and ended with, “Stick it in his ear.” What I didn’t say during the interview was that I wouldn’t have made it without my dad. Standing out on the mound with everybody in the park watching you and at least half of them waiting to rejoice in your failure, I drew comfort from looking to the left and seeing my dad kneeling at the dugout entrance. His instructions were simple, “Throw strikes.” His strategy at the plate, “Hit the ball.” I remember a game, I was nine. We were losing. Two outs, bottom of the seventh. Two runners on and I’m at the plate. My dad calls time out to come talk to me. “The kid hitting behind you can’t hit,” he said. “Swing at anything.” I had no clue what he just said, beyond, “Swing at anything.” So I swung at the first pitch, which was above my eyebrows, not because my dad told me to, but because it looked like the right pitch to hit. On a nine-year-old’s scale of things, I knocked it into the next county. We won 5-3 Whenever I threw a no-hitter, and I threw lots, the first person I would run to would be my dad. Every time. There are a lot of things I would never have accomplished in my life, the least of which was baseball, were it not for my dad. My Father’s Day wish is a simple one: I hope I am half the dad my dad was and my son turns out to be twice the dad I am. 

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