Fatherhood and Baseball…The Two American Pastimes
This week, I begin a new chapter in my life. On Friday the 16th, I will become a Dad for the first time. My wife and I will be having a son. Life will never be the same for us and that’s fine with me. Will it be hard? Yes, of course it will be but as Tom Hanks said in A League of their Own, “The hard..is what makes it great.”
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As someone who lives and breathes sports, I was hoping for a son as my first born. All I could think about was enjoying many of the same sports related activities that I did with my Dad, ranging from playing catch to going to an Orioles game. Those are memories I will always have and cherish.
It is a cliché to say that “my Dad was the best” and there are tons of great fathers out there and my Dad was no exception. Of all the qualities he had that I hope I have was his selflessness. My brother, sister and I were always first with him (and my Mom). They would sacrifice time, money and anything else they had to do to make sure we would grow up the right way.
My Dad wasn’t a sports fan, despite his father being a huge baseball fan. It wasn’t until I came around that my Dad became a baseball fan. When I was younger, as most boys did(do), I collected baseball cards. One thing that was a lot more prevalent when I was young were baseball card shows. There was seemingly one every weekend, whether it would be in some local hotel or the Convention Center. They were normally held on Saturdays, which was one of my fathers off days from work. He worked for the government, at Ft Meade, doing intelligence work. He had a stressful job and the weekends were his time to unwind and relax but he was willing to sacrifice that time to take me to these shows because he knew how much I loved it.
My Dad was one of those people that could enter a room of strangers and come out with several friends. Since he was taking me to these shows, he would go inside with me, let me “wheel and deal” and he would talk to different people. Well, as time went on, he got into baseball and baseball cards himself. He was a history buff that was infatuated with the Civil War and The Alamo but baseball quickly became another passion of his and it was because of me. He knew how much I loved it and he wanted to share that with me. Over the years, his love for baseball grew. He became a volunteer at the Babe Ruth Museum here in Baltimore, we got the full season ticket package when OPACY opened(because he wanted me to be able to go to the 1993 AS game and, hopefully, Ripken’s 2131 game) and he also became very interested in the Negro Leagues, including becoming friends with Leon Day, who was a great pitcher in the Negro League for many years.
Another thing that grew his love for the sport was the friendship he developed with Brooks Robinson. They weren’t close by any means but we did go to lunch with him a handful of times and he came to our house for our family Christmas party one year. When my Dad met Brooks, it seems like his fandom jumped up another level. You hear the stories about how great of a guy Brooks is but it really rings true when you are around him and get a chance to interact with him.
My Dad and I always had a great relationship but baseball drew us even closer together. He would never miss my little league games. He even umpired once, despite not knowing what to do. However, we needed someone to ump or the game wouldn’t have been played, so he stepped in to do it. Again, the selflessness was always there with him.
It has been almost 19 years since my father passed away. He passed away in March of 1996 due to lung cancer. It’s hard for me to believe it has been that long. I think about him all the time. I shared many great memories with him and so many of them are revolved around baseball. I think that’s why baseball will always be my first passion. I love football and basketball but baseball is on a different level for me and I think this is a big reason why.
As I said earlier, the one quality I hope I take away from my Dad was his selflessness. I want my son to know he will always come first(well him and any other children I have). I want him to know that whatever he needs, I will do my best to give it to him. I want him to know that I will always be there to play catch, take him to buy baseball cards , coach his teams or take him to an Orioles game. I will be there for him in the same way my Dad was there for me. Gone are the days where I can just do whatever I want to do. Gone are the days where my wife and I can just pick up and go away if we choose. It’s now all about him and that’s fine with me and baseball will be a big part of that.
Today is January 11th and that also happens to be my father’s birthday. He would be 67 today if he were still alive. He didn’t get to see me graduate high school or college. He didn’t get to see me get married (he was however listed as my “best man” on the wedding program) and, of course, never met my wife. As much as I regret those things not happening, him not being there to meet my son is probably the thing I will regret the most. He would have loved going to his little league games and taking him to Orioles games and I would have loved seeing that too.
As I enter the last week of my life childless, I can’t help but think about my Dad and what he did for me. I also can’t help but think about how baseball was such a big part of that and how I can’t wait to share that with my son. And while my Dad may not be able to be there in person, I know he will be there in spirit.
Happy Birthday Dad. See you on Friday.
A former co-host of Sports Tonight with Rob & Chris on BSL Radio, Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570.