I have been told by some that I am mildly obsessed with baseball. I beg to differ, I am absolutely obsessed with baseball. I have played, coached, volunteered, and wrote about baseball for over 40 years. After school practice most days, I would throw baseballs up on the roof of my mother’s barn and wait for them to topple down, hitting a shingle on a funny angle, then dive after it as it landed a few feet away from me. Over and over again. I would take my dog down to Wickford Middle School and hit tennis balls off the Tee for hours. When I finished playing, briefly, in college, I started to write about baseball. My college senior project for Kinesiology was – you guessed it – “The Art of The Pitch,” which was a 50 something page report on the muscles, ligaments, ranges of motion, and overall awesomeness of throwing a baseball. Yes, I am and will always be obsessed with baseball.
So, when I became a father some 17 years ago, I envisioned that one day when I would play catch with my children and that maybe they would grow to play baseball as well. And that day did arrive for each of my sons – Spencer, Griffin, and Harrison – in different ways. One son’s first catch took place in a tiny hallway in the Brooklyn house he was born in. Another was in Florida on a beach, out of nowhere, because up until that point he had shown no interest. Yet another was more traditional, under a big tree in the front yard of my mother’s home. And my tiny baseball obsessive personality would say “some day, he’s going to play Little League® and you can groom him, Mr. Baseball!!!” And they all did play baseball, for Wickford Little League, now North Kingstown Little League. And then, for at least two of them, they did not.
For all three of my sons, baseball was never forced upon them. My older sons, Spencer and Griffin, played until they didn’t want to play anymore. My youngest son, Harrison, is still playing and loves the game. I made this perfectly clear to all of my sons. “Just because Dad eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball, that does not mean you have to.” I never pressured them to continue when they clearly did not want to continue. And, that is my advice to all your Baseball Dads out there. Listen to your children, read the signs, watch out for your child’s best interests, even if those interests do not involved baseball.
Spencer became an accomplished musician, who plays 5 instruments, write songs with his band Lazy Gray, and is a wonderful kid. He is gifted musically beyond imagine. I play guitar as well and it is awesome to talk music with someone I have the highest respect for musically. Griffin is an absolutely incredible artist, who can literally draw any Marvel comic book character freehand perfectly, and is regarded by his teachers as being kind, unselfish, and an all around joy to have in class. Griffin shares his photos with me the second he is done drawing them and I love every single photo with all my heart. And I still get the biggest thrill playing catch with Harrison, who at nearly 6 feet tall at age 13 can throw the ball with such velocity and he has a darn good knuckleball as well. Watching him develop from a kid who at one point showed no interest in baseball until that catch in Florida, to a rising star baseball player who has really impressed not only me but other players and coaches in the league, has been remarkable and humbling and just makes me so proud of him.
So what do you do if you are a Baseball Dad and your son doesn’t want to play baseball? You pick up a guitar, maybe a drum set, you attend their band concerts, and organize local music shows. You encourage your son’s art by going to the art supply store, taking him to RISD programs, introduce him to sketch artists at the Wickford Art Festival, love every photo he draws as if you are seeing it for the first time. And you love your children with all your heart, no matter what their interests are and how different they are from baseball. I made it clear to my sons that if baseball wasn’t for them, I would respect that and love them no matter what. And that has made me the Happiest Baseball Dad in the world.
Happy Father’s Day one and all!!!