Happy Father’s Day to everyone in the Rhode Island Baseball Community. If you attend as many games on as many levels as I have been lucky enough to attend, you tend to notice things like the “Umpire Dad” and the “Loud, Obnoxious, yet Hilarious Dad” and the “Nolan Ryan Level Pitching Expert Dad” and the “Guy Who Always Comes Through On Home Run Derby Night Dad.” In fact, there are so many classifications of the Baseball Dad, it will be hard to sum up all of their incredible personalities in one article. However, the ties that bond all of these different Baseball Dads are indeed love of family, love of community, love of baseball. Here now is my tribute to the many wonderful, colorful, and watchful souls who make up the Community of Baseball Dads.
The “Nolan Ryan Level Pitching Coach” Baseball Dad is fairly common sighting at a baseball field. I have witnessed this Baseball Dad at as low a level as Coach Pitch, where the Dad actually yells at the youth baseball coach to throw strikes to his kid. As the player ages and matures on the mound, this Baseball Dad finds a spot right behind home plate so as his child, the pitcher, can clearly see him and receive pitch by pitch instructions, tips, and the hand signals you worked out with him (that he ignores) throughout the game. A former pitcher himself (who never reveals how far up the baseball ladder he went), he knows what to throw, when to throw it, and all the analytics – proper spin rate, arm slot, and leg drive – without the need for any software or prior training.
The “Any Event, Any Time of Year, Any Task” Baseball Dad is one of the most valuable assets in any youth baseball league organization. I have sat in board meetings and an event will be introduced and literally heard one name called out simultaneously by 10 professionals who have upper management or leadership roles in big corporations. One name because everyone in that room knew that the task of organizing a Home Run Derby, end of the year cookout, Awards Ceremony, and all within 10 days or less could only be accomplished by one Baseball Dad. This Dad has pulled off success ceremonies for years, has the contacts, has the leadership skills, can whip up a plan better than a good batch of blueberry pancakes, and does it all without a single complaint. Every league knows someone like this. Honor him today and say Thanks again for saving our A@% for this year’s home run derby!!!
The “GameChanger At Work” Baseball Dad is a fairly new edition to the Baseball Dad community. Work commitments, out of town meetings, and late business clients who have no regard for punctuality (even though you told them your son is pitching at 5:30 today!!!!) can push the time frame out for your arrival to watch your child play. So, you can head over to the GameChanger app, which most teams now use for scoring and recording the games, providing pitch by pitch updates on the game. A sub category of the “GameChanger At Work” Baseball Dad is the “Employee Who Screams At His Phone Watching GameChanger At Work” Baseball Dad, who swears that last pitch which recorded a strikeout against his child, was indeed outside and not a strike. He paces at and/or near his desk yelling out loud “how is that a strike, that hasn’t been called a strike all game, this umpire just cost our team the game,” despite the fact that this Baseball Dad has no actual proof of the location of the pitch.
This one is really cool and I love reading posts and seeing photos of the “Baseball Girl Dad,” whether they are the actual Dad or they coach someone’s daughter in youth baseball or AAU. Rhode Island baseball teams that have an open mind, an open heart, a supportive community tend to look past boy or girl on the mound, in the field, at the plate. They cheer for the player, the one who has attended all the practices, done the drills, made the pre-game on time, is dressed and ready to play each and every game. That player has a support system at home and I applaud each and every Baseball Girl Dad and every fan out there who supports their child and/or teammate in youth sports like baseball.
When your son or daughter has graduated out of playing organized baseball, whether this is in youth leagues, middle school and high school, or even as an amateur or professional baseball player, the “Remember the Days” Baseball Dad still loves to go to the ball park. He sits in an empty dugout, or in the bleachers, or on a park bench just past left field on a fall afternoon. He looks out onto the field and from memory, places the players one by one into position. “Tommy Two Left Feet in Left, Eric Late Again in Center, Josh No Socks in Right, Aaron With The Eye Black at Third, Mikey Sure Hands at Short, Bobby Nosebleeds at Second, David Stick Figure at First, Jimmy The Cannon behind the plate, and there is my son on the mound,” he says looking out over the field his son pitched, hit, played all stars on, 10 years before leaving for war and never coming back. He just sits there and remembers the crowd cheering for his son, pitch after pitch, game after game. “Boy could that kid throw strikes,” as he rises, wipes a tear from his face, then places a baseball on the memorial plaque which bears the name of his son and now the field, an honor recently bestowed on the family this past Little League season.
The “Still Playing Can You Believe It” Baseball Dad is very popular here in Rhode Island with tons and tons of Adult Baseball League opportunities. The Rhode Island Senior Mens Baseball League, the Island Baseball League, even the Sunset League have players who are Baseball Dads still playing baseball – in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. And wow, can they still play!!! I have been to a bunch of games over the past several seasons and I highly recommend going to one (if you haven’t). These Baseball Dads can hit, smoke home runs, throw strikes, make routine plays, and the occasional highlight play as well. The fun thing for me is when I go to the games is seeing the reactions of the wives, the kids, the Baseball Dad’s parents, and the interactions with teammates and the other team. It is still a competitive game but more on the friendly competitive than the high-stress, high pressure competitive side for sure!!!
Being a Baseball Dad lets you live out all of your childhood dreams and memories and passion for baseball. Baseball Dads, I hear you when a player misses a looping curveball right in their wheelhouse and watches strike 3 being called and you let out an “OMG” so loud Floridians can hear it in Fort Myers. I see you when you put the first burger on the grill and look back at 300 Little Leaguers, their families, and smile knowing you did it, once again, with less notice than last year, and everyone is having a blast. I commend you on cheering loudly for the next batter up, boy or girl, at this weekend’s AAU tournament in Massachusetts, letting everyone know how cool it is to be or support a Baseball Girl Dad. I sit with you in that empty dugout or on that park bench remembering the days when my sons played baseball and what a thrill it was to watch them pitch, hit, and run the bases. On this Father’s Day, I tip my cap to the many splendid, colorful personalities of the Baseball Dad. Have a great day and thank you for all you did for your child in the past, plan on doing today, and when I ask you to organize an Awards Banquet for 400 people already scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, June 25th.