A favorite Father's Day memoryBaseball has always been a game that unites fathers and sons
Those six words put me in a glass case of emotion and make me sob like a two-year-old every time I hear them. If you don't know where that line is from, it's the last scene of Field of Dreams. The only difference between the dynamic between Kevin Costner and his father in the movie, and me and my dad, is that I didn't rebel and want to be a hippy. I actually played catch with my father whenever I had the chance. Recently on Facebook and Twitter, the YES Network asked what your favorite baseball moment was with your Dad, so I wanted to share mine.
This goes back 19 years. I can't believe it's been that long already. When I was 21, I was the head coach for my younger brother's Little League All-Star team which won its first district title in 40 years with yours truly as the manager. That's not the moment of the story though. My brother, like his father before him, was a catcher. I always hear stories about how good my father was behind the plate. Unfortunately, I never got to see him play.
He also was a tremendous football player as well. He was good enough to get a scholarship to play at Lafayette University. Unfortunately for him, he broke his ankle in three places, which would end his football career, his days at Lafayette and indirectly his baseball career. It's not like he didn't have an opportunity though. He played semi-pro. Dad's version was a little more serious than Jackie Moon's band of misfits from Will Ferrell's movie Semi-Pro. It was serious enough to get him a tryout with the New York Yankees. Yes, while on vacation in Wildwood, NJ with my mother, Dad got the call to go to the Bronx for a tryout. He hit the ball well. In fact, he hit a home run over the old reserve scoreboard at the old stadium. However, because of his ankle, Dad couldn't run a lick and they passed. He was also scouted by the Cardinals, Braves and Mets.
Now that you have a little background, you can understand why baseball is extremely special to my life, and my relationship with my dad. So we fast-forward back to the past now. 19 years ago to be exact. South River High School's varsity field was the backdrop for our Little League All-Star practice.
Obviously, I needed a catcher when my brother came up in batting practice and without hesitation, Dad put on the gear and got behind the plate in a squat at nearly 48 years of age. This is after back surgeries. When my dad was made they broke the mold, at least in my eyes they did. I can still remember the first warm up pitch I threw. The sound when it hit his mitt and his return throw. I went back to the mound, took a step off, and just said to myself, "My God, is this cool."
He didn't just stay for my brother's round, he remained back there for the rest of practice. By the way, just to show all of us young folk that he still had it, he wowed us again. He had our second baseman go to the bag and told me to throw him a strike. I fired one right down the middle and from his squat he threw a strike to the bag at second. I will always remember that day.
That's not the end of the story though. Just a couple of weeks ago, I would utter that famous movie line once again. I thought I was going to get a couple of innings in relief in my league game. I was mistaken, but I still wanted to throw. When I got back home I said, "Hey Dad, wanna have a catch?" The answer of course was yes and we went to the same field.
A more famous catcher hit the nail on the head here. It truly was déjà vu all over again. I had to hold my emotions in check, as my 66-year-old dad cleaned the plate off with his bare hand and knelt down on a matt. The same place he put the gear on 19 years before for that practice. No gear this time. The only piece of equipment he needed was a glove. I think I threw about 30 pitches. I could have thrown 100. It's moments like those that I wish I could bottle up and just open them whenever I want to have that feeling of pure joy.
I wouldn't be the man I am today without the love and guidance of my father. I wouldn't be the father I am today without him in my life. We may not have a lot in this world, and at times it's a struggle, but we have always had each other. It's always been about family. I wouldn't have it any other way. No material possession can come close to the man I am proud to call Dad.
Happy Father's Day, Dad, I love you.