At the same time, it was a goal in my life to prove that whatever my brothers could do, I could keep up. I had to keep up with them. My dad always pushed and encouraged me.
He was there at my t-ball practices, baseball games, softball games. He cheered me on at tennis matches, swim meets and (to his great horror) showed up at football games where I was a cheerleader. Cheerleading was the one activity that he did not want me to do.
My parents took me to games as a kid. We would sit in the 700 level of the Vet and I would read the latest book that my mom picked up for me earlier that day.
Dad would have the game on TV on Sunday afternoons and I would fall asleep.
My brothers would watch the games, both on TV and at the ballpark. They cared and loved it. I did not.
When I was around 10, my dad said his goal was for me not to hate baseball. I responded with something along the lines “I don’t hate baseball, but it’s boring to watch and awesome to play.”
In ’93, he started teaching me the game. Mom recognized that part of my problem was I could not follow along with what was happening. She noticed that I started to be interested in how rules affect outcomes.
She pushed my dad to teach me the rules and explain the game fully to me. I knew the basics. I have been playing some version of the game for about 6 or 7 years by then. My dad taught me the thought processes.
He explained why players shifted based on the count. Why infields move back if there is a runner on 1st with less than 2 outs. Why outfielders play close to the warning track at the end of the games, when their team is in the lead.
I learned the rules from various coaches. I learned how to play ball and watch it from my dad.
As a matter of fact, I credit/blame him for my love of the game today. All because of an afternoon at the ballpark at the age of 14 in ’96.
My oldest brother was getting ready to go off to college in Florida for the first time. He asked if he could go to one more game before he left for the year. Both my parents went and so did I.
At this point, I could watch about half the game before I needed to walk around for an inning or so and then I would be able to watch most of the rest.
As the game was starting, the Phillies announced their starting line-up. I looked at my dad and asked him who was playing 3rd. I did not recognize the name. His response changed baseball for me and took my toleration for the game into a love.
“Oh, him. That’s Scott Rolen. He’s a kid that they just brought up to play third. Watch him. I think you’re really going to like him.”
Wow. Dad was right on the mark there.
Within two seasons, my family and I would spend many summer days at the Vet. It became a normal thing for us to go early and stay a few hours after the game for me to try to get autographs.
My dad would sit in the car and wait. He would park the car and watch me from inside it. Never complaining, always watching. As soon as I climbed in, he would ask me “Who did you get today?”
As the years went on, the games that I went to with just my dad became less and less. I valued those games, which were often the ones when Scott Rolen came back in town.
He even taught me how to heckle the players and the umpires, a very important skill.
I loved being at the ballpark with my dad. It was something that we shared and could both enjoy. And I can honestly say, “Dad, baseball is not something that I hate. As a matter of fact, it’s something I love.”