Wednesday, March 13, 2013

My Dad the Coach

It's been 20 years on March 14 that my Dad passed away.   And even though I always feel sad on this "anniversary", it really doesn't have to be.  It is a wonderful reminder to celebrate the wonderful man, the hero, that he was - and still is. My memories are of a man who taught me ethics, morals, and the value of doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.  Right is right.  Period.  He always had a Bible, the current baseball rule book, and the latest Billy Graham book on "his" end table.  And a can of peanuts.  He believed that the Bible and the rule book were books to be read cover to cover, NOT just to be used as a reference.  Too many people make that mistake.

My favorite memories are our nightly walks, and him patiently watching me show him the same trick on the jungle gym over and over.  We had a half basketball court in our backyard and we spent hours and hours shooting baskets, playing one on one, HORSE and Around the World.  And he was my biggest fan.  He cheered the loudest when I made my first foul in basketball and had me in catcher's gear as soon as I could walk.  He uncomfortably sat at my gymnastics recitals and skating competitions (this was definitely out of his comfort zone) and filmed my half time shows from high school when I was Majorette and Feature Twirler.

But my best memories were of him on the baseball field.  Sharing his life, knowledge and passion with hundreds of boys.  Boys that now as grown men wonder what Coach would do when faced with trials. These boys called my Dad to get them out of jail (you could do that then), to talk about their parents, girlfriends, and how to improve their curve ball. I remember the pain he went through when it came time to make "cuts".  With his winning record, you might not realize that he hated All Stars.  He couldn't stand to separate the good players from the better players.  Once you became one of my Dad's players, he worked with you until you met your potential.  He once had a  legion player that wanted to improve his hitting, so my Dad left for work at 5am everyday so he could get his shift in and meet this boy before practice for an entire season just to give him extra batting practice.  He dedicated himself to these players.  And they dedicated themselves to him.  The best investment you can make is in our youth.  And this is what he did.  And I got to go along for the ride working with him every season, being batgirl and eventually "graduating" to scorekeeper.  Baseball was our family's focus, and I cherish every play, inning, and game.

He was many things to many people.  But I was his only little girl.  And I pray that I do him justice by passing on his legacy to my kids.  My kids who remind me of him everyday.  My daughter who loves the game every bit as much as he did and dedicates herself the same way he did.  Watching my son's love and intensity for the game develop...His players called him "two-O", I became "baby two-O" and my kids proudly wear 20 on their jerzies.  Legacy.  His legacy of not just being a well known Baseball Coach, but a man who invested in others.  And taught right from wrong.  And loved his wife and family.  A hero in my eyes.

My favorite quote?  "PLAY BALL!"  Love to hear this.  Every time.
Whatever your "game" is, don't forget to share it with your kids.  You won't regret it.