Fathers, Sons & Baseball


By: Austin Alexander-June 17-19, 2008

A Father’s Day Extravaganza

On the heels of Father’s Day and amid another very exciting Major League Baseball season, I felt it may be appropriate to give you a recent glimpse of mine when it comes to fathers, their sons and the greatest game of all!

Before you get started on my little journey here, it should be pointed out that if you are a father, a son or a father and a son, you may grasp some of this. If you do not fall into either category, you may miss some of the sentimental value of my words.

Since the game’s inception in the 1800’s, baseball has served as a tremendous bonding opportunity between father’s and their sons. Be it a game of catch in the backyard, sitting in the bleachers learning how to keep a scorebook or breaking down a recent performance, this game of baseball has shaped many young lives, as well as provide a backdrop for meaningful father-son moments.

My son Nolan is only 2½ years old and I was on the road coaching other folks’ sons for my first two Father’s Days. The preceding ten or so Father’s Days I was on the road recruiting other father’s sons and unable to spend time with my own dad. But Father’s Day 2008 was different and it even extended into a week-long celebration of our year’s best holiday, at least in my mind!

The morning after Father’s Day, I had this crazy idea to load up the family and head toward St. Petersburg for the upcoming three-game series between the Chicago Cubs and Tampa Bay Rays. Area Scout Brad Matthews was kind enough to round up great tickets for me at the eleventh hour and we set out for our first vacation since the honeymoon in 2001 (which was also cut short because of a baseball tournament).

My son was so excited about going to see his beloved Cubs that he became very uninterested in the Barney and Thomas the Train DVD’s that normally hold his attention in the car. Instead we listened to him endlessly sing his version of "Take me out to the Ballgame" and the Cubs’ rally cry, "Go Cubs Go". He kept asking if we were going to see D-Lee, Fukudome and Big Z, also every time the car slowed down, we’d hear that little voice in diapers ask, "Are we at the baseball game?"

nolanaa-tampa.jpgFinally, nine hours later, we pulled into Tropicana Field, got our tickets and entered the ballpark just in time for Chicago’s batting practice. We were able to race all the way down to the dugout and camped out just several feet away from all the players he had only seen on television or in a magazine.

Now if you are a parent, maybe you can relate to this next part. There is absolutely nothing in life better than seeing your child experience uncontrollable joy. It was in those moments that my wife and I knew that Nolan was as much of a baseball junky as we were and that we had made the right decision by heading to Tampa.

I cannot count how many Major League Baseball games I’ve attended and I have landed in stadiums from New York to Los Angeles but I do remember my first game in 1983 and I will never forget my son’s first MLB experience!

To top it all off, Nolan walked away from his first game with a foul ball and three giveaway items that were thrown into the stands in between innings. Not a bad MLB debut for the young man!

While he is way too young to eventually remember any of this and the mood was certainly tempered by Tampa Bay’s sweep of the Cubs, that hardball seed was planted in a toddler that may last a lifetime.

Nolan has virtually grown up at ballparks around South Carolina and has had the opportunity to be around quite a few successful players and coaches who have taken time to show him different nuances of the game, thus spurring his love of baseball but the bond that he and I share is unlike any other on this Earth.

You see, I had tremendous love affair with baseball and shared it with my dad. I, too, grew up at the park and he was always ready to throw BP, hit ground balls or drive to the local minor league stadium if I wanted to go. He would explain some of the general aspects of the game as well as share specific tips.

Now that I am a father, the role is mine to pass along baseball to my son in hopes that he can enjoy it as much as I have over the years. In the business of baseball, too often we spend more time watching other people’s children than our own. So when we do have an opportunity to share this passion with our own child, it makes those moments so much more memorable!

DP Note: It should be pointed out that the foul ball Nolan came away with was actually given to him by a kind man seated beside us who had won the struggle for the loose ball after I was camped directly under it, then completely dropped the ball… Of course, as the years pass, the story will hopefully end with me making a one-handed circus catch leaning over a railing! But for now I am left with a sizeable bruise on my right hand!