Diamond Diary by Kevin Cooney



June 20, 2004

FATHERS' DAY...

Happy Fathers' Day to all the Dads out there who let me spend time with their sons over the past 30 years. This is a special day for all of you and your families.

I remember many of you still. The relationship between coach and father is always a tenuous one. At least I view it to be that way. The Dad usually was the son's first coach, out in the back yard or driveway, showing the little guy how to throw and swing a bat. Much of the allure in baseball is this time honored passing from father to son of the liturgy of the game. Three strikes and out, run to first base and stay on the bag, tag up on fly balls, bend your knees and keep your glove down, always keep your eye on the ball, and hustle. Those principles are part of the genetic code running through baseball families.

It is a sacred trust to take over from the Dad and continue the boy's journey through the world of baseball. Unfortunately, as the level played gets raised, more and more sons play less and less. The guy making the decisions regarding this fact can never hope to please all the Dads. The coach can only do what is best for his team and let the chips fall where they may.

I am happy to say that in all these years of coaching, most of my relationships with Dads have been positive ones. Oh, I'm no fool. I realize they don't say everything they have been thinking. But that's ok. I understand.

Danny Olsen's Dad taught him the best knuckle curve I ever saw. Jimmy Fasano's Dad taught him the toughness that helped win a national championship. Dan Murray did everything he could to make his sons good players for FAU. Pete McNab never stopped believing in Tim during a few dark years. We shared tears of joy and relief in Tuscaloosa. LJ's Dad racked up an NCAA record in frequent flyer miles for his son's senior year. Gabe Somarriba's Dad was honored by the love shown by his son. Big Jim Blair's memory and life lives on in his son Jeff. Shaen O'Connor's big home run in Tuscaloosa was dedicated to his Dad's memory. I remember seeing Rusty's Dad beaming on the hill after a big home run, and again crying outside the interview tent in the Miami Regional as the finality of his son's career hit home. I know how proud Jeff Fiorentino's Dad is to see his son sign a bonus contract with the Orioles.

I could do this forever. They are all special and share a unique bond.

Just look at The Natural. Roy Hobb's is lying in the hospital when he speaks my favorite lines "I wish my father could...God, I love baseball."

My Dad passed away in '85, the game ball from the regional championship game buried with him. Two years later I was in the Division III World Series with our team holding all the cards. We needed to win one game for the national championship. I went to Mass that morning in Marietta praying we wouldn't blow it.

I remember kneeling there wishing my Dad could be there to see this day. The biggest day of my baseball life I wanted to share with him. He and my Mom had planted this love for the game a long time ago. Why couldn't he be here to share in it? I knew how Roy Hobbs felt.

As Mass ended, I realized Dad had a good view of the game.

Today I have my kids to be with me or call to wish a good day. I have those memories of my Dad. But this morning I thought how my father had been cheated of those same memories.

In 1908, my Dad was born in Scranton, PA. We were always told that his father died while Dad was an infant and his Mom married a man named Sealey. All my aunts, uncles and cousins are Sealey's.

About ten tears ago, I pieced together the true story.

My father couldn't spend any Fathers' Day recounting happy memories of him and his Dad.

In 1908 a child whose father didn't marry his mother was not only deprived of his father's last name, but he was subjected to a shame that our society no longer assigns.

My Dad kept that secret all his life. My mother said that he never wanted to talk about it, but he called himself his mother's "little bundle of joy". The father's name was never mentioned, but I know it now, and wish I could ask him some questions. I understand what he cost my father. He's no longer alive, my "grandfather", but I wonder what his thoughts were every Fathers' Day?

Happy Fathers' Day, Dad. Thank you for my life. KC

 

 

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