First of all, I want to wish all you dads out there a belated happy Fathers Day. I hope your weekend was filled with gifts, friends, beer, and most importantly, Yankees baseball with your children. I’m only 21 years old, so I am lucky enough to still have a relatively young, healthy father who will sit and enjoy the Yankees, the team he raised me to love, with me on a regular basis. And for Father’s Day, I gave him a gift he couldn’t help but love. I bought him two bleacher tickets for him and me to see the Yankees play the White Sox on June 28, his birthday. It’s the least I can do for the man who groomed me to be the super-fan I am today.
When I was a young child, my dad and I constantly share that prototypical, yet beautiful experience of taking in a baseball game together. I’ll never forget being five years old and walking through an old Yankee Stadium tunnel connecting the stands and the concourse, seeing the field for the first time, and squeezing his hand with unbridled joy. For the next few years, we continued to regularly attend games together, just a dad and his young son. But as my high school and college years came and went, just the two of us went to games less and less. I haven’t been to a Yankees game solely with my dad since we saw A-Rod hit a home run off the yellow staircase attached to the old bleachers, only for it to be incorrectly ruled a double on May 21, 2008. So I couldn’t think of a better way to honor my dad this Father’s Day be letting him relive the beauty of the father-young son-baseball relationship, something that is truly more American than apple pie.
Besides the gift of life, one of the greatest gifts a father can give a son is an unbreakable bond between the two, and that bond is often created and fueled by a passion the two share. For many people, that bond is sports, most notably baseball. The countless hours teaching a two year old son how to hold a bat and throw a ball can be more rewarding to a father than the child’s first steps are to a mother. To a father who has an undying love for his team, taking his son to his first Yankees game will be more memorable than the first time they went to the Bronx Zoo or the ocean at Coney Island. Like passing down physical traits such as eyes or hair color, most fathers (or at least my father) are happy to pass down their passion for their favorite team. By the time tee-ball comes around at age five, the son hopefully has a grasp on the game of baseball and has begun to feel a strong connection to it, thus resulting in a strong bond with the man that opened their eyes to the beautiful game, their father. I would just like to thank my father for accomplishing this while raising his first born son. By five years old, I liked playing the game as much as he did and I couldn’t get enough of it.
As the son gets older, the father’s lesson plans change. Instead of teaching the son how to play the game, he, knowingly or unknowingly teaches the son to love the game. There is no better lesson than the one my dad taught me during the 1998 World Series.
He used to work in sales and he was away on business a lot. On the afternoon of Game 4, he was catching a flight back home (from some Midwestern city, I forget which one), unsure if he would make it home in time for the game. Sure enough, he wasn’t home by first pitch. My seven year old self was still sitting on the floor alone in the third inning. The fifth inning came and went with no sign of Dad, and I was convinced I would watch the Yankees win a championship alone. I was too young to remember or understand the 1996 title run, so I was upset that I would be alone for such a joyous occasion. Well come the eighth inning, six outs away from a title, headlights appear in my driveway. It’s Dad. He made it. He sprints through the front door like he was tagging up from third base on a fly ball to the outfield, and he sits down right next to me on the floor. A few minutes later, we’re jumping up and down after Scott Brosius fires the ball across the diamond to Tino Martinez (my all time favorite player) for the last out. John Sterling’s call of “Ballgame over! World Series over! Yankees win! Theeeee Yankees WIN!” echoed throughout my house as it emanated from the radio my dad brought out for the ninth inning. A father, still with his shirt and tie on, and a son, with his Yankees hat on, sharing a moment of pure joy as they watch their team win a championship is a moment so special, that it is hard to quantify with words. Maybe that’s why this column is all over the place.
2009 was no different. I was no longer the little kid I was back then. I was an 18 year old man with more Yankees knowledge than 99 percent of other Bronx Bombers fans. I no longer was asking my dad questions about old players he used to love, instead I was spitting out random stats about Thurman Munson (his all time favorite player) that he didn’t even know. Although we watched and discussed baseball differently as compared to ten years ago, the feeling was still the same upon the final out of the 2009 World Series. We had close to a dozen family members over my house that night for Game 6, but the first person I hugged when the Yankees became champions for the first time in 9 years was my dad. In fact, I leaped into his arms and knocked him over, with me still holding on like a koala bear. Both of us screaming, hugging and celebrating like it was 1998 all over again. If the Yankees win it all this year, the scene will be repeated. Maybe I’ll even crack open a celebratory beer with him too. I guarantee that even fifty years from now, when the Yankees bring home a title, our two frail, elderly bodies and souls will come together the same way they did way back in the Derek Jeter days. The love for the Yankees that he passed down to me as a child will never dwindle, diminish or die. It will grow stronger with each passing season we watch together.
To all the fathers out there will infant or toddler aged sons, it’s never too early to get them interested in baseball and interested in the Yankees. Even if he can’t walk, teach him how to throw a ball. Even if he falls on his butt, teach him how to swing a bat. Even if it’s past his bed time, watch a few innings of Bombers baseball with him. Trust me; he’ll appreciate it. Twenty years later, you’ll look back and be happy you did it too.
And to my dad, thank you. Thank you for exposing me to the most beautiful thing in the world. Thank you for being a fan of the right team too, instead of those losers across town or that toxic waste dump up north. You opened my eyes to something that I now couldn’t live without. But most of all, thank you for teaching me how to play the game, for showing me the beauty of Yankee Stadium and for experiencing together our fair share of winning, records, Hall of Fame players, and some heartbreak as well. Luckily I got my good looks from mom, but I’m way more thankful for the love of baseball I got from you. Happy Fathers Day and happy birthday, Dad. Let’s go Yankees.