Life in the Minors
Forgetting Father’s Day was not an option this year
EVERY year since I began sharing my personal experiences in minor league baseball through this column back in 2001, I have consistently exhibited some bad timing.
It seemed like each year, I'd let Father's Day blow right by me without remembering to write a Happy Father's Day note to my dad, Donald. I'd e-mail my column in on Friday night to the paper and wait for the phone call from my parents on Sunday evening, as they shared their critical review of my writing for the week as they always do.
And each year, I'd wake up and surf the Web or browse through the Sunday paper of whichever town I happened to be in that day. And each year, I'd throw my head back in frustration and express my disgust for my poor memory, for forgetting to thank my dad for all he has done for me.
Granted, during the course of the season each day feels pretty much like any other day. On home dates, we'd show up at the stadium, I'd monitor a bullpen session or two, we'd take our team batting practice and then wait around for the game to start at 7 p.m.
On the road, I'd usually get up and find a mall to hang out at, or a Panera Bread restaurant to eat at to kill time before boarding the team bus for the ballpark.
Each day was pretty much the same. Even though the uniforms on the team in the other dugout and the city we were in changed, my schedule was pretty consistent and routine, save for the occasional day game or doubleheaders.
This year, though, I would not be denied. I made a point to ask my girlfriend when Father's Day was a few days ago, because she is much better at remembering things like that than I am.
This year, I will finally take the opportunity to thank the man who has influenced my life more than just about anyone else has. My experiences as a writer, baseball player, a man, can all be traced back to my dad.
I remember during my earlier elementary school days at Trinity Lutheran School, my dad would review my drafts of papers or book reports before I was allowed to turn them in.
Most of the time, the first 10 drafts or so would end up in the trash. I would throw a fit -- in the privacy and security of my bedroom closet, of course -- because dad wasn't letting one of his boys act like a little brat, not on his watch. But then I'd get over it and get back to work, and that 11th one was always an A-plus.
Time to read
During the summers, while all of my buddies were allowed to run free on their bikes around Wahiawa, I was made to spend four hours a day in the morning at the Wahiawa Public Library, where I had to read two books each day -- one my dad's choice and one my own -- and submit reports on each to him before I could take off and join the rest of the world.
As I stormed down the road on my bike to join my pals at the park to play ball or catch a bus somewhere fun, I hated the fact that I had to do that stuff, but that's just the way it was. Looking back now, I realize what a big influence those summer days had on my reading comprehension and communication skills.
It became quite clear to my family at a very early age, that baseball would play a big role in my life, and dad did whatever he could to help me reach my potential in that arena as well. During his formative days growing up in Waialua, he never really played much baseball, so he did the next best thing to support my passion. He would go to the library and run off copy after copy of any baseball instruction book he could find, and there were a lot.
The copies he made provided an introduction to the changeup, the two-seam fastball, and pitching and hitting mechanics that would allow me to enjoy success on the baseball field for many years.
When I began pitching a little bit in middle school, Dad would make the short walk with me to Wahiawa Elementary School to catch some bullpens for me.
My lethal combination of increasing velocity and poor control often spelled doom for him, but he kept doing it. Bruise after bruise, one fastball to the shin after the other, he wore it like a champ.
As I went on to play in high school and college and then professionally, he supported me any way he could, usually financially, buying gloves and spikes and whatever else I ever needed to pursue my dreams on the field.
My dad taught me the ways of the world, in his own special way. Most of the time, of course, I didn't like it. A strict parent with a heavy hand, I didn't always appreciate his methods, but they were probably necessary.
To say I was a handful as a youngster growing up in Wahiawa would be a bit of an understatement. I was a little bit of a rascal, a little bit defiant, and stubborn.
When I spray-painted the back wall of our house when I was 10, he forgave me, after he made me scrub it off, of course. When my friends and I got into some trouble for shooting BB guns on military training grounds when I was 12, he laughed. When I tore my ACL in college, he knew that it was hard on me, having to miss my junior season, so he bought me an autographed Roger Clemens picture, a refrigerator and an air conditioner for my bedroom, so I could be more comfortable during my summer of rehab.
Through it all, my dad -- and mom for that matter -- have been there to support me as I chase my dreams in this crazy, topsy-turvy world of baseball, and more than anything, put up with my current career choice, the coinciding financial instability and offseasons of struggle.
Can't say no to this
As long as I can remember, the remarkable thing about my dad is that he never said "no" to me. Whether it was a 6 a.m. ride to the airport, taking my truck in for servicing early in the morning so I could sleep in, or giving me some money for a new glove when I was in college, he never said no. He was and is always willing to help out his boy.
So when I decided to write this column for him today, I decided not to give him the chance to give me his first no. I did not tell him I was writing about him for I'm sure he would not have wanted me to do it.
But this was my opportunity to do something small for the man who has done so much for me. So, Happy Father's Day to you dad, and to all the heroes turning boys into men. Thank you for everything.