HAPPY FATHER'S DAY
Listen to ball players relate their love for baseball, and it usually begins with a
story or memory of their father.
Dads take sons to their first ball games.
They are often the first one to show the boy how to throw the ball. And eventually how to
hit and field the ball. Dads are the first coach.
And if the boy develops into a ball player, he'll always remember the connection
between father and baseball.
My dad was no different. Well, actually, he was quite different.
Unlike most men I knew, he was an artist in development as I grew up. While working as
a butcher in his father's grocery store, he took classes in drawing, painting and art history at
Sacramento City College from artists such as Wayne Thiebaud. Eventually, "Dick" Cabral improved
to the point where he had showings in art galleries around town, and even sold a few
But during that period, my father still took the time to play catch, hit fly balls and
do just about anything I asked of him, despite the fact he was not an athlete, and didn't
particularly love baseball. But he saw that I did, and gave his time and energy to help me
develop my interest and talents in the national pastime.
As a 12-year-old, I had become a fairly fast pitcher in Little League. At my request
my father would grab the catcher's mitt and stand in front of the Rambler station wagon, our
backstop. Meanwhile I would stand on our neighbor's lawn (The Wong Family, god bless 'em), and
fire fastballs or snap off curve balls at the man who stood upright with a catcher's glove as
his only defense.
Once I failed to signal the next pitch and broke off one of the sharpest curves I'd
ever thrown. It fooled him completely, and I remember watching the ball dropping past his glove,
smacking the instep of his shoe, and then rebounding upward to the genitals. As I was admiring
the 12-6 motion of my breaking ball, he lay crumpled on the ground in pain.
Understandably, the poor man wouldn't play catch with me for a week.
My father "coached" several of the youth league teams I played on, even though he
didn't know much about "Xs and Os."
Once, he did provide some amazing advice in the area of positive
Seeing me sitting on the porch alone one spring evening, he sat down to ask what was
on my mind. I told him I was dreading the game the next day, where we would face the Tiger's top
pitcher, Herman Mendonza. "I can't hit him, dad. I just can't."
"Well, as long as you tell yourself you 'can't', then you won't. You've got to change
your mental approach, and be positive."
I looked at him like he was wearing a Dorothy Lamour fruit
"Tell yourself you can," he advised. "and your mind and body will follow. And you'll
The next day, I went three for three against Herman Mendonza, and from then on was a
We all have stories like that one, where dad imparts some bit of wisdom. Or shares his
love for us. And when it happens on or near the ball field, it helps to cement a connection we
Happy Father's Day to all those baseball dads out there.