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by Editor Rick Cabral

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY 2012

Like most of our male readers, I played baseball as a youth, and was fortunate to have played at the high school level here in Sacramento for Bishop Armstrong and then later at Christian Brothers (when the school reverted back to its original name).

In last year’s Father’s Day tribute I touched on how my father, a non-athlete, took time to help me develop, although baseball wasn’t his passion.

I shared my passion for baseball with my youngest son, Alexander, and in the process did a ton of workouts with him: pitching batting practice, hitting grounders and flies and catching ‘pens. As he developed into a fairly good high school player, these all became more challenging. While he grew stronger and more powerful, I’d grown older. As my skills diminished (eyesight dimmer, reactions slower), his were near prime perfection.

As I enjoyed playing baseball—not just the games, but working on the skill sets—I always had fun with my son.

After he left school and entered the Army, we had fewer chances to work out together, and I missed that experience. But every time he would come home, even in winter, he’d always whip out his glove from his duffel bag or backpack and ask “Wanna play catch?” I knew he still clung to the dream of playing college baseball someday and wanted to help him realize it.*

We’d usually just go out on the T Street Parkway and engage in the age-old pastime of fathers and sons throwing the ball, or as they say elsewhere “have a catch.” And for those few brief moments, I was in heaven.

Or Iowa.

One of my favorite Father’s Day memories happened six years ago. Alex was home from the Army for a rare Sacramento visit in June and we decided to go to the park for a workout (this was after his sister took me out for our annual great brunch and conversation). We drove to River Park and took advantage of the empty Glen Hall diamond, where I had played American Legion ball in the summers.

After playing catch and working him out fielding grounders and flies, Alex asked me to throw batting practice.

I balked. “No ‘L’ screen,” I offered, thinking the subject closed.

“No, problem, Dad. I just won’t hit ‘em at ya.” My sarcastic smile said otherwise. “Promise. C’mon.”

“With my luck, and poor eyesight, you’ll probably drill me in the noggin'. Then they’ll have to bury me here under the mound,” I said.

“Promise, I’ll pull everything,” he said in that charmingly cocky Army Ranger manner, whose undertone suggested that if we don’t come to our senses—and, pronto—we can expect the whole damn platoon to be scramblin' over the wall in the blink of a gnat’s eyelash.

So, we went at it. Sure enough, in those first dozen pitches he managed to avoid hitting me.

But more surprisingly each stroke sounded like a rocket landing in distant fields. I was amazed. Kid hadn’t played competitively since high school and four years later, with only a few recreational tosses in Baghad or Kabul, and maybe a time or two in the batting cages, here he was hitting screamers deep into the outfield. One ball landed on the fly about twenty feet from the Dan McAuliffe memorial plaque near the street. Impressive, I nodded.

 batted ball

Then he had to go and do it.

One of those drives suddenly was screaming toward me and would have decapitated the ol’ man, but for the grace of God, I dropped to my stomach just as Mr. Rawlings whistled past my ear. From my knees, I glared at him, shaking my head, while Alexander doubled over with laughter.

Funny.

Afterward, we headed to Cookie’s Drive-In on 57th and H to get a slushy drink. Sitting in the shade, perspiring after the workout, felt like a little slice of nirvana.

Or some sweet Iowa corn on the cob.

What an awesome way to spend Father’s Day, I thought, enjoying the game we both love.

And always will.


* Alexander realized that dream when he tried out and was added to the Chattahoochie Valley Community College Team roster. Based in Phenix City, Alabama (a few miles away from the army base where Alex spent six years at Fort Benning, Georgia), Coach Adam Thomas has developed one of the finest junior college programs in the southeast. To read Coach Thomas' blogpost about Alexander in early 2012, go here.

Uploaded 06/13/2012
All contents © Rick Cabral 2012

 

 

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