My Annual Father’s Day Story
I’ve been running this particular column every Father’s Day week since I first wrote it, back in 2003, in whatever venue I happened to be scribbling for at the time. Medium readers, it is now your turn. I hope it is a fine story, and also that it’s illustrative of how I’ve grown as a writer over the last 18 years. Happy Father’s Day.
Until the age of 18, all I ever did was play baseball, and this time of year fills me with both wonder and deep regret. Save for occasional wiffleball games in the park, my ball-playing days are over. I think back to Little League often. More than I should.
There was one coach, in particular, who current overbearing kids’ league coaches would be wise to emulate. I played for many, many teams and even more coaches, even people being paid simply to coach, and no one ever came close to the guy who coached our V.F.W. team in the Jaycee League, ages 8–10.
We all knew he wouldn’t be like other coaches when he showed up at our first practice with my cousin Denny in tow. Denny, despite being in the same grade as me at school, was a year above me in the baseball leagues, so he was a one-year Jaycee veteran when I came into the league. He’d played for Pepsi-Cola the year before, under the eye of Coach Anderson, an abrasive coach whose son, Derek, was renowned for running out of the batter’s box in fear every time the pitcher started his windup. After witnessing Denny’s first season with Coach Anderson, it wasn’t difficult to understand why.
Denny didn’t really like baseball very much in the first place, but under Coach Anderson, he quickly grew to loathe it. Denny was very small, the smallest eight-year-old you ever did see, and the bat was almost as tall as he was. He was scared anyway, and Coach Anderson made it worse. He would typically refuse to play Denny, but when his father complained, he would stick Denny in late in the game with explicit instructions, whispering in his delicate, underdeveloped ears, not to swing.
“Just stand up there. If you swing, you won’t play next game.” Denny was so little, it was darned near impossible to throw him a strike, and he would inevitably walk every time he came up. He would then be replaced with a pinch-runner, followed by a nasty glance…