My dad was the first person to show me how to swing a baseball bat. I believe we were still living in San Diego at the time, and we were spending the day at the park as a family. My younger brother had received a yellow plastic bat with a white plastic ball for Christmas (or was it for his birthday?), and we now stood on a rough little baseball field at said park. The grass in the outfield shone a rich green, with a few weeds scattered in, and the backstop consisted of a chain link fence and nothing more. There were no dugouts, no bleachers, no bases. I can’t remember whether my mom or my brother stood at the makeshift mound to do the pitching (underhand, of course), but my dad positioned himself at home plate with me.
I am right-handed, so Dad showed me which side of the plate to stand as a righty. And when I cocked the bat with my left hand on top, Dad explained to me that I needed to switch my grip — right hand over left. He taught me to keep my back elbow up and he showed me how to step into the pitch with my front foot. I don’t think I had much success in making contact with any of the pitches that came my way that day. Or, if I did, I didn’t manage to do anything impressive enough to be worth remembering. That part doesn’t matter, though. Dad’s lesson stuck with me through backyard baseball with my brothers and through the occasional schoolyard game. When I started Little League a few years later, I already knew the fundamentals of how to grip the bat at the plate, and some of the other kids starting out didn’t have a clue. It gave me a boost of confidence as I embarked on learning the sport, and confidence is key when one is so young.
My dad has taught me so many other things besides how to swing a bat, of course. When I was very young, Dad created a clock with moveable hands out of pink and blue construction paper, and over the course of many evenings, he patiently taught me how to tell time. As a teenager, Dad taught me how to drive. I know how to change a tire, how to check the air pressure, and how check the dipstick in my car. I know how to do a proper pushup, how to run a lawnmower, and how to perform standard maintenance on that lawnmower. I even know that when you assemble a piece of furniture, you shouldn’t completely tighten all the screws until the very end. There are so many other things beyond the items listed here that Dad has taught me (and continues to teach me), and I am forever grateful for it. Because, even as an adult, having an idea of how to do these kinds of things is a real confidence booster.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
To all the dads out there. I hope your day is a good one.
Happy Father’s Day to all the baseball dads! The fathers of ballplayers, the grandfathers of players, and the ballplayers who are fathers.
My dad gave me my first baseball glove, taught me how to hold a bat, played catch, hit fly balls to me to practice, and attended as many of my games as he could. To all the dads who’ve done these kinds of things for their own kids, I hope your day is wonderful!
One more thing! If he does make it, sometime, would we please write him for tickets? He sure would be pleased to see us again. And I him, and my father and my son, and my mother’s father when the married men played the single men in Wilmot, New Hampshire, and my father’s father’s father who hit a ball with a stick while he was camped outside of Vicksburg in June of 1863, and maybe my son’s son’s son for baseball is continuous, like nothing else among American things, an endless game of repeated summers, joining the long generations of all fathers and all sons.
~Donald Hall, from “Fathers Playing Catch With Son”