My Father’s Son

I love my dad.
That’s not something I take the opportunity to say very often, but I really do. He showed me how to tie my shoes so I could stop wearing velcros. He showed me how to use his beard trimmer when I started shaving in fifth grade. He pretended not to notice when I began sneaking Mike’s Hard Lemonade from the refrigerator.
He’s done so much for me in my 19 years, but maybe the greatest thing he’s taught me is a love for baseball.
My old man was a ballplayer. He taught me to be a ballplayer. He pushed me to be better than he was, although I never got there. My playing career amounted to a scorebook of errors and a scrapbook of shortcomings.
But it’s through that mediocrity that I learned the most wonderful fact that I know today.
Baseball is amazing.
It’s the approach that my dad took to teaching me the game that helped culminate that idea. Baseball, pure and simple, is a game. Games are meant to be fun and he made it fun, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
He would yell at me during games, and I would talk back. He would try to make an adjustment and I wouldn’t listen. So many of his words fell on deaf ears, but not the most important ones.
“If you’re not having fun there’s no point in being out there.”
That’s what stuck with me through good games and bad games. And really bad games. I never received a bunch of accolades, I didn’t get recruited to play anywhere, I didn’t have people crawling over one another to see me on the field. I just went out every day and played the game as best I could without hurting myself.
And my dad was there every step of the way. He coached me from t-ball all the way to the sectionals my senior year. He was the first one to step to me when I would lose my temper, and the first one to put his arm around me when I messed up, again.
Sure I have some fond memories, but hardly any involve me doing something great. I don’t remember my batting averages, how many RBIs I had, or how many strikeouts I recorded (pitching not hitting, I blocked that number out.)
I remember things like leading the team in hit-by-pitch my freshman year. I remember the conversations I would strike up with kids once they got to first base. I remember the time I was pitching and a comebacker hit me where my cup should have been.
Most of all, I remember playing catch with my dad. I remember him and me throwing back and forth for hours until the sun began to fade and the ball was reduced to a faint outline passing between two shaded figures.
It was in those moments that I learned two of the things I value most in this world; I love baseball, and I love my dad.
Now that I’m older and have partially hung up my spikes, most of our bonding over baseball comes in the form of sitting out on the patio with a few beers and listening to Bob Uecker call Brewer games. But like our days together on the diamond I know these will be some of the memories I cherish the most, because he taught me how.
Gus Merwin

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