It was fun and challenging, incredible, nerve-wracking and just plain joyous – the whole dad-son, coach-player dynamic.
When my son was six-years-old, a neighbor asked if he and I wanted to join the local baseball league. He said they focused on fun and teaching skills with no pressure. We decided to take part and before you knew it, we were obsessed with the league and the game.
My son pitched and played first base. One of the things I most enjoyed was the sacred pregame ritual I shared with him. Before every game, I would warm him up before we headed to the field. We both knew it was as much for good luck as it was for practice. As a 12-year-old with a bit of zip in his pitches, it never mattered how hard my son threw or how loud he’d make the leather sound on my old, beat-up glove. I would just catch each pitch and toss it right back to him – one after another– sometimes with some constructive feedback – sometimes never giving any sign that his fastball was successful in causing even the slightest sting in my hand.
I have fond memories of playing catch in the backyard with my son. The simplicity of tossing the ball back and forth and the calmness it brought was a unique way of bonding. Baseball was the language we could speak to each other anytime, anywhere. So many fond memories of coaching his Babe Ruth League team. Letting him stay up to watch our favorite team – the Phillies. We built a strong relationship through the love of baseball.
It’s been more than 10 years since I coached my last Babe Ruth League game. We didn’t take home many championship trophies, but the time my boy and I spent together were some of the most wonderful moments of my life. Not to mention the great friends we made along the way.
I truly miss those days. You see, it will be the four-year anniversary of my son’s death this month. His jersey is now retired, but his footprints on the field will never be forgotten. I thank Babe Ruth League for providing us with this extraordinary experience.
To the Babe Ruth League family members who have lost a child, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I have found that tapping into the memories of the time spent with my son on the baseball diamond helps bring me comfort. I hope that the recollection of your child's experience in the Babe Ruth League program or any other special moments will bring you some measure of peace in the days ahead.
A Former Babe Ruth League Coach