I consider myself very lucky. Maybe not one of the few, as I figure there's probably lots of guys that grew up like I did. But I, like many, would likely say they have the greatest dad in the world.
He may occasionally mistake a Cy Young pitcher for Don Mattingly, but otherwise my dad is a sports geek, with an encyclopedic level of baseball knowledge. He taught me from a young age how to throw, hit and play ball. He taught me how to take a wrist shot and slap shot and played goalie on the porch while I fired street hockey balls at him. He was always there for me for a game of catch or anything else I ever needed.
I just found out on Tuesday that I won a trip to Fenway Park for Derek Jeter's last game through a sales contest at work. When I learned of the trip I instantly remembered conversations my father and I had when I was thirteen, as he pitched baseballs to me into the darkness, trying to help me hone my swing. We dreamed of driving to Cooperstown, NY and visiting the Hall of Fame, stopping along the way to visit all the best ball parks and watch our beloved White Sox.
My dad coached most of my baseball teams growing up, from T-Ball up to high school, travel and house leagues. He came to most every one of my college hockey games, traveling the Midwest from Champaign, IL to Ohio to Michigan. He taught me that a 3 hour drive is nothing for something you love. Or someone.
When I learned of the trip I dreamt of what it would be like to call my dad and tell him that I was able to do it with hard work, the way he taught me. And the only person I could ever imagine there with me was him. Getting to ask him and his immediate yes, made us both as excited as I expected. As we get ready for the trip I can't help but think back to a lot of the memories we've been able to share, even as I've gotten older. My passion for fly fishing has rubbed off on him and he's working on polishing his casting stroke for trips to come. He's had success and is always more than happy just to be spending the day on the water. We've had guides look at us like we were crazy when we said we just care about having fun, not how many or how large a fish we catch. It's the time that matters more than anything. It may sound corny, but to this day I live by two quotes my dad said to teams he coached when I was young - "Never say die!" and "Grape or Cherry Snow Cones?" We never give up and battle until the end. We never know what may be behind the next bend, or when the pitcher might hang another curveball. And in the end, no matter the outcome, there's only so much you can control - grape or cherry?