Tuesday, July 15, 2014


My father was an excellent baseball player.  In a lot of ways, baseball (and maybe the Cuban Missile Crisis) defined his teen years like football did mine.  He has occasionally told me stories about the no hitter he threw, or the championships they won at Flaget.  Generally when it comes to baseball, he tells me about how his father never missed again.  B(o)urbon, no matter the weather would make it to all the games. Dad would even tell me about the times when Burbon's tuberculosis would be acting up, but his father was still there to watch his son play.  If it wasn't a story about his father, it was a story about Mickey Mantle.  To hear it, Mickey Mantle would hit a home run every time he came up to bat (he was that good).  As Dad's stories would go, everyone in the stadium would stand on their feet every time "The Mick" came to the plate.  In my fathers eyes, there was never a better ball player than Mickey Mantle.  I got taught that at a very early age, so the Yankees (baseball team) were never viewed as the "Evil Empire" in my house.  You also have to remember that they never won a title for the first 16 years of my life. I was unfamiliar with this Yankee's dynasty I heard about from the 50's and 60's.  It was a down time for what Dad always told me was the greatest sports franchise.  One of my favorite players growing up was Dave Winfield.  Dave Winfield is the only person to get drafted in three professional sports (football, baseball, and basketball).  I liked him for a lot of reasons, but I think I liked him because it became a connection with my father.  Another great Yankee, one for me to like just the same as he did growing up.

Then in about 1995 that all changed when Derek Jeter started playing for the Yanks.  Not only did the Yankees start to win again, Jeter epitomized everything that was right about baseball.  I always felt that he would have been viewed much differently had he played for any other team than the Yankees. He did play for the Yankees though, and he played every game like it was his last.  Watching Jeter, you never got the sense he felt it to be a burden.  No matter the score, not matter the scenario, he would dive into the stands, he would make an incredible play, or he would come up huge with an opposite field base hit.   While some people "hated" Jeter because he played for New York, everyone respected "The Captain." I was very fortunate to be a teenager during both Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter's prime.  Both were sporting icons.

When I had girls I thought that connection that I had with the Yankees and my father would die.  For the most part it has.  The girls like baseball well enough, I suppose they are Cubs fans. They enjoy the food at the ballparks more than anything, and I am okay with that.  Their loyalty is for sale, and if cotton candy and hot dogs wins them over, fair enough.  Them being Cubs fans is probably a good life lesson for them, they need to learn that you can't always win.  The Cubs will teach them that.  Back in May I took Reagan to see Derek Jeter play at Wrigley, then the next day I took all the girls to see him play at The Cell.  I tried to give them a crash course on how important of a player Derek Jeter is to baseball and to me.  I tried to tell them the importance of carrying yourself like Jeter, and how Jeter once said "there is never a reason not to play hard." Jeter teaches a lot of life lessons through sports.  It was awesome to see at both games that every time Jeter came up to bat, everyone stood up and cheered.  Just like Dad used to say about Mickey Mantle.  The Cubs game went into extra innings, so we got to see two extra Jeter at bats.  Every time we thought it might be Jeter's last at bat at Wrigley, he would get another one.  The Yankees won the game (of course), further teaching Reagan that you don't always win in life.  I'm not sure they really got the importance of a sports hero like Jeter, I don't blame them.  Baseball isn't their love, probably isn't really mine (like it was with my dad) either.  I do love parts of the game.  I think much of what I love,  I love because it makes me think of Dad.  My sports love is UK and SEC, that's my sports connection with my girls.  Regardless, they enjoyed the games and they learned a little about their Daddy in the process.

So flash forward to tonight, the night of the MLB All Star game.  Here I am sitting on the couch with all 4 girls...watching baseball.

Hadley: Is this baseball or basketball (we have a lot to learn)?
Baylor Grace: its baseball, Hadley
Hadley: Can we watch Sophia?
Reagan: After Derek Jeter bats, Hadley!

Everyone on TV was standing when Jeter came to bat, so did my girls in our family room.  We watched with as much anticipation you can have for an exhibition game, and what does Derek Jeter do? He hits an opposite field base hit that he stretches into a lead off double.  DJ did what DJ does.  My girls and I went crazy.  I'm not sure they really knew why, but boy they were excited.  Everyone cheered.

We might not have that lifetime connection that my father and I had, but for that moment we most certainly did.

Reagan: Dad, I want a New York Yankees hat.  Not a pink one for a girl, but navy blue, like Jeter's.

Maybe I did teach them something.....