To celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, I decided to take him to an Arizona Diamondbacks game. Regular readers of this blog may wonder whether this was really a birthday gift or did I just forget to go shopping and decided to pick up a few extra tickets to the game while I was there. As strange as it sounds I actually planned this gift.
When I was growing up my father like many others throughout this country gave up his time to coach Little League baseball. It was not just to spend more time with his son. At the time of tryouts a league official explained the severe lack of coaches they had and how they would have to contract the league leaving a lot of boys out of baseball.
My father hated to see any boy excluded and volunteered to not only coach a team but to find sponsors so that more teams could be created thereby giving more kids an opportunity to play. It was a selfless act that had a profound effect on a lot of people.
He would end up coaching not just my four years of playing but ultimately would be at the helm for an amazing 14 years. To this day I will run into former teammates or players who played for my father. Each of them expresses how my dad touched their lives teaching them skills that they used both on the field as well as in their everyday lives.
It somehow felt appropriate for me to take my father to a game and share with him the love I have for baseball and in particular the Arizona Diamondbacks. A quick note to Mandi Howard in the Diamondbacks Season Ticket department and I soon had four tickets in Section 132 for my father, mother, and my brother and his wife.
I felt like a proud parent taking them around the ballpark showing them the sights and sounds of Chase Field. With each new place my father would ask me questions absorbing everything around him.
The Diamondbacks make it so easy to share the excitement with new fans. The guest relations staff was amazing helping them find their seats and asking if there was anything they could do for my parents to make their experience more enjoyable.
My mother commented early on how she could see why I love coming to games. The people at Chase Field were so friendly and how they made her feel like family.
As the game began my father and I talked about baseball and about the experiences I had growing up. I told him how important the time I spent with him on the field was and how grateful I am for his sacrifices not just for me but for all of those boys.
In typical fashion, my dad looked around the stadium and noted how many of the fans were still wearing the purple and teal jerseys and hats despite the fact that the team had changed colors three years ago.
I tried to justify it by saying that some loyalties are hard to break. My dad had other observations. Given today’s economy and the struggles people were having, perhaps there was a monetary reason why so many of the old colors still existed.
He suggested maybe the Diamondbacks should find a way to help these fans become part of the new team and colors. Maybe what was needed was a Trade Deadline promotion where fans would be asked to bring in their old jerseys and hats and receive a coupon good for a substantial discount towards the purchase of a new jersey or hat.
The old jerseys and hats could then be gathered up and sent to poorer countries to give kids a jersey and get them interested in the game of baseball. Who knows, maybe one of those kids could grow up and be a future Arizona Diamondbacks.
Even after all of these years my father continues to teach me by his example. And years after he first began coaching he is still trying to find another way to give kids an opportunity to play the great game of baseball.