When I was born, Dad’s nickname for me was “The Bambino” because I was a chubby baby. It was also one of Babe Ruth’s nicknames. So from the very beginning, my Dad, baseball, and I have been laced together.
When I was 4 years old, my father taught me how to bat, throw, and catch a baseball. I’m 14 years old now, and playing catch with him is still my favorite pastime. We don’t need to talk or say anything. We just enjoy the “pop” sound that the ball makes when it hits the glove.
Today, I play baseball for my school and a competitive travel team, and I have a lot of games. My dad never misses any of them. He gets out of work early, and we are always the first ones on the field stretching and warming up. “A good player is the one who hustles, works hard, gets there early, and helps put away the bases,” Dad says.
Dad was a strong athlete, and he played three varsity sports at Boston College High School. I asked him recently about his first home run. He told me how good it felt to hit the ball over the fence in his Little League field in Melrose when he was 12 years old.
“How did you do it, Dad?” I asked. He answered with an old joke: “Swing hard in case you hit it.”
But seriously, my dad gives me great tips: When I’m in the batter’s box: “Wait for your pitch. Quick Hands. Drive it.” When I’m on the mound: “Take your time. Keep the ball down. Trust yourself.” These baseball lessons serve me well on and off the field. My buddies call him “Coach” because he’s been coaching my Little League games from Farm to Majors. I’m lucky to call him “Dad.”
Our love of baseball extends to our favorite team: the Boston Red Sox. I’ve been going to Red Sox games since I was a little kid, riding on my dad’s shoulders to see over the crowd. As he fed me hot dogs and Hoodsy cups, he shared baseball stories and why Fenway Park is so special. He introduced me to the Green Monster, the Pesky Pole, the famous Red Seat, and more. I devoured every word.
When it comes to baseball, my dad has a memory like an elephant. He could tell you about each and every game, the batting lineup, who pitched, the day of the week, and the weather. While I’m not able to recall all those details, I do remember who won, the big plays, what we ate, what we talked about, and how much fun we had. That’s just as important.
Going to Red Sox games with my dad never gets old. I have memories of summer games sweating in the bleachers, drinking hot cocoa in the freezing cold, and putting up with rain delays. Sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. Dad and I are “passionate” which means we yell, we clap, we chant, and we high five each other and the people sitting next to us. My dad doesn’t like The Wave, but he lets me do it anyway. I beg to stay through the ninth inning even it means a very late night and getting stuck in traffic.
It’s hard to tell who’s a bigger Red Sox fan, me or my dad. He always reminds me that I’m spoiled with all the Red Sox success I have seen. He still recalls Bucky Dent’s home run in 1978 and Game 6 in 1986. My favorite players are David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, while his was Freddy Lynn. Dad cried when Lynn got traded to the California Angels in 1980, and I sobbed when John Lester went to the Oakland A’s 34 years later.
My best Red Sox memory is when the team won the 2013 World Series. Dad and I went to Game 2 with our fake beards. I thought nothing could top that, but the best was yet to come. The Sox had a chance to win the championship in Game 6. My dad told me we were going to the grocery store to buy hot dogs and snacks to eat while we watched the big game on TV.
He encouraged me to wear my Red Sox jersey to get in the spirit. I did not suspect anything until he pulled into a parking lot near Fenway. I asked him what was going on. Smiling, he turned around to show me two tickets to the game — one for me and one for him! I laughed, cried, and hugged him tight — then asked him if Mom knew we were going! It was an incredible experience to share together, and I loved and cherished every second of it.
As seasons come and go, my baseball memories last forever.