“Dale Murphy,” “Little League”– Those words sum up my childhood relationship to baseball. My favorite player on my favorite team plus my only avenue for my only sport equaled my elementary identity. I was a baseball fan. I was a baseball player. My hallmark was the Murph; the ballpark was my turf. That was baseball. That was me. . . .
Well, there is one other baseball word that I shouldn’t leave out of the equation: “Dad.” Oh, yes, “Dad” is a baseball word, the most important one. See, I never played catch with Dale Murphy. He never took me to the cage or tweaked my mechanics. In fact, he never even came to a single one of my games, but Dad did, practically every one. And honestly those days at the park were few compared to the afternoons in the backyard, pitching to Dad, catching from Dad, hitting, fielding, running, diving–with Dad, with Dad, with Dad, with Dad. He was the key player backing up my baseball identity, but also, I learned that there is more to identity than baseball. There is sonship. There is relationship, not to a sport but with a father. There is a man teaching his boy how to wind up, how to follow through. For that, Dad used baseball, and I’ll never forget. I was a fan. I was a player. I was a son.