Reader mail: A Father's Day tribute

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It’s 1988 (summer). I am 18 years old. Dad is 45. It’s Friday afternoon, and the girlfriend will be coming to visit shortly for dinner tonight. Dad has some steak on the grill…grilling them slowly in the front yard.

I run into the garage and grab the whiffle ball and bat and run out to the front yard.

Dad? Can you pitch a few to me before Tracey gets here?” Begrudgingly he obliges. It may not be HIS favorite activity, but it sure is mine. Little do I know.

The first ten pitches were uneventful; three weak grounders, two popups, three balls, two HBP.

Then…it happened.

swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss

Girlfriend arrives: We stop momentarily for cordial greeting. I offer for her to go inside, I’ll be inside in a couple of minutes….just one more hit.

swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss

I’ve now struck out four times in a row…and starting to choke even more, and sweat. I am swinging at stuff I couldn’t hit with a tennis racket. My father is silently giggling.

swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss

I’ve now struck out five consecutive times on fifteen consecutive pitches…ALL that I’ve
swung and missed at. Oh the horror. When’s this gonna end?

swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss

My girlfriend comes outside after the sixth consecutive strikeout…”What’s taking you so long?

I snap back: “I SAID I’LL BE IN IN A MINUTE!!!!

swing, miss
swing, miss
swing, miss

I’ve now struck out for the seventh consecutive time.

Dad: “Joey, aren’t you ashamed? … Can’t we be done, now?
Me: “Just throw the ball!

The very next pitch, I swung with all I had….BAM! I’d love to say that Neil Armstrong caught it….but alas, this was almost as good: If my father hadn’t ducked, it’d have hit him square in the forehead. It DID part his hair.

The sweat stops and I offer the following: “Okay…Now we can be done.”

Him: “No…YOU hit the ball, now YOU go get it.”

Somewhere…up there….my father is retelling this story to HIS father and the two of them are having a good laugh at my expense. Meanwhile, down here…you all can have the laugh at my expense. I do remember it fondly as my father was an unrelenting ball buster and this was no exception.

Happy Father’s Day to all you Dad’s who let your kid(s) have the final word.

To my Father: I miss you, Dad. Today and every day.

IIATMS overlord and founder. ESPN contributor. Purveyor of luscious reality.