‘Tis the time of year to give thanks. I would like to take the time to give thanks to all of the second fathers I got through Little League baseball and give a shout out to all of the second fathers that the millions of others have.
First, let me clarify what exactly I am referring to when I say “second father.”
I grew up in a two-parent household, with both parents physically and emotionally available for me and my sister. Second fathers for me are my friends’ dads who either coached or provided for me in some way through the game of baseball. For others, a second father might be a stand-in father who compensated for the lack of. Baseball has a unique way of bringing fathers and kids together. I think it is because almost every dad has some experience with baseball at some point in their life, so the shared experience makes them able to have something they are ready and willing to offer.
I first heard the term “second father” in reference to baseball after a teammate tragically passed in a fatal car accident (we still miss you TP). His mother said to us, “[our son] had many second fathers and not a bad word to say about any of them.” Even after death, Mrs. P felt the need to mention the influence and importance of the many fathers brought into her son’s life. That is powerful. That means something.
Kids need to be coached by different individuals and by men who are not their own fathers. Kids need to learn to step outside of their comfort zone, be adaptive, adjust to cooperating with different personality types, and gain multiple perspectives. My father felt strongly about this. I believe it is problematic when kids enter 13-under and 14-under baseball and have never once been in a lineup that their father did not make (or at least have a hand in making).
This Thanksgiving, I have a plate ready for the second fathers from my Little League experience who I am thankful were in my life. I have taken every single one of these lessons with me, and often times can remember the exact time and place where I learned them. Some of these plates will be enjoyed in Heaven:
- My dad, Joe: The best man I have ever known. I can write infinite articles about him alone, but there is one lesson that stuck with me more than others. My dad was a businessman who loved his job. I am going to paraphrase this but: “if your boss tells you to move the mug on his desk, you do it. If you take care of your boss, he will take care of you.”
- Matt’s dad: My dad’s partner in crime. Taught me the importance of checking in on your neighbors and looking out for other kids, even if they are not your own.
- Ryan’s dad: This man was once a Division 1 college pitcher who almost went pro. One day, I see him pick up a saxophone and a flute and play both. He said to me: “I took the effort to learn as many different things in my life as I possibly can.”
- Mike’s dad: Consider him a spin-off of Ryan’s dad. This man can literally do ANYTHING, fix ANY problem, and has DNA made of titanium. “Every morning I wake up and put on my work boots no matter what.”
- (A different) Mike’s dad: He drove us home from practice one day, and me and Mike were talking about girls we wanted to take to the homecoming dance. I was way too nervous to ask a senior girl as a freshman. That is when he said: “Why not? It’s ALWAYS better to say ‘I shouldn’t have’ then to look back and wonder what would have happened if you did.”
- Pat’s dad: He knew everyone from sea to shining sea, and he always made sure to take care of everyone’s kids who he knew. If I was in a room with a million strangers, and saw Pat’s dad, I knew he was looking out for me and about a thousand other kids. Every parent knew their kids were safe when Pat’s dad was around.
- John/Stephanie’s dad: Stephanie could go toe-to-toe with any boy, and her dad knew it. I learned how to treat women with respect in the workplace at a very young age.
If not for Little League baseball, I would be an entirely different man. Thank you Dad, and thank you all my friend’s dads.
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