Hey Dad, You Wanna Have a Catch?

Did you ever wonder, and I mean really wonder, about the relationship between a father and son? Ask any son about their dad and be ready for a “tour de force” of emotion, regardless if it is positive or negative. Why is this relationship so special?

In the movie, “Field of Dreams,” we encounter the journey of “Ray” (Kevin Costner). You see, Ray loved the game of baseball just like his father, who was once a minor-league catcher. A “voice” instructs him to turn his cornfield into a baseball field. ”If you build it, he will come.” Ray explains to his wife, ”I’m scared to death I’m turning into my father. I never forgave him for growing old.”

In what is probably one of the most amazing scenes captured in film (known to make most men cry), we see the story of redemption (forgiveness and grace) played out between a father and son with the simple phrase, “Hey dad, you wanna have a catch?” Those simple words speak volumes – moments once shared, memories treasured, hurts forgiven between father and son. As sons and dads, we know personally the impact of those words.

There are two sports stories that really capture the essence of the pains and joys of a father and son relationship.

Dock Ellis

In 1970 Dock Ellis pitched a no-hitter for the Pittsburgh Pirates. According to Dock he pitched the no-hitter under the influence of LSD. A very charismatic player known for his outspoken views on civil rights, Ellis struggled with addictions. After his career in baseball he became outspoken about his addiction to alcohol and amphetamines while playing, and in the end chose to help other addicts in their recovery.

Outside the Lines (OTL) of ESPN covered Dock’s story a few years ago. In the article they share about Dock’s relationship with his dad. When Ellis was young, his father would attend all his baseball games, and regardless of their outcome, they shared them together. Unfortunately Dock’s dad suffered from emphysema which slowly took his life right before Ellis signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. According to the story, Dock struggled with the thought of losing his dad (he didn’t even visit him in the hospital). At the age of 46 he finally went to his dads’ grave site. Dock’s first wife, Hjordis, said, “All he ever wanted was to see his dad come around that [locker room] corner after a game, just one time.”

Team Hoyt

Rick and Dick Hoyt have run over 1,000 marathons and triathlons since 1977. Team Hoyt is an inspirational story of a father’s commitment to his son. Rick, who was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy when he was born, would be confined to a wheelchair all of his life. When Rick was 15, he wanted to participate in a 5 mile benefit run for someone who had been paralyzed. Dick, who was not a runner, agreed and they finished next to last in the race. Rick communicated in his own way that day, “”Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.” Dick says in interviews that Rick is his motivator, “To me, he is the one out there competing. I am just loaning him my arms and my legs so that he can compete. There is just something that gets into me when I am out there competing with Rick that I cannot explain it, and we are able to go faster. It is an unbelievable feeling.”

 So, what’s your father and son story? Over the next few weeks I am going to be writing some blog posts capturing some conversations with my dad. You see, my dad and I are very close. He was even my best man in my wedding.

We have lots of stories to share – some highs and lows as father and son. My hope is that they will inspire you to “have a catch” with your dad or son; no mitt required.