Road to Omaha: Father’s Day

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I was unable to spend Father’s Day with my Dad, due to the fact that I am currently in Omaha for the College World Series.

Just like my dad predicted. Let me explain.

The year is 2003, and I am the starting pitcher on my little league team. I had just thrown a complete-game shutout, scattering three or four hits, in a sixth-grade baseball game. As was the custom, my dad wanted to take me out for a celebratory ice cream at the Ben & Jerry’s down the street. We were about done and ready to go home, when he turned to me and, in a serious tone, said something I will never forget.

“Son,” he said, “I want you to start spending most of your time getting better at baseball. You’re talented. If you keep working hard, well, you may be on your way to the College World Series with Augie Garrido one day.”

I nearly choked on my waffle cone. My dad was always my biggest fan, a man who seemingly lived and died by the results of my baseball games, sitting right behind home plate, on hand with a yellow Gatorade whenever I needed it. But he was never one to push sports or demand particular greatness, yet there he was suggesting to me that I would one day be good enough to play at the University of Texas.

A year later, I played my last baseball game. There was no horrific injury — yeah, you know, I had to get Tommy John surgery in sixth grade. I just wasn’t very good at it anymore, and I didn’t love playing it like I used to.

There would soon be something I enjoyed doing even more: writing. As I have worked my way up the ranks — from some very ridiculous blog posts to my high school news magazine and now The Daily Texan, my dad has been the one person who reads every single article I write, akin to the days when he would miss an important meeting before he missed one of my games.

My dad was just as supportive of my final athletic endeavor — rec basketball — showing up to every single game. He cheered wildly at each of them, except the final game of my senior “season,” when we were losing to annoying private schoolers by 40 and became belligerent — laying into them with hard fouls and language so offensive it would have made Augie Garrido blush (the refs swallowed the whistle because it was the final game of our high school “careers”).

Disgusted, my Dad walked out of the gym after I picked up what should have been my ninth foul, a hip-check that sent a pretty boy flying into the scorer’s table. Needless to say, there was no Gatorade after the game.

I had a nice phone call with my dad on Father’s Day. We talked about my trip — he’s thrilled for me — and how he thinks his Longhorns will do Monday. He didn’t ask or expect a Father’s Day gift — which is good, because I’m still deciding what to get him.

Maybe we can just get ice cream.