What Miami Marlins baseball means to me on Fathers Day

Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

My passion for Miami Marlins baseball can be traced back to the formative stretches of my childhood. I reflect on my love of baseball as a subset to the love I feel for my father.

I started playing baseball when I was seven years old. It was 1997, the same year the Florida Marlins won the World Series. The team wouldn’t become the Miami Marlins for another decade-and-a-half. By then, my lifelong devotion for the team would already be cemented and understood.

I realize now that it was a clever ploy on my fathers part. He took me to Eureka Park, a small park near my family home in Cutler Ridge in Miami. They had two ball fields, and a basketball court. He took me to shoot some hoops.

But really, he took me to see other kids play ball and ask me if I wanted to play. Of course I did.

The rest is history. My father poured countless hours of time into my playing baseball. An unimaginable sum of money that meant denying himself even the most modest pleasantry or convenience.

While attempting to establish financial security for the future of my family, my father simultaneously grew his small business, and never missed an opportunity to spend time with me. Not only did he attend every little league game, he coached them.

He coached nearly every single team I played on until I was in high school. Not only that, he taxied me, and about five or six of my teammates to and from the game and practice. That went on for seven years or so.

Where he summoned the energy, I’ll never know. Perhaps it’s a reserve of will that only becomes available once you’ve fathered a child. Spurred by never ending love of your spawn, you’re cool with burning the candle on both ends.

My Dad and Marlins baseball

It wasn’t enough for my father to coach several baseball teams, several nights a week. And take me and my friends to and from practice. And barter a deal with a local plant distributor, who donated plants to us to sell in front of Publix to purchase uniforms.

My father took me to an incredible number of Marlins baseball games. Truly mind-boggling when I think about it now. The team was terrible, but I don’t think that’s something that I was aware of as a kid. I was just happy to be at the ballpark.

Those are the memories that I hold most dear as I get older. The bonding. The slow-paced, conversational companionship I shared with my father is truly something to cherish. Baseball was the platform upon which my father and I built our relationship.

I could listen to him point things out on the field for hours. Derek Lee was my favorite ballplayer on the team at the time. My father would tell me to watch him, and explain each action the Gold Glove first baseman took as if he’d personally told him to do it.

I often remained silent after he finished speaking. Or I chuckled nervously. I sometimes wonder if my Dad thought I wasn’t interested as a result of my reacting that way. The truth is, I was in awe of my father, as all boys are. I didn’t know what to say.

Then and now

Fast-forward a couple of decades and the passion remains. I don’t live at home anymore, and the opportunities to talk baseball with my Pops don’t come around as often as they used to. It’s a shame, I might be able to keep up my end of the conversation with him these days.

But when they do, it’s like stepping in a time machine. It’s like being a kid again. Because baseball, for as much as it continues to change, is always the same. Just like my relationship with my Dad.

Most of the players I admired when I was a kid have retired. Ken Griffey Jr. is in the Hall of Fame. Ichiro and Bartolo Colon are perhaps the only two players still in Major League Baseball that were included in the countless playstation baseball games my Dad bought me.

I’m nearly the age he was when he and my mother had me. They’d already had three girls before I came along. To think of myself in that position, with that level of responsibility, it makes my heart beat faster.

It makes the blood rush to my extremities and I break a small, panic-induced sweat. He held down several jobs at once, while making time for all of his kids, and remaining a faithful and devoted partner to my mother. That’s a father.

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As a result of the time, effort, love, dedication, encouragement, and willingness to teach, it’s like he’ll live forever to me. Anytime I watch a baseball game, I can hear his voice.

So it’s Fathers Day, and I’ll be watching Miami Marlins baseball this afternoon. Because as time moves on, the two become inseparable in my mind. I love my father. And I love baseball.