Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Father's Day Pledge

TO MY SON AND DAUGHTER on Father's Day, There are lessons every dad should teach his children, and, along with looking both ways before crossing the road, I pledge to teach the game of baseball. Funny how what you learn on the diamond -- and from other sports -- can be applied to life. Presenting 10 baseball lessons every father should teach his kids:

1. Respect the game -- Great effort goes without saying. Hustling on and off the field and proper behavior are some of the ways to honor baseball's tradition and those who have played before us. It's a privilege to wear the uniform and represent the school or name on your jersey. Don't take it for granted.

2. Always have fun -- After all, isn't that what it's all about? Whether covering Little League games or World Series games, I've found a common theme from the most successful players and teams through the years.
"You want him to play the game like he's having fun and play hard. I look for that first, as a dad, to make sure he looks like he enjoys it," said Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, asked about his son, Beau, who played against the Fisher Cats last week.

3. Teamwork -- In sports, there is nothing more rewarding than everyone believing in a common goal and pulling for each other, putting individual accomplishments aside. Championships, not batting averages, are what everyone remembers in the end.

4. Play by the rules -- There is no substitution for hard work. And no short cuts.
"You can't skip ahead in life," New Hampshire pitching coach Tom Signore said. "If you want to be a lawyer, you've got to go to law school."

5. Sportsmanship -- Respect your opponent and umpires. Win with humility and lose with dignity. Failure is part of the game, and throwing your bat or helmet will not be tolerated.

6. Throw a fastball for a strike -- Forget the off-speed stuff until learning the importance of commanding your fastball. Then think about throwing a changeup.

7. Don't forget defense -- Fisher Cats manager Gary Cathcart says it's the most neglected part of the game among youngsters. How to field a grounder? "Get in a ready position. Move your feet. Get your glove in a good position to make the play," he said.

8. Throw some more -- There is some truth to an old-school philosophy: A sore arm is a sign of not enough throwing. Play catch. Throw a bullpen session. Long toss will help strengthen the arm.

"Too many pitchers only pick up the ball when they play," Cathcart says. "Our pitchers throw every day during the season."

9. Listen to coach -- Pay attention. Ask questions. Be coachable. It's a game of endless fundamentals and strategy -- and it keeps getting better with the more you learn.

10. Baseball is life -- Some of life's most valuable lessons are right there in our national pastime: focus on what you can control. A strong work ethic is needed to succeed. Be tough. Rise above critics. In the end, character and integrity are more important than hitting home runs.

-- From a 2009 Father's Day column in the New Hampshire Union Leader