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Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Baseball helps bring together fathers and sons

June 13, 2007

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Nothing brings fathers and sons together quite like baseball. Playing catch, learning how to break in a glove, working on hitting techniques - those are special moments that dads and sons share every summer like a rite of passage.

For many fathers baseball allows them to spend quality time with their kids. Michael Brown, whose son Hayden plays baseball in the Douglas County Amateur Baseball Association, said he relishes the opportunity to practice baseball with his son and watch him play.

"Between work and everything else it's the most time I get to spend with him," Brown said. "So I really enjoy it."

Brown said his son Hayden can learn important lessons and develop self confidence by playing baseball. Brown watched his son on Saturday at 4-H Fields as Hayden snagged a line drive and was cheered on by the crowd.

"Just like him catching that ball right there, this feeling that he's feeling right now, I don't know how you replicate that," Brown said. "I can do a lot of things for him, but I can't give him that feeling that he's having right now."

Baseball-related life lessons can come on and off the field. Caylor Norris, 13, plays for the Crush in the Houk League. He said he might not be playing baseball right now if it wasn't for his father, Mike.

"One year I wanted to quit playing and he kept me playing," Norris said. "I didn't like my coaches."

Norris' father didn't want him to regret quitting when he got older. He told his son: "Just keep on going. If you drop it, you might drop it for the rest of your life."

Although Norris had a bad experience with some coaches when he was younger, some kids get to play for coaches that they love when they have their dad on the coaching staff.

DCABA Raptors coach Jack Tyler coaches his 8-year-old son Jackson and said while he cherishes that opportunity, it can be a lot to handle.

"It's very time consuming," Tyler said. "We practice a couple days a week, play a couple games a week. We're constantly talking to parents about tournaments and stuff. It's a load."

On top of those coaching responsibilities, Tyler's 12-year-old son Dillon plays in Topeka, so he and his wife travel a lot back and forth.

"It's worth it," Tyler said of the time and travel involved. "I love being around the game, I love baseball and I love my kids."

DCABA Suns coach Michael Ison coaches his son Carter and said he tries to make baseball a family experience for everyone on the team. The Suns keep fathers and mothers of all the players involved by having post-game tailgating or picnics. But he said the players learn about the game in the midst of all the fun.

"We're trying to teach them all the baseball fundamentals, to love baseball, basically, so when they become fathers they can coach their kids," Ison said.

As a father and a coach, Ison said he can support his son financially and emotionally.

"It's not cheap to play baseball or any other sport," he said. "Emotionally, you've got to be there to support them when they do good and when they do badly. You have to make sure the negative experiences become a learning experience."

Tyler agreed that teaching during the tough times is important. "I just try to tell him to do his best - I tell all the kids that - but I really try to tell mine because he really worries about me being his coach. Every time he makes a mistake he looks at me," Tyler said.

"I think it's harder on Jackson than it is me because he really wants to do good for me. He's got the added pressure of trying to impress me."

Michael Matthews, 15, of the Ice League Giants plays for his father, Tim Morris. He said he has felt that pressure Tyler mentioned.

"I seem a lot more challenged when we're playing sports so I can prove myself," Matthews said.

Despite that challenge, Matthews credited his father with playing a key role in his athletic development. He remembered countless times when his father would take him out in the yard and work on whatever baseball problems he was having.

Matthews said having a father as a coach is pretty special, but it doesn't come with special treatment.

"It's just like he's a regular coach," Matthews said of Morris. "He doesn't treat me any different or anything."

And when the game is over his dad is there for him at home, too.

"It's pretty nice because he gives me some extra tips at home and stuff," Matthews said.

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