So yesterday was the first anniversary of my dad’s passing. I had wanted to try to get this written and posted yesterday but work and a rather busy Monday got in the way. This post is something I’ve kicked around in my mind for a long time in some form or another since even before he died. For those who don’t know the story, or at least what I knew, my dad was re-diagnosed with cancer in March 2015 and told my sisters and me in September of the same year. It wasn’t terminal at that point but in the back of my head, I was always afraid of the worst. I thought of this idea of writing a letter “to baseball” because of the connection to the sport my dad and I shared, the start of the idea for this post.
Fast forward to last September and I saw my dad at Gulph Mills looking terrible. He was coughing profusely and blamed it on the newest medicine he’d been taking: “Needless to say, I’m switching the drugs,” he told me and that this medicine was giving him terrible acid reflux. Last November, on Friday the 9th, he called my sisters and me with an update, this was it. The drugs were doing all they could but it wasn’t going beat the big C. He made it seem like it was going to months, however. I was going to be writing this letter to my favorite sport a lot sooner than I expected.
Two days later, Sunday, November 11th, I was sitting in 30th Street Station waiting for an Amtrak to Stamford, CT and shortly after the train was delayed, my sister Lucy calls me and tells me to get to my grandfather’s house. A few hours later, my dad passed away. In the coming weeks, I thought about writing this letter to baseball but I couldn’t bring myself to it. It was too hard to think about it. But here we are, one year later. I had thought about how I wanted to write this and realized that baseball wasn’t the only strong connection in the sports world my dad and I shared. So here it goes, it may get ramble-y, it may get tough, but I want to put these thoughts on paper.
I wasn’t always the huge sports nut that you know and (hopefully) love. When I was a kid, my parents took me to plenty of baseball and hockey games, though. My earliest sports fandom consisted of watching Michael Jordan win (shout out to my mom’s side of the family in Chicago), being obsessed with the Flyers and the Mighty Ducks franchise, and watching Phillies and Yankee baseball games. For those who didn’t know my dad, he was born in New York and grew up a massive Yankee fan. My great-grandfather, George III, took him to games throughout his life and the Yankees were a large part of my dad’s life right up until the moment he died. He constantly tried to bring me on board by taking me to the Bronx at least once a year, but he took me to the Vet (and later Citizens Bank Park) a lot more often for me to be swayed away from the Phillies. His love for baseball rooted in me pretty quickly but being born in Philadelphia rooted a fandom for red pinstripes, not blue. That didn’t stop my dad from trying though and because of it, I paid attention to both leagues pretty closely (which was tougher to do pre-internet) and Major League Baseball became the first major sport I followed intensely. Our shared love for baseball brought a lot of great memories. From my dad teaching me how to keep the book, which I still do at every MLB game I attend, to going to Game 2 of the 2009 World Series between our favorite teams, to even just finding time to hit the batting cages at Grand Slam. I wanted so badly to be a great baseball player and my dad was always there to make that happen. He believed in me so much more than I ever did in myself and I’ll never forget that.
Baseball was the main thing that connected us. When I went off to Berkshire, I didn’t call my dad as often as I called my mom but when we talked, my dad and I quickly transitioned the conversation to something baseball-related. Again, he had all the confidence in the world in me so he didn’t need the nitty-gritty details of the math test I took so it would quickly turn into a conversation about whatever was happening in the baseball and then how the Flyers were doing if they were in season. Baseball was our thing so much so that when my parents split, I told him I liked the Red Sox, and for a year and a half, I claimed them as my American League team. I still partially think my dad sent me to a boarding school in New England so I’d know what real Red Sox fandom looked like.
Throughout the years, we’d continue to go to baseball games together but, after college, that number sadly started to dwindle. We were able to go to one last game together in 2018 to see the Yankees visit Citizens Bank Park and it was like no time had passed since the last game we went to. I honestly could not have picked a better final game to have attended with my dad (well, maybe a Phillies win).
What did see a rise in games we attended together were Flyers games. Living downtown in Philadelphia gave me the ability to have more one-on-one time with my dad in later years. We’d grab dinner and beers about once a month but where we’d have a blast was at the Wells Fargo Center. Hockey was one sport my dad never played so I like to think my love for the sport and the Flyers brought that out of him. He’d have me explain the smaller intricacies in the rules and he caught on quick. My dad never totally got all of the video games I played, but if he saw me playing NHL during weekends at his house, he’d want to play. We may have had different baseball teams but the Flyers were our team. He liked the Sixers and the Eagles, but the Flyers were the one team that connected us and we had a lot of fun watching them play.
The final sport I wanted to talk about is golf. Golf was incredibly important to my dad and it became more and more important to me as I got older. What’s different about golf, though, was how it became the connection for my dad and me by the end of his life. My dad played as much golf as humanly possible for as long as I can remember. I played here and there growing up but it wasn’t something I truly picked up until the spring of my junior year at Lehigh because some of my friends needed a fourth in their group. That summer in 2012, I caught the bug and played almost every night after my summer internship would end. The next summer while looking for my first post-college job, I’d play whenever I wasn’t applying to jobs or at an interview. I’d always play by myself though, running into my dad here and there to update him. We didn’t play together much for many of the first years I played. We finally started playing together on Father’s Day in 2015 but it wouldn’t be until after I joined Gulph Mills in 2018 that we’d play even multiple rounds in a single season together. It was a sport we both cared about so much but played together so little. I feel confident in saying that we probably would have played more and more as the years went on but it’s certainly something I wish we could’ve been on the same page with more. At least we’d compare notes for fantasy golf/pick’em pools so we helped each other win on that front. ALTHOUGH, we did have a dinner bet on if Tiger would win another major so I just missed out on throwing it in my dad’s face when El Tigre won the Masters this year.
I don’t want it to sound like my dad wasn’t there for me or anything. He had all the confidence in me and my sisters. Way more confidence than I’ve had about myself. He supported every dream I ever had including this endeavor with the blog and podcast as I’ve tried to make it into sports media. The timing of his death sadly didn’t let the two of us discuss my transition into programming but I knew he was proud of me. I can hold my head up high that my dad’s last complete sentence to me was “I love you.” After that he started breathing heavily and wasn’t really even able to speak as he was being taken from my grandfather’s house to the hospice center at 18th and South St. I can be happy knowing that our last moment alone in the ambulance right before he was taken up that I told him that he had to hold on until after the Phillies got Bryce Harper instead of the Yankees. I think I heard him chuckle at that.
I still tighten up whenever I go past that hospice center as I did last night on my way to a broomball game and I like to think he was smiling as I scored a goal. I never got one last cathartic conversation but I like to think he checks in every once in a while when I need him.For example, a few days after I was mugged at the end of June, I scored my first eagle on the 2nd hole at Gulph Mills (a 2 on #2!) and I like to think he told the golf gods to cut me some slack for that moment. That’s all I’ll get though, are these small signs. I won’t get a Force Ghost smiling on(Star Wars was something else we shared), I won’t get a message via King Kai (or a father-son golf shot for that matter), and I won’t get one last catch with my dad to ease his pain. I love you, Dad and I miss you more and more every day.