For me, it was the green. The color, the sheer magnitude of it, overwhelmed me. And all I could do was stare at that wall.
The first time my dad, Bruce, ever took me to a major league baseball game, it was at Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox were playing the Baltimore Orioles. And while I’m sure the outcome mattered to plenty who filled the seats at the ballpark that day, as an 8-year-old, I was not among them.
I couldn’t tell you who won, who pitched, what happened or even what else we did that day. I just remember we sat in a roof-deck seat, I had my dad all to myself — a rarity, with two sisters — and that massive green wall in left field.
Sometime during the game, we made our way down to the lower bowl for a few minutes. Our seats were fine, but there was something else my dad wanted me to see. As we poked our heads into a pricier section, we waited and watched as a pitch was delivered. You could hear it whizz by and pop the catcher’s mitt. “Isn’t that amazing?” my dad asked me. “Can you believe how fast it looks from down here?”
That was the moment that I fell in love with the game. Still to this day, it’s one of my favorite memories with my dad.
Major League Baseball spent Sunday awash in blue as it celebrated Father’s Day by using the day to bring awareness to prostate cancer. And spurred by the annual day to celebrate Dad, a few Nationals players were kind enough to share some of their favorite memories of their fathers with us.
Here they are, in their own words:
Adam LaRoche; Dad: Dave (former MLB pitcher)
“Our whole life was baseball. We had a batting cage in our backyard in Texas, outside of Houston, and he’d come out there and throw to us for hours. Hours. And then as we got older he’d say, ‘All right, I’m going to throw to you guys. If you pull one ball, if you hit one ball on this side of me, we’re done.’
“So he would throw and throw and we’re just fighting to go the other way. He might throw one inside and you’d pull one and he’d just walk out of there. Walk inside. Try it again tomorrow. This was when we were a little older. When we were young he’d let us do whatever. But it used to drive us crazy because we’d all be ready to hit and he’d bail on us, so we’d be throwing to each other. Which is funny because now I can’t hit the ball the other way, but back then that’s all I did was hit the ball the other way.
“That and all the spring trainings coming just like [my son] Drake does now, just coming to the field. That’s why I bring Drake as much as I do because I remember what it meant for us. We’d just run around and shag fly balls. We’d run to all the fields. If there was something going on on the half-field, run over there and help out, run to the cages, just running all over the complex.”
Craig Stammen; Dad: Jeff
“He would stand on the driveway and I would stand out in the grass and he’d just hit me ground ball after ground ball after ground ball and make me dive for them. He’d hit some slow, hit some hard; it was just fun hanging out. He’d come home from work [selling farm equipment] and just spend as long as I would go out there in the yard playing ball. That’s probably the best memory.
“We did that all the way until even when I was in high school. If I wanted him to hit me ground balls that was where we’d go. He would stand on the blacktop and hit me one-hoppers so all the balls had blacktop all over them from all the ground balls. I never really pitched that much. I had a brick wall I threw up against, but at that point I wanted to be Barry Larkin, so we were trying our hardest to do that. We would do that and then we’d play pepper in the yard. He’s part-owner of the business now. But he’d work all day, pretty tough work, and come home and play ball with me.”
Anthony Rendon; Dad: Rene