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Father's Day Tribute
The year 1975 is best known for being the year prior to 1976, our nation’s bicentennial. For me as a twelve-year old boy, 1975 would mark the pinnacle of my Little League career—the year our All-Star team had a chance to play in the Little League World Series.
My dreams were crushed before the season even started when I missed tryouts, making me ineligible for the Major Division’s draft.
You must remember that back in 1975, life wasn’t always fair. Kids didn’t get medals for merely participating in a sport; every game didn’t have to end in a tie to save self-esteem; and if a coach yelled at you for being out of line in practice, chances were your parents would yell at you when you got home for disrespecting the coach. In 1975, a helicopter parent was a parent who owned a helicopter.
When I was in Little League, if your mother couldn’t drive you to the field, you found your own ride or rode your bike. The only traveling club teams were the ones you formed with your friends, and you ‘traveled’ only as far as you could peddle.
In 1975, I was drafted to the Minor Little League Orioles. The manager was my friend’s father.
I remember my dad driving me to the first practice, which I thought was highly unusual, but when I got out of the car and he did as well, I was totally flummoxed. It turns out he was going to be the assistant coach. I played basketball, baseball, soccer and flag football, and I can’t remember my dad ever attending a game, let alone coaching one.
Side note: Before you feel sorry for me, I have to mention that in 1975, unless your father was a coach, former great athlete or unemployed, he rarely attended games. I wasn’t too keen on the idea, anyway. My dad knew nothing about coaching baseball, and there loomed the real possibility he could embarrass me in front of my friends. Not good.
Our season wasn’t spectacular. We won some and we lost some. I still hung on to the dream that I would somehow make it to the Majors; only possible if a team lost a player and I was selected to replace him. Father’s Day and the end of the season approached without the long-awaited call.
The 1975 Rincon Valley Minor Little League Orioles did not make the playoffs. Sadly, our last game that year marked both the end of the season and my Little League career.
I can’t tell you the score of the game or the inning, but in my second to last at bat, I came to the plate with the bases loaded. I grabbed a bat and started toward the plate when I suddenly heard my dad calling me from the dugout, the first time he had done so all year. My instinct was to keep walking to the plate, but instead I stopped and turned to him.
“Hit it out or don’t bother coming back in the dugout.”
He went an entire season without giving me one single piece of advice, and he picks this particular moment to bark out a command within earshot of all the other players and coaches? Clearly, he wasn’t serious, but he wasn’t exactly smiling when he said it, either.
On the very first pitch, I swung at the ball as hard as I could. It made pretty good contact, so I started to run toward first. I remember being about halfway there when I looked up and suddenly realized that it had cleared the fence—a grand slam home run.
I wish I could say I pointed to the sky, or winked at my father as I ran around the bases, but truthfully I was so excited that I nearly passed the runners in front of me.
Returning to the dugout, I was mobbed by teammates and coaches. My father, however, stood there and said not a word. No need for words. I had just given him the best Father’s Day gift a boy could ever give his dad.
Shaw Kobre lives in Santa Rosa, California, with his wife Kim, and two teenage boys.