[This is my column in today’s issue of The Commercial Review.]
Coach, supporter and teacher.
Those are just a few adjectives that can be used to describe my father.
While he may not have been my direct coach growing up, he definitely played his part at home.
As a relatively small child, hitting for power was an afterthought. Hitting for average, however, was very achievable.
That’s why he gave me contact drills to work on during the long, school-less summer months: hitting plastic practice golf balls, using the abundance of rocks found near the power station behind our house, hanging a tennis ball from a tree and taking hacks while working on my form — all while swinging a three-quarter inch dowel.
Those drills, among others, were the reason why I rarely swung and missed and consistently had a high batting average.
My two brothers and I were active in sports, and my parents were the biggest supporters of our athletic endeavors. One summer, they went to more than 100 baseball games between high school, summer league, Little League and T-ball.
Rain or shine, they were there, and my dad was always equipped with his video camera, meticulously following us as to not miss a play, a pitch or an at bat.
Even in my adult softball playing days, Dad always asked if I won and how I performed. So, naturally, when I hit the first two home runs of my life — both in the same game — he was the first person I told.
But outside of sports, he is my teacher. He taught me the dos and don’ts about life; what it meant to go to college and become a first generation college graduate; and the tough times I would face in my life and supporting me through them, like my first real breakup.
And he even talked me through my first big move when I mulled the decision to come to Indiana to start a new life and my career. He knew what it was like to move away from his parents. He left his in New Jersey when he moved to Michigan and started a family of his own. He also knew what it was like to coach a son through a big move when my oldest brother packed his bags and headed for Florida.
Now that my professional career is unfolding and I am doing what I truly love, my dad is still one of my biggest supporters.
In the realm of professional sports, coaches wear out their welcome or teams find a reason to go in a different direction. They’re fired or let go at the end of their contract.
But my dad — my coach — is the type of person I don’t want to leave my team for another organization.
He’s a coach I want to have around for a while.
Which is why when I found out near the end of January he had cancer, I wondered how much longer my coach would be around.
Did God put his job on the hot seat? Was he not performing well so someone upstairs wanted to go in a different direction and get a new coach?
Those and many other questions rattled around in my head for the better part of six weeks as my family played the waiting game to hear the severity of his affliction.
During that span, I did as much as I could to try to stay busy. Clean my apartment, go grocery shopping, play basketball, work; I would do anything I could do to make sure my mind was anywhere other than the reality of what was to come.
If anything, I was just hoping Dad, my coach, would be put on the Disabled List for a few months and then return to normal. In no time he’d be back to being my coach, my supporter, my teacher — and most importantly, my dad.
Friday, as I made the drive to Michigan for a baby shower and to visit my family — I hadn’t seen them since Christmas — I got a text from Dad.
“Call home when you can,” it said. “Good news from the doctor visit today. No, great news from the doctor visit today.”
After a short phone call, he told me what the rest of my family had been hoping to hear. His stage 4 cancer is behaving like it is stage 1 because the lymph nodes are not involved. It is an atypical situation, but it is the best news we could have wanted.
My coach will be around for a while.
God gave my dad a contract extension.