Designated HitterAugust 24, 2006
Game Ball
By Jacob Luft

You hear it all the time: Baseball is about fathers and sons. No Game of the Week broadcast is complete without a couple of little boys eating ice cream in the stands, a doting father no doubt nearby. Rarely does a Hall of Fame induction speech end without thanking dad for throwing all that BP and coaching all those Little League teams.

Hollywood buys into this line of thinking, too. Field of Dreams wasn't so much a baseball movie as it was about repairing a relationship between a father and son. (The filmmakers didn't even bother to make Shoeless Joe a left-handed hitter, so unconcerned they were about the facts.) Remember the closing scene of The Natural? It was Roy Hobbs playing catch with his son. Hobbs' career, dilatory as it was in any case, was ruined by that old bullet wound and he didn't even get to play in the Series, but everything is OK because now he's playing catch with his kid, a strapping young man who doesn't mind the fact that he had a deadbeat dad all these years.

Meanwhile, as a father of one little girl and with another bambina on the way, I'm left to wonder: What about fathers and daughters? Has fate conspired to keep me from forging the same bond with my daughters that dads everywhere enjoy when they play catch with their sons, picturing the day he will be suiting up in Yankee pinstripes or Red Sox stirrups? Are we not entitled to our own little slice of baseball Americana?

For myself and fathers like me, "Double-X" isn't just a nickname for Jimmie Foxx. It's a chromosomal pairing that means we won't be tying our offsprings' right hands behind their backs to force them to throw lefty, which for boys would ensure them of unending riches as they follow the path laid down by Jesse Orosco, the patron saint of LOOGYs. Diamonds of the lustrous variety are a girl's best friend, but baseball diamonds are for men only, even though only a precious few will ever don a major league uniform.

So does this mean I should give up on transferring my baseball passion to my children? Should I stand idly by as their bedrooms fill up with Barbies and other such dress-up dolls?

To Hell with that.

I'm raising my girls as what they are -- the sons I never had. Some kids watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. Hannah, my 3-year-old, settles for Baseball Tonight reruns. She knows how to spot a home run, though I'm guessing it will take some time for her to appreciate the beauty of the RBI groundout -- let's hear it for the National League, baby! If she learns how to read before her classmates, it may have a lot to do with her endless hours of exposure to the ESPNews ticker. Her bedtime is 9 p.m., but there is a standing rule that she can stay up late as long as the time is spent watching baseball, or "game ball," as she calls it, with her daddy. When I come back from the road, I bring back a plush mascot of the home team of whatever stadium I was just visiting, and I never leave Cooperstown without finding a suitable piece of Rockford Peaches paraphernalia.

Ballet classes are in order, yes, but so is T-ball and Little League. With any luck, she'll be the biggest tomboy this side of Tatum O'Neal (aka Amanda Whurlizer from Bad News Bears). She'll take the mound with her hair pulled up in a hat, hiding behind youthful androgyny to save the boys from the embarrassment of getting struck out by a girl.

So far I think my strategy is working. Invariably I come home late from a ballgame and miss her bedtime, and when I do she grills me the next day about going to the game ball without her. (On a related note, she also got upset with her parents when, upon seeing our wedding album for the first time, she realized that she had not been invited to the ceremony, which took place four years before she was born.)

Earlier this summer I decided it was time to take her to her first big league game, and we booked a weekend trip to Philly for the occasion. But as soon as we got to Citizens Bank Park for a Braves-Phillies tilt, a wicked thunderstorm pounded us for the better part of three hours. The rain dampened her clothes but not her enthusiasm for her first ballgame. She had the same wondrous stare that we all did upon first setting eyes on a big league field. Though the players were all safely ensconced in the clubhouse doubtlessly playing cards or dominoes, Hannah wouldn't take her eyes off what must have seemed to her as unending acres of perfectly green -- albeit soaked and partially tarped -- grass. (We don't get much of the green stuff living in Hoboken, N.J., across the river from New York City, after all.)

We waited out the delay until the game was called. As we filed out of the stadium along with the remaining crowd, Hannah's disappointment was palpable. Among the three of us, she took the rainout the hardest. I wouldn't be surprised if she took it harder than most anybody in the stadium that day. For the first time I harbored hope that she really is interested in game ball beyond an excuse to stay up late or veg out on the couch with me. Maybe she sees it as an easy way to connect with her seamhead of a father, who would love nothing more than to make baseball a lifetime connection with the first of his beloved daughters.

Jacob Luft is a baseball editor/writer for


That was a really nice piece, Jake. I for one, think you can absolutely share baseball with your daughter (s). It may have some slightly different wrinkles than if you had a son, but the closeness will still be there. I remember talking to a woman I used to know who'd dutifully go to Eagles games every Sunday with her old man when she was a kid. It became a vital part of their relationship.

And while I recognize the desire on your part for your daughter to adopt the game on her own, out of her own interest and desire to learn more about it, the fact of the matter is, even if it is her excuse to cuddle-up to her old man on the couch, that is enough. That's the whole point, right. The connection, the shared experience. You teaching her, sharing your history and yourself with her, and her absorbing it, and steadily surprising you with her own fresh observations and insights.

The other really cool thing about girls and sports these days is that playing sports is so much more encouraged. Who knows? Maybe she'll be a stud softball player one day. Or maybe she'll just become a seamhead like her old man.

Regardless, you are in a great position. Not everyone is so lucky. Judging from your article, you already appreciate what you've got going. I hope you don't lose sight of that.

Thanks for the article.

This is one of the finest things I have read in a long time.

My three-year old is really into logos... and it's awesome to watch her learn the symbols for each team. Every time a game is on... she wants me to tell her which team is wearing which color.

It has been very frustrating for her that the White Sox don't actually wear white socks... and the Red Sox don't actually let their red socks show.

This summer, she was invited by some of my wife's friends to play on a 4-5 year old tee ball team. At the beginning of the season... we took her to shop for cleats. She bought a great black pair. We then went to the glove section where she picked out the only pink glove on the rack... but hey, you pick your battles.

Thanks for writing this.

Enjoyed reading that, and felt sorry for the little girl missing her first big-league game. Hope you can again take her to Citizens Bank Park, as it's a very fan-friendly facility. (Also, it would probably be better for her emotional status to grow up as a fan of a team outside New York or Boston -- she'll be less spoiled, more appreciative.)

The two women in my immediate family are both avid baseball fans; my mother is 85 and faithfully watches the Nationals whenever they're on TV. (In the early fifties, when my parents were living in Brooklyn and dad was going to law school at NYU and thus couldn't follow the Dodgers, he had mom watch the games on TV and instructed her what to look for. She was hooked.) My older sister regularly went to Ebbets Field with dad, and now roots for the Cubs (no accounting for taste).

Great piece, Jacob. My two-year-old daughter recognizes and asks to watch baseball, when she's not asking to watch Blue's Clues. She has a Batgirl t-shirt ("chicks dig small ball") and I can't wait to take her to her first game next summer.

That was beautiful. I live 8 hours from the nearest MLB park, but I'm going right now to see when the local A-ball club has thier next home stand so I can take my 3-year-old daughter before the end of the season. Without ESPN at home, the only exposure she gets is watching me play baseball video games. Time to change that.

That story was wonderful and brought back many memories. My daughter (now 6) was 2 years old while my ex and I were going through a very messy custody battle. I only got her every other weekend during the seperation. But, as luck would have it, San Diego was playing interleague during the AL central that year (being a Padres fan in K.C. wasn't exactly easy), and so I was able to take her to one of the games. And as luck would have it, it was the only game that the Pads won during the series, as Ron Gant robbed a homer in the bottom of the 9th, hit a grand slam in the 10th, and Hoffman closed it out. I vividly remember standing in the LF GA, holding my little girl, both of us dressed in Pares gear among the Royals fans, with both of us cheering like crazy (granted, I think she was more so just because Daddy was). It's my greatest sports memory ever.

Next summer, during summer visitation, I'm planning a week long trip for the 14 hour drive to San Diego to go to Seaworld, the Zoo, the beach, and, yes...a Pares game. It will be her first since that one in KC, and the first ever for my 4 year old son.

And yes, she still remembers that game and her Padres logo baseball that she got signed by the bullpen catcher. I couldn't ask for anything more.

So Jacob, there is your proof that you need not worry at all. And thank you for bring back a great time.