There's nothing like a baseball moment with your son.
The late 1980s movie "Field of Dreams" inspired those fathers to take their sons onto the ball diamonds to play catch, but my favorite place with my offspring is Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Last Saturday, we found ourselves in Section 111 watching the Rangers and the Tribe square off in the middle game of the three game weekend series. The teams traded zeros on the scoreboard for awhile after Texas jumped off to a 2-0 early lead. Prior to the Indians eighth inning game-tying rally, Brandon and I traded ideas about who would be on the different "Mount Rushmores" of major league teams.
This discussion first took off on sports talk radio after New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera blew out his knee shagging flies, and the talkers wondered if Rivera would go down as one of the top four Yankees ever.
My son and I came to the conclusion that Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Derek Jeter and Mickey Mantle - and no other - belong on Yankee mountain.
Sorry Joe DiMaggio fans in Niles, but your Yankee Clipper got eclipsed because of something called World War II plus the Red Sox domination in 1946 and the Tribe title takers of 1948. Also remember that early in his career Joe D. played second fiddle to the illustrious Iron Horse (Gehrig) and late in his career, the Clipper had to bow out in favor of youthful streaking Mick.
Now let's go to the Tribe.
The four players who would get their faces on "Indians Mountain" would be Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Tris Speaker and maybe oh ... Nap Lajoie ... yes, the guy whose name was on the team before they were known as the Indians. If you want a modern version, try Thome, Manny, Lofton and maybe Sandy Alomar, but remember those guys couldn't win the big one.
The Pirates? Well, you have to start off with Roberto Clemente and then ... maybe, Barry Bonds and then an old, old timer named Honus Wagner and then how about Willie Stargell? Sorry, but defense and one good day at the plate in a World Series Game 7 does not put Bill Mazeroski into my stratosphere of baseball royalty.
The Big Red Machine had to dominate the Cincinnati Reds royal court, with Bench, Rose and Morgan, but then you have to think about double no-hit Johnny VanderMeer and maybe Barry Larkin and perhaps Eric Davis.
Our toughest National League decision had to be the New York / San Francisco Giants. Again, the Bonds name cropped up, but any discussion of Giant greatness would have to start and end with Say Hey Willie Mays. And then there are the old timers Christy Mathewson and the great manager John McGraw.
Yes fathers and sons and baseball - things that this 21st century culture is having trouble putting together.
With the families becoming endangered species, baseball is going the way of the dinosaur. Just look at how the NFL Draft dominated the sports sections during the month of April, which used to be the dominion of the Boys of Summer.
But now dads have other things to worry about rather than getting their sons to a baseball diamond.
In fact, my sources tell me that Southington's local baseball team did not field a age 11-12 team this spring. One 12-year-old was refused entry in adjacent community leagues because of residency requirements. What is going on here? Why is this boy who is willing to play baseball not allowed to play?
It reminds me of the days of my youth in Youngstown when the competitive Upton Kiwanis Leagues held tryouts and I was cut after the first practice as an 11-year-old. How humiliating.
But that experience stuck with me as I became a father and then six years later as a Pee Wee baseball coach in the Lakeview community. My decade-long experience as a youth baseball coach was indeed one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And it gives me a thrill today when I see some of my "boys" now all grown up still showing their appreciation for some of the wonderful baseball experiences I was able to give them.
My appeal to those now coaching young baseball players is to give a break to at least one 12-year-old in Southington. Maybe you can then climb the mountain of baseball greatness in the eyes of one youngster.
For those wanting to publish some of their favorite Little League baseball memories, email firstname.lastname@example.org