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A Son Celebrates His Dad and the Game That Forged Their Special Bond

on June 19, 2011 6:40 AM

Editor's note: Loren Crispell, marketing manager for Penn State basketball and manager of the Lemont Ducks in the Centre County Baseball League, wrote this Father's Day tribute about his dad, baseball and the bond they formed.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about or reflect upon, even if for just a moment, how fortunate and blessed I am to have grown up in a home full of health and love throughout my childhood. Both have continued to this day, although along with more years under the belt have come stark snapshots from life that show the combination to be slightly less common than perhaps all of us would like. Over my nearly 33 years, my father has served many roles: teacher, disciplinarian, sympathizer and, most importantly, friend.

Ours is a friendship rich with laughter, hugs, shared joys and successes, and one common thread that has stood the test of time: baseball. He has been the consummate father figure in so many ways, but no stage has served as a better home for the story of our friendship than that of the baseball diamond.

It started in 1986, when our family made the first of many voyages to what became the Camelot of my baseball kingdom, Three Rivers Stadium. Those reading this will likely enjoy a laugh at the thought of Three Rivers being held in such high esteem, but it was exactly that because he made it so for me. It was in the multi-colored steel seats of Three Rivers that he tried in vain for years to explain to a youngster how to understand the difference between earned and unearned runs, along with the infield fly rule. It was there that he gently put a wool, fitted cap on my head for the first time and explained that it was necessary because "it's what they wear."

Following the games, I would sit by the window of our hotel room and stare in wonder at the magically lit stadium a half-mile away. Sensing the burgeoning love for the game in my heart as only a father could, he would sit with me and simply talk about all that I saw and loved at the ballpark until the lights at the stadium would, with barely a whisper, go dark.

Our friendship was forged in the backyard of our Doris Avenue home as well, spending thousands of hours working on delivering a throw right to your partners' chest, and then doing it again and again. As a Little Leaguer, I can still breathe life into the memories of our batting practices inside the fenced-in tennis court behind our house. The reward for launching one out of the court? A new pack of 1988 Donruss baseball cards that he had stashed away in the glove compartment of his car; one pack for each home run.

In high school, which is the furthest either of our careers went, he was a constant source of support. For a young man trying to find his way in so many areas of life at that time, Dad's relentless belief and emotional interest in me were more meaningful and lasting than any 3-for-4 day at the plate. He wore his maroon "SC" hat with pride, and as a symbol of passion. Initially, baseball was not his first passion, but it was mine, and that mattered most to him. Because it was mine, it became his.

My fondest memory of the intersection between my Dad and my baseball career came on the final day I wore a high school uniform. It was the second round of the district playoffs and we were facing Bald Eagle Area, a game we went on to lose. The memory is not that of a pitch, or a play, or of the outcome. It is of the first thing I saw upon arriving at the field. Batting practice was scheduled for 3 p.m., and as I got settled at Community Field, I glanced up to the top of the hill that looms behind the first base dugout. There, perched at the top, and proudly wearing his team hat, was my Father – a full 90 minutes before first pitch. It was equal parts calming, emboldening and reassuring to see him at the field before anyone else. More than anything, it was the perfect example of the shared excitement we felt. I was excited for the game. He was excited for me.

With my playing days long over, baseball remains a unifier for us that transcends the day-to-day maladies or frustrations of life. Our trips to Pittsburgh these days qualify more as quick-fix rehab for the soul and the heart, and less as baseball shop talk. Don't get me wrong; every trip features a requisite retelling of the fondest memories, all triggered by relics, symbols, smells and sounds that all serve as old friends to both of us. There is plenty of baseball talk, but perhaps a little less than before.

There is rarely a day that goes by that he and I don't share something baseball related. Maybe it's a simple chat about a play from the night before, or about matchups he should keep an eye on in the coming weekend. I don't exactly know why, but it has been what has united us and has brought out the best in each other.

On this Father's Day, I am reminded that I could have chosen anything as my passion – anything at all – and it would have become his, unconditionally. That is the kind of father he is, and the kind of father I hope to be someday. I have years left to repay and thank him, although even that seems like a short amount of time to accomplish such a tall task.

For now, we'll celebrate the beautiful game that has served to forge a beautiful relationship.

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