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Fathers use sports to help bond with children

There’s an obvious difference between Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, but it was never so apparent than from a scene near the end of the great baseball movie “The Natural.”

Just before the playoff game for the pennant, Knights’ manager Pop Fisher is shaving and talking to his assistant coach Red Blow about what he should have done with his life. In steps Hobbs, ready to play despite a sudden illness that had hospitalized him and made him doubtful for the game.

Fisher talked about being a farmer. Hobbs grew up on a farm and told Fisher that there’s nothing like it.

“You know, my mother told me I ought to be a farmer,” said Fisher.

“My dad wanted me to be a baseball player,” said Hobbs.

Sports seem to be that common bond between a father and son. With the onset of women’s athletics in the past 35 to 40 years, sports have made it easier for dad to connect with his daughter. Shooting basketball or playing pitch and catch is more appealing to dad than watching his daughter try on 25 different outfits and then declaring none of them look or fit right.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent some time waiting for my daughters to try on different clothing, not only at the store but getting ready for church, school or whatever. I can handle it.

But it was a lot more comfortable for me to teach the girls how to square up, set their feet and release a basketball.

Obviously, children need a father and a mother to help balance their needs. And parents need each other to balance their sanity. As the old saying goes, insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

As a father, the best thing is to be there for your children when they need you and to listen. It didn’t hurt my feelings when they needed a ride to the school dance but wanted me to drop them off half a block away so no one would see me. I knew they loved me, but I also knew they were just kids.

Being a father can come in different ways. Sometimes — for whatever reason — dad is not in the picture. Maybe he was killed in a war. Maybe he lives away. Maybe he just didn’t want to be a dad.

That’s when a grandfather, an uncle, or just a good friend might step in and fill that father role. It’s not hard to an uncle to just take his nephew to a ballgame and the nephew will enjoy it just the same.

A father figure can make a difference. A recent study showed that 85 percent of all prisoners are from a single-parent family, usually just a mother.

There are different kinds of fathers. It can be anyone in you life you respect who might offer some words of wisdom or encouragement.

I’ve never forgotten the great number of times I had advice given to me from Bob Lutz and Mike Burcham, both about sports and just other things in life.

They were someone else’s fathers and coaches to me, but it all works the same as the guidance I got from my own father who died about a year and a half ago and is greatly missed.

And speaking of fathers with words of wisdom, there’s always a priest or minister who speaks on important matters.

At St. Lawrence and St. Joseph churches, Father David Huffman is not only a father in title, but he is a father for his flock.

And like other “fathers,” he likes sports. He’s a fan of the Browns, the Cavaliers and, especially, the Indians — he’s a huge baseball fan — so he can relate beyond his sermons.

Of course, the Indians did sweep the Reds earlier this year and I’m waiting on the rematch to see if he gets a Fathers’ Day card next year. I’m guessing this year’s card will still be usable.

Happy Fathers’ Day to all fathers.

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Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.