A MOMENT LIKE THIS

“For a moment like this, some people wait a lifetime….”  - – -Kelly Clarkson

Midway through a pre-Masters interview of The Golden Bear I sat wistfully wishing Linick was watching. David, like me, looked to Nicklaus with reverence; David (like me), would have called this the finest single sports interview ever televised. David, like me, would have had a lump in his throat and been lost in thought when the golfer was ultimately asked “What single moment are you most grateful your father saw?

I’ve done a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong in my life. My father saw much and, until I was 35, lived through it all. What instance am I most glad he shared? What Kodak moment? What video runs viral through my montage of “stuff”?

Wasn’t my schooling, good grades and all. Wasn’t the military, (his politics and all). Wasn’t even when I hit 1,000 career sales and they planted a rose in my honor at the Highlights For Children garden in Columbus.

No, it was a lot earlier… on a sunshiny day…when the world—when all of us—- were young.

Opening Day, 1962. Memorial Field, South Euclid, Ohio.

This would be it for me: my last year of Little League. To my father, ‘twas the season the stars had aligned for—and the big guy was ready.

Coming off my brother’s epic season with Hollywood, (Ed. Note: twin southpaws Ross and Bogart pitched them to the 9-10 trophy), my father eagerly awaited my final stanza. He’d watched in ’60 when as a ten-year old I got my two innings per game and, surrounded by the league’s icons, won a world championship. He’d suffered a year later, when the White Sox, devastated by the loss of eight 12 year-olds, began rebuilding. And he’d jumped, just months before, at the opportunity to manage me in what would be my final stanza.

He knew the players, both old and new. Racila, Vince, Fenton, Fischer, Karabinus, Myslenski: they were twelve now and ready for prime time. Hand-picking other draftees (Ross, Bogart, Mandels, Ricky Fenton), he filled out his squad.

And there was me. Always me. ‘Though he never said it, I knew he felt it: This would be my year. This would be my time. I’d paid my dues; I’d honed my skills. I was ready. This annum, all Rowland games and backyard catch, all the “Watch John Romano—-just take a level swing like he does” would pay off!  Yes, 1962, for my teammates he’d watch mature, for the man himself (in his gut perhaps knowing this would be his final married season), but most of all, for ME..… this would be that one shining moment!

It was a beautiful May night, it was, and a Monday or a Tuesday…and we sat on the third base side. (My Dad loved the third base side on that field. “Less sun,” he’d point out, for whatever it mattered). And I was batting fifth, and the pitcher had red hair, and there were two men on and two men out.

I hit the ball high and hard. To left. There was no fence and I ran. And I ran.

‘Have no idea if the guy played shallow or if I hit a gap or if anything. What I do know is with the bases circled, as I crossed home plate (No slide necessary, Thank you), I saw him. First. Clipboard in hand, eyes shining bright, his smile spoke: Fenced in or not, his boy’d knocked it out of the park!

It was one of only three homers I hit that year. One of only six games we won. Yet it mattered not.

I remember that hit, the shot heard ‘round my father’s world, like it was yesterday. And I remember his smile too, because frankly, it never left him.

I walked every step of my life in the light of my father’s love. Every misstep too. He was always proud, ever accepting, pristine. His greatest beauty, though— especially in later life— was to see every day as opening day, and every pitch as one his loved ones would hit.

And teaching me that if I took a level swing, every moment would shine.

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