Fathers are about as synonymous with baseball as chewing gum or hot dogs. They play catch in the backyard with children trying to learn the game and hold down the bleachers and benches at little-league parks as fans or coaches. They protest calls — “Come on, Blue!” — offer encouragement — “Good eye!” — and advice — “Keep that elbow up!”
So for Father’s Day, we asked three different Colorado Rockies how their dads helped them learn to love the game. Here are their stories.
Jon Gray heard the anecdote over and over again growing up in the small town of Chandler, Oklahoma.
Only three players had ever hit home runs in Chandler High School’s cavernous old ballpark.
Joe Carter, the hero of the 1993 World Series was one. Kenneth Crawford, from the nearby town of Prague, was the second. And the third? Jon’s father, Jack.
“My dad hit one out,” said Jon, the Rockies’ rookie starting pitcher. “And it was like one the things I always heard about growing up.”
Jack, a supervisor for different construction companies, played ball through high school. He was a hard-throwing lefty. After college, he entered the military.
Jack took a hands-off approach when his son started to play the game. He never coached Jon’s little-league teams. But whenever Jon needed guidance, Jack was there to offer it.
“He’s a little like me,” Jon said. “He kind of keeps to himself a little bit. But he’s always been a big supporter.”
Mark Reynolds doesn’t remember the exact name of it.
It was a long rod with a fake baseball attached to the end of it. His father, Greg, used to wield it in their backyard that helped the Rockies’ first baseman learn to make contact with a baseball.
“Like a hit stick or something,” Mark said. “We would always go and mess around with that in the yard.”
Mark grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Greg, a car dealer, coached his tee-ball team and a couple of his other youth teams. When Mark became a teenager, he latched on with an AAU squad that included future MLB players B.J. Upton, David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman.
As Mark climbed the rungs of baseball — from college, to the minors, to finally, the big leagues — Greg encouraged him to pursue his passion.
“He told me to do whatever I want,” Mark said. “Chase your dreams. You have the rest of the life to work. Go and do whatever you want while you’re young.”
Trevor Story caught the bug by watching his father, Ken, playing baseball with his older brother, Tyler.
Ken and Tyler seemed like they were always playing catch or hitting balls.
“Them two together,” the Colorado Rockies rookie shortstop said. “… That’s where I fell in love with the game. I pretty much learned everything from my dad on how to play.”
Ken, a firefighter and paramedic from Irving, Texas, played baseball through high school. He almost always served in some coaching role on Trevor’s little-league teams. When Trevor wanted to hit, Ken flipped him balls. And when Trevor wanted to pitch, Ken strapped on shin guards and caught for him.
“He made a lot of sacrifices,” said Trevor, chuckling at the memory of his father squatting in those shin guards.