My father is everything a father should be. Funny, kind, gentle, tough when he needs to be and trustworthy. He can goof around with you one minute and discipline you the next. You respect him as his child and the respect comes from a good place and not a place of fear. I will always be grateful that I was blessed with such an amazing example of what a Dad really is. Dads are supposed to be protectors. They make their children, especially their little girls, feel safe and loved. Beyond this a good dad challenges their children. My dad pushed me.
When my brother started playing little league my dad was his coach. He was a great coach and the boys in my brother's class were always excited to learn they would be playing for my father. At the time there was no girls softball league... so my dad invited me to practice with the boys. At first I was embarrassed, but my dad told me that it was all about how hard I tried and not how good I was. I will never forget stepping up to the plate, staring at the boy I had a crush on as he pitched me the ball. I missed pitch after pitch, strike after strike. I wanted to cry. My dad pulled me off to the side and told me to be tough. Missing a few pitches, striking out was no reason to cry. It was my first try at bat! Not everyone even has the courage to step up to the plate. He pointed out that most of the boys were striking out too. He ended the talk by saying that if at the end of the season I was not having fun then I didn't have to play baseball/softball, but I had made a commitment to practice with him and I have to honor that commitment.
I retired my bat for the day and took off into the feild. My dad had a lot of faith in me he let me rotate every position just like the rest of the boys. It was when I was at second base that something happened. A classmate of mine hit a hard, bouncing, ground ball to me. I went to field it and it popped up and hit me in the nose. I threw the ball to first base and ran off the diamond, I was hurt. As I sat crying on the bench with my mom and a bag of ice I thought about how enbarrassed I was. All the boys must think I am such a baby!
Practice ended and we loaded into the car. My dad was smiling and asked me how I felt. I told him my face hurt and I felt stupid. He laughed at me! When we got home he sat with me and told me that he was proud of me. He watched the play unfold from the sidelines and though he wanted to run out and comfort me as soon as he saw me get hit... he was glad he held back.
"Do you realize that you still got the out?" Dad said to me.
"What?" I responded
"You got hit in the face, hard, and still managed to make the throw to first before you broke down and cried! For a seven year old that shows a lot of guts and dedication. You are going to be an amazing athlete."
My dad still tells that story. To this day he references it to remind me how tough I am. It is partly because of him that I have the guts to push through the bad times. He helped shape me into a strong woman. Knowing he is behind me, watching the plays unfold, pushing me and ready to jump in and help only when necessary gives me the confidence I need to keep moving forward. Now Nugget has the honor of having my dad in her life. Pop Pop as she calls him, will always be there for her. He will show her what it is to be a good man... and he will also show her how to throw a baseball.