Believe it or not, Father's Day is here once again. The time of year where exotic ties, blinding argyle socks and sweater vests make their way into the hands of fathers as our way of saying thank you.
Though condensing the gratitude towards our mothers and fathers and those who have embraced those roles in our lives to merely two days out of the year may be a far cry from the credit that's due, a specific group of young men have quickly discovered that without the support of their fathers, they very well may not be where they are today.
From the Dominican Republic to Sydney, Australia, members of the Detroit Tigers minor league system are quick to voice their appreciation for not only the encouragement at a young age to pursue baseball, but also the continuing support system that each of them have to fall back on through the roller coaster of a minor league season. Several members of the affiliates took some time out to share a glimpse into what makes them so grateful for their fathers.
West Michigan Whitecaps infielder Francisco Contreras:
"I remember when I was 11 years old, I was playing in the finals of the capital in Dominican Republic. My dad was the manager and also the third base coach. We were 21-0 in that tournament, but we were losing by one in the last inning. I had men in second and third and my dad gave me green light to hit. I took one strike and he came to me and hit me softly in the helmet asking me if I was scared. I'm surprised I said, "Relax, this is my game" and next pitch, I hit a 2 RBI double and we won the tournament. My dad always pushed me to do good and always be competitive."
Lakeland Flying Tigers outfielder Ben Verlander:
"I can't say enough about my dad. A memory that really sticks out to me is all of the weekends that he would take my brother (Justin) and I up to the high school baseball field and work with us for hours. He would throw batting practice, hit ground balls, anything we wanted. Looking back, it's those times I remember. Being out there together as a family. He never pushed me to play baseball, but he is a major reason that I fell l in love with the game because of all of those fun weekends."
Whitecaps head coach Andrew Graham:
"My father played baseball in Sydney, Australia from 18 to around 52 years old. He was a pitcher and also he coached me from five years old till I was 15. He taught me about the history of the game and how to play the game the correct way. It was great having my father as my coach as he was always there to not only watch and support me but also help me develop as a player. I still enjoy calling him back in Australia and chatting about the Whitecaps games and how we are doing. He was a huge motivator for me and I would not be where I am today without his guidance and help."
Erie SeaWolves outfielder Connor Harrell:
"My dad has played a huge role. I remember celebrating Senior Day at Vanderbilt with him on the field, and having the opportunity to reflect on everything that had gotten us to that point. He's been there every step of the way, and I'm very thankful for the role he plays."
Whitecaps pitcher A.J. Ladwig:
"My father has been there for me through thick and thin. If I have a good outing on the mound then he is always more excited than I am. When I have a bad outing, it frustrates him more than it does me. He is always talking to me trying to tell me things to make me better, even though he thinks I don't listen to him, I actually do! He would do anything for me just like I would do the same for him."
Flying Tigers pitcher Paul Voelker:
"My father was a huge part for me and my success as a baseball player. He was always ready to play catch with me in my yard or drive me to a local field and throw me batting practice or hit balls. He was also a coach on all my teams till I was in High School. He taught me the game at a very young age and respect the game for what it is. Not only coaching and teaching me the game, but, he financial supported me and allowed me to play on any travel team I needed to improve my game since it was hard to play year round in Minnesota so I played on travel teams which I know was not cheap but he always let me play.
He calls me after every game. And is always checking in just giving me supportive words no matter the outcome. Overall, just my number fan and never put a lot of pressure on me which is where I think I became the player I am cause he always let me figure things out on my own. Wouldn't be where I am now without his support!"
Happy Father's Day, everyone.