Baseball and Father's Day memories are linked at the Sandcastle
THEY CAME. They hit. And they pitched. Whether or not they conquered was pure speculation. But 25 fathers from southern New Jersey, and from as far away as Pennsylvania and Maryland, descended upon the Sandcastle last Sunday for a different kind of Father's Day gift.
It was called baseball.
Sometimes you try promotions and they get dusted off by a high fastball. But not this one. The gift these fathers received was a chance to play baseball on the Sandcastle diamond, which was looking perfect thanks to Surf groundskeeper Keith Fisher. For $75 they got a Surf jersey, tickets to the game that afternoon, a breakfast and a chance to run down a dream.
They dusted off their gloves and stretched their muscles enough to spend Father's Day morning basking in the glow of a perfect day.
That's perfect day as in perfect game.
It was 40 years ago last Sunday that Jim Bunning pitched his perfect game for the Philadelphia Phillies against the New York Mets. As I watched the Sandcastle fathers live their dream, I couldn't help but reflect on that Father's Day 40 years ago when my father and I were huddled around our transistor radio on the Ocean City beach listening to history unfolding. As the game went on we were living and dying with every word uttered by Byrum Saam, the Phillies radio announcer then.
By the time the game reached the eighth inning, we had to retreat to the house to watch the finale.
Phillies second baseman Tony Taylor made a great play to save the perfect game for Bunning.
From that moment on, baseball and Father's Day were inevitably linked in my psyche.
And watching the Atlantic City Surf's Father Day camp reawakened the echoes of the true meaning of the day.
My father's gone now; he passed away 18 months ago and there are times I miss him terribly.
But then there are the memories of Father's Day and baseball and a perfect game on a perfect day.
"Now batting ... an old geezer," one of the children in the stands yelled as his father took the plate. Then he proceeded to slap a solid single to left, and the good-natured jeer turned into a cheer.
For that father, there couldn't have been a better gift.
And that was easy to tell as he rounded first base with the kind of look in his eye only a perfect Father's Day and baseball could produce.
Chuck Betson can be heard every Friday at 8:30am on ESPN 1450AM radio with a sports segment on the Hurley in the Morning Show.
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