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On having a catch

Time and timelessness.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm the guy that tears up watching Field of Dreams.

Not when James Earl Jones gives his "because baseball" speech. Not in any impassioned Amy Madigan diatribe. Certainly not in any scene with Ray Liotta. But you know the one -- when Ray Kinsella asks his Dad if he wants to have a catch.

I'm embarrassed by that fact. Because that's what the scene was written for, almost pandering to that father-son bond. But it resonates nonetheless.

My Dad was born and raised in Roslyn, Washington. You might have seen it in a re-run of Northern Exposure.

A practical man, he was an accountant his entire career. Everything had its place. He left early for work and came home late every day. He took fewer than three sick days in a 40 year career. No joke.

He had snaps on his socks so they wouldn't get lost in the laundry.

He did push-ups and sit-ups before bed every day.

Never an emotional man, he raised his voice at me not once as a father. I've raised my voice to my kids five times already today.

Always pragmatic, he owned cars like a Chevrolet Chevette. A Vega. A Plymouth "K" car. A Dodge Stratus. A Hyundai Tuscon.

The most dangerous thing he might ever admit to is eating Gazpacho.

But he never turned down an opportunity to play catch with me.

We'd play catch so late, that dad installed a row of flood lights on the back of the house just so the setting sun wouldn't matter. After an errant curveball threatened his baritone, he possessed major-league quality catching gear. When it rained, we would play in the garage -- the hollow core back door peppered with baseball sized impressions which he used to smile at with an odd sense of satisfaction.

We played catch from the moment I could throw a baseball until I was 25, interrupted by a trip to college. Even as we sat in the living room watching Greatest American Hero and the A-Team and The Incredible Hulk, we'd flip a tennis ball back and forth until he succumbed to his recliner due to two-fingers of scotch.

The last time we played catch, it was actually because he needed the practice for a big day.

He was part of a Kiwanis club which was involved in a statewide auction for charity, the prize being the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Mariners game. It was the only thing I've ever seen him want to do for himself. So he bid strategically. He decided he would bid $250. He thought that was a lot of cash, but being the accountant, he figured he could write it off. Then he decided he'd go $251 just in case someone else bid $250. But then he bid $252 in case someone had the same idea. In the end, he bid $255 for reasons unknown. But he won by $4 dollars.

We played catch every chance we got. This time the roles reversed, with me acting as catcher. He was obsessed with throwing a strike.

On August 6th, 1997, Chuck Barr threw out the first pitch in that cement cave monstrosity called the Kingdome. I sat on the first base line, more nervous than he was. He marched to the front of the mound dirt and as he wound up, there he was on the DiamondVision, larger than life. He delivered a strike to Rich Amaral. Ever prepared and ever the accountant, he pulled a pen out of his pocket and had Richie sign the ball for him.

I still have that ball.

Mike Timlin blew the save for Jaime Moyer that day, and Heathcliff Slocumb took the loss courtesy of a moon shot to right field by Brady Anderson in the 11th inning. So it goes. But the game outcome was a bit of an afterthought to the experience.

Today I'm delivering the eulogy for Charles Barr.

I'm not going to talk about playing catch though, because I'm not sure my audience would appreciate it as much as this audience. And I'm not presenting this to you here today for any kind of sympathy, but I do appreciate the sort of kinship we share virtually through baseball. Mostly suffering together through baseball but hey, there's always next Spring.

As a parent, they warn us to always live in the proverbial moment -- you never know the last time your kid will want to cuddle in bed with you, or go to ice cream, or ride bikes. Amidst the chaos, I try. The days are long and the years are short, so they say.

But growing up, nobody really tells you to cherish those "last" moments with your folks. And if it weren't for dad winning that charity auction, I'd have been hard pressed to tell you the last time we played catch. And maybe that's the point of all of this, if there is one. If you can't remember either, maybe pick up the phone.

And grab your glove.