Happy Father’s Day: Open letter to all Dads of baseball players

Dear Dad of a baseball player,

This letter is for you. It’s to honor you, encourage you, congratulate you and remind you.

As the Director of US Elite Baseball I have the honor and privilege of being very involved in the lives of young baseball players, and their dads. Over the last 12 years literally hundreds of dad/son combinations have come through our program. Additionally, both of my sons came through our program. That gives me a very unique perspective on this journey that you are on. As you might imagine, I have seen alot. I could call it the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly. On this Father’s day I woke inspired to share some thoughts with you.

The first word that came to me was “journey”. The official definition is “an act of traveling from one place to another”. In your case, the journey is most likely traveling with your son from 8U tee ball to 17U. That’s a nine year journey. So, I want to remind you that this is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the commitments I made very early in my journey with my sons was to make sure I enjoyed the journey, and more importantly, my sons enjoyed the journey. I knew there would be highs and lows, but I reminded myself that no one day, one game, one ab or one error meant very much, unless I allowed it to. It was just all part of the journey. I understood there would be adversity (albeit, I grossly underestimated how much adversity). See Related Story on adversity here.

One of the most impactful things I learned early was that my sons did not like talking about the game in the car after the game. Of course, I wanted to talk, and in the beginning I forced the conversations. That didn’t work out so well. I made a commitment to only talk when they wanted to talk, and not before. That really helped. Sometimes and hour, or more, would go by before they would say anything about the game, but they eventually did. They would open up about the game, but it was on their time, not mine. That technique worked like a charm. Try it.

I also made a commitment to make sure our journey was not just about baseball. My sons and I love to fish, so along with baseball gear, we had fishing gear with us at all times. It was a great outlet and gave us both time away baseball. It doesn’t matter what it is, but I believe you need something besides baseball to connect you with your son. My son, Christian, is playing pro ball right now. When he calls me after each game, we talk about his game. He likes to break down each at bat, literally pitch by pitch, which I love to hear. He has the confidence to share information with me, regardless of whether it was a good game, or a bad game. He knows I know it’s just “another game”. But rarely does our conversation end without him sharing his latest fishing report. It’s a really nice balance that started when he was 8 years old.

One of the most disturbing things I’ve seen along this journey is dads who tie the results on the baseball field to their relationship with their son. One of the worst examples I ever saw of this was when we were playing a DH on a 95 degree day. In between games a player asked his dad for a water. His dad’s comment was, “after that pathetic performance you don’t deserve a water”. Granted, this is extreme, but its an example of how some dads allow results on the field to affect the relationship. It’s just a game. Don’t allow it to become more and negatively affect your relationship. It’s just not worth it.

As a dad of a baseball player, you have it tough. You want the best for your son, and you may feel you have alot of useful information to share. But, you can only share it when your son is open to it. Giving advice, tips and suggestions when your son doesn’t want to hear it will only strain the relationship more. I know it’s hard for many dads to accept, but many sons do not see their dad as their “coach”. So, let go in that area if it is causing strain. Hopefully you are playing in an organization that you trust with your son. I tell all of our dads at US Elite, we will treat your son like our sons, and we will give them the same advice as we would give our own sons. They either trust that, or not.

I don’t remember who first said it, but one of the most powerful things your son wants to hear from you is simply, “I love watching you play”. Of course, to be able to authentically say that you have to truly be enjoying the experience, regardless of the results. I have seen both of my sons have amazing games, and I have seen them have games that were pretty bad. In either case, I reminded myself every time of how blessed I was to be involved in baseball, and how thankful I was just to be able to watch them play. Every day is a blessing.

Finally, the biggest reminder of all. Baseball will end, sooner for most than they want. Steven Covey says, “begin with the end in mind”. So, the end is when baseball is over, and all you have are the memories. My challenge to you as a dad is have a goal that when that day comes, and after you shed a tear, or two, and a big hug, you and your son will look back on that journey with fond and happy memories.

Happy Fathers Day!

About the author
Mark Helsel is the Founder and Director of US Elite Baseball. Since 2006 US Elite Baseball has helped over 400 players move on to college and professional baseball. Mark’s son’s, Christian and Zack, both came through the US Elite program. Christian is playing professionally for the Birmingham-Bloomfield Beavers in the United Shores Professional Baseball League in Utica, MI. Zack will be attending the University of Central Florida this fall as a redshirt junior RHP.