“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” – Sandlot.
Every baseball career is, at some point, supposed to come to an end. For my dad, that year was 1978. After his senior year on the JFK High School varsity baseball team, he knew that he would probably never step back onto the diamond for a competitive game of ball. He knew it was time to hang em up and focus on things he was way better at. It turns out that Richard Mintz’s career wasn’t over that fateful day in 1978. He would have one last moment in the sun.
I play for a baseball team called the Tenleytown Brewers. We play in an adult wood bat baseball league in the Washington DC Area. We have a roster of about 15 guys, but most nights we usually scrape by with nine dudes. The teams we play consist of guys trying to hold on to their dreams, which is equally depressing as it is entertaining. Last night was Saturday night, and considering that the majority of our roster is made up of guys in their early to mid 20’s who had better things to be doing on a Saturday night, we were short a player.
I called our coach, RJ, who also happens to be our third baseman and relief pitcher, to see if my dad would be needed to fill in as our ninth guy. He texted back: “We. Need. Richard.” So I gave dad the biggest pair of baseball pants I could find and we hopped in the car and drove out to McLean, VA.
We got to the field and dad took some practice swings in the batting cage. Dad looked… sufficient. RJ let him know that he would be playing left field and batting ninth. My dad let him know that he was batting third and playing shortstop or else he was going home.
The game began and after a couple uneventful innings for my dad out in left field, he finally had a chance to make a play. The batter launched a high popup to left with runners on the corners and two out. My dad forgot the cardinal rule of playing outfield: first step is always back. The ball flew over his head as both runners came around to score.
My dad ran back to the dugout knowing he had let the team down and insisted that he would make up for it at the plate. We were skeptical considering dad had struck out in his previous two trips to the dish.
With a bent stance and quick swing that resembles something in-between Stan Musial and Brandon Phillips, my dad is most definitely a contact hitter. Despite his two strikeouts, Dad had almost gotten a base-hit in his second at-bat, but the umpire called his swinging bunt a foul ball. Dad wasn’t too pleased.
But with runners on second and third with our team down a couple runs my dad stepped up to the plate with the weight of the world on his shoulders. On the longest day of the year, with the crowd going mild, my dad had a chance to make Tenleytown Brewers history.
My dad laced a grounder between the third baseman and the shortstop for a 2 RBI single. His hit gave him a season-long 1 game hitting streak. Later on in the game he would reach on an error and would also get hit by a pitch with the bases loaded bringing his RBI total to three on the night.
Sadly, my dad announced his retirement right after the game ended. Despite such gut-wrenching news, the night was an unbelievable experience. Every kid wants to grow up to play baseball with their father and I consider myself lucky that I was actually able to do that. The fact I had never seen him wear baseball pants before aside, playing with my dad was a special moment that I’ll always remember. We might never become The Griffeys, The Bonds, or even The Hairstons, but for one night we were as good if not better than all of those families combined.
Fantastic stuff! Good writing Jake… almost as enjoyable to read as it was to take part of the event… “And the crowd goes mild!”