"He's one of my best friends," Will Middlebrooks said the other day.
The truth is, Middlebrooks, the Padres' third baseman, has a good idea of the kind of influence his father has and can have on someone. And he doesn't need to look in a mirror, or even ask his siblings, sisters Lacey and Mary.
Will Middlebrooks can't wander too far down the streets in his hometown of Texarkana, Texas, and not have someone ask him about -- no, not his professional baseball career -- but his father, Tom.
Tom Middlebrooks, you see, is a longtime teacher and coach at Liberty-Eylau High School. And now, on the cusp of retirement, Tom Middlebrooks is filling his time teaching lessons at the batting cage the family opened in town, iHit.
"My dad was always been one of those teachers where everyone wanted to take his class," said Middlebrooks. "There are people who took his class and who are grown-up who are still in touch with him. That's pretty rare.
"But he's such a loving, caring guy. It makes sense."
Middlebrooks' thoughts will certainly be with his father on Sunday, Father's Day. In July, he will be reunited with his parents, Tom and Julie, when the team heads to Arlington to face the Rangers before the All-Star break, giving the infielder a chance to stretch his legs back in Texarkana.
The talk, between father and son, will quickly turn to baseball.
"He loves it. He loves to talk baseball. I think he feels like he bothers [me], like I don't want to talk about games or [certain] at-bats with him," Middlebrooks said, laughing.
For the longest time, sports -- and not just baseball -- have served as a common bond, and a strong one, between Middlebrooks and his father, a football and baseball coach.
"Before we moved to Texarkana, he was an athletic director at a small school, and I'd go over to the school for football practice. I was the ball boy, and then on Saturday, I would go in with him when he watched tape of the game," Middlebrooks said. "I was probably at the school with my dad more than I was at my own house."
That was about the time Middlebrooks started to see the impact his dad was having on others.
"I knew early on just how important to him and how much he cared about helping form young people both in the classroom and on the field," Middlebrooks said. "He's always been someone I have looked up to."
That perspective continues to grow with time. Middlebrooks will turn 27 in September. He's engaged. He'll have his own family someday. And he's certain he'll pass along many of life's lessons his dad taught him, either directly or indirectly.
"The appreciation you get now is so much more different than when you are in middle school or high school," said Middlebrooks, whose mother, Julie, is also a teacher. "Back then, it's just your mom or dad telling you this or that, what to do or what not to do.
"But as you get older, you realize the things you're doing, you do because of your parents. I'm pretty lucky with both of them."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.