Mel Stottlemyre Sr., who was one of the most respected pitching coaches in baseball during his long career with the Mets and Yankees, is now in his 16th year of fighting multiple myeloma, a blood cancer that is considered incurable.
Mel Sr. has given the disease a run for its money, but recently, the cancer tightened its grip on him.
"We go back and the counts go up, and in a sense, they throw their hands up," Mel Jr. said. "No one is giving us much hope, because it is uncharted territory. We're kind of running out of options."
That's about all Mel Jr. can say on the subject of his dad's illness without his voice breaking up, but as Father's Day rolls around, Mel Jr. is more than able to discuss the influence his father has had in his life.
Mel Sr. won 164 games over 11 seasons with the Yankees from 1964-74, and during his career, Mel Jr. and his brother Todd were fixtures at old Yankee Stadium.
"You only wish that every kid would have that opportunity to go through those great times running around Yankee Stadium and fishing with my dad on days off, hanging out with the Munsons, Howsers and Mantles," Mel Jr. said. "When you get a little older, you learn to appreciate those times and you realize how lucky and how fortunate of a life you've had because of the parents you've had."
Mel Jr. and Todd were tutored rather than put in school, which allowed them the freedom to go with their mother on road trips with Mel Sr. during his playing career.
"My dad chose to take us with him and make us a part of things," Mel Jr. said.
Mel Jr. and Todd both became big league pitchers. Mel Jr. was the third overall pick in the 1985 Draft, but injuries limited his big league career to a total of 13 games, all of which came with the Royals in 1990.
While Todd would go into the financial world following his retirement, Mel Jr. decided after a couple of years away to go into the family business -- he would become a pitching coach.
"I remember my dad talking to me when I was kind of at the tail end of my playing career. He said he thought I was going to be a great coach one day," Mel Jr. said, the pride evident in his voice. "After a couple of years off, I got the itch and was doing clinics and baseball camps and it became real natural for me. I loved to teach and still had fire and passion for the game, which all comes from Pops and how he raised us and allowed us to have fun doing it. And here I am today."
The similarities between the two men is evident in the way Mel Jr. approaches his job. He cares deeply about the pitchers under his charge, but he's also honest with them and is not afraid to hold them to a high standard.
Just like with the nightly phone calls, Mel Sr. has always shared his thoughts with his sons, but also allowed them to make their own decisions.
"He laid out a nice foundation and a nice path for us," Mel Jr. said. "You get to a point in your career and it begins not so much about what your dad did, but you've got to make a name and you've got to create your own style. That's the one thing that he always allowed us to do as pitchers and as kids -- he let us be ourselves, make our own mistakes and learn from them. He's never in line to take credit for anything, but I can tell you he's been an amazing man, an amazing father and an amazing mentor to a lot of people in this game."