Father-child bond central to baseball

Father-child bond central to baseball

This is about Larry Berkman, who coached his son's youth-league teams and noticed that his 5-year-old boy threw lefty and hit righty. Larry taught him to switch-hit, and Lance Berkman grew up to wear No. 17 as first baseman for the Astros.

This is about Miguel Cabrera Sr., who constantly reinforced the need for his son to put studies before baseball in Maracay, Venezuela. Junior grew up to wear No. 24 as third baseman for the Florida Marlins, and calls now Senior his "best friend."

This is about Ken Tulowitzki, who was approached once by a T-ball safety coordinator who told him to make sure his little boy stayed in his position instead of running all over the infield trying to catch every pop fly. What can you do? The little ballhog, Troy Tulowitzki, grew up to wear No. 2 and play shortstop for the Rockies ... and the Hall of Fame has his cap and jersey after he executed the 13th unassisted triple play in Major League history.

"At a really young age, my dad put a glove in my hand and a bat," Troy remembers, "and I was off from there."

This is about dads like those everywhere -- some of whom have carried the irrepressible tradition of baseball on into another generation like their fathers and fathers' fathers, and others who have just left a lasting impact in their own ways. It is time to celebrate them all as another Father's Day arrives on Sunday, and one way is to read all of the stories told to MLB.com by Major League personnel on the 30 clubs.

Another way is to head out to the ballpark on Sunday with dad or watch the live broadcasts, because something special is planned at every venue hosting a game. Major League Baseball is teaming up with Gillette and the Prostate Cancer Foundation to increase awareness and early detection of prostate cancer on this Father's Day.

In an effort to emphasize the impact of a disease that strikes one out of every six American men, all games played on Sunday will celebrate a sixth-inning stretch -- in addition to the customary seventh-inning stretch. The sixth-inning stretch will include the singing of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" and will feature a public-service announcement that urges fans to know the risks, talk to their doctors and tell their friends about prostate cancer. The more dads who can see that, the better.

MLB will take a number of steps to recognize those whose lives have been affected by prostate cancer and communicate invaluable health information to those at risk of developing the disease. All on-field personnel, including players, managers, coaches, trainers, umpires and groundskeepers will wear blue wristbands, blue eye glare, temporary blue ribbon tattoos and blue ribbon uniform decals symbolizing prostate cancer awareness. The blue ribbon logo will also appear on the bases, commemorative home plates and the official dugout lineup cards. Game-used bases, team-autographed commemorative home plates and lineup cards from each ballpark will be auctioned off at a later date to raise additional funds for PCF.

"Major League Baseball has selected Father's Day as a time to both honor and remember those whose lives have been affected by prostate cancer," said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president, business, for Major League Baseball. "With the support of Gillette and the Prostate Cancer Foundation, we are able to communicate the prevalence of prostate cancer in a way that is sure to resonate with our fans."

One of the key components of this year's Father's Day initiative is the "Home Run Challenge," a program supported by each club and its players. This is the 11th year for the Challenge, and once again fans were given the opportunity to make monetary donations at the Prostate Cancer Foundation Web site for each home run hit during 60 select MLB games ranging from June 6-17, including all games played on Father's Day. Major League Baseball Charities has committed $50,000 to the PCF as part of the "Home Run Challenge" program.

Each Major League club has at least one player representative who is publicly supporting the Home Run Challenge. Since its inception, this initiative has raised more than $27.5 million toward prostate cancer research. All money raised through the Home Run Challenge goes directly toward prostate cancer research.

Anyone doubting the importance of prostrate-specific antigen (PSA) blood-test screening can just check with Bob Watson, MLB's vice president of on-field operations. After his playing career had come to a close, Watson made history after the 1993 season when he accepted the position of general manager of the Astros, becoming the first African-American to serve as a Major League GM. But just months after taking the job, he took a PSA test and results showed indications of prostate cancer.

Another test showed his particular cancer was very aggressive, and as a result, Watson underwent surgery to remove his prostate on July 5, 1994. Fortunately for him, the prostate was removed before the cancer had spread anywhere else, and he has led a healthy and routine life since that point.

"The only reason I'm still here is early detection and a PSA blood test," Watson said. "I'm a 13-year survivor. With early detection, the survival rate is 97 to 98 percent. [People] have a chance to beat this with early detection, and that's a message they need to hear."

Fans will hear a lot about prostate cancer and screening this weekend. They will be reminded of it beyond that, because once again, the MLB.com Auction will be presenting remarkable game-used items from this Father's Day. In fact, you can look there right now at a Father's Day Auction with items from the same occasions in previous years.

Included on the block now is a beribboned Cardinals team-signed home plate from last year's Father's Day game at Busch Stadium. It is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which are the fact that St. Louis went on to win the World Series championship and it was the inaugural year for the ballpark. Throw in all the autographs and the Father's Day representation, and one can see why these are such popular pieces of memorabilia.

There are signatures on that particular item of men such as Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, David Eckstein and Tony La Russa. You also can find the signature there of Scott Spiezio, and at least some of the credit for that would have to go to his dad.

This is also about Ed Spiezio, who won a World Series ring as a Cardinals player (1967) just like his son (who also won one with Anaheim in 2002).

"I lucked out," Scott Spiezio said. "I had a professional Major League at-home instructor with me from the time I started baseball, when I was probably 2 years old, all the way to today. It's benefited me not only on the field but in life."

Ed Spiezio taught Scott "everything" about the game. You don't need to find a Major League player to hear that story being told, either. Maybe you are a father who taught it to your own offspring. Maybe your dad taught you how to keep score and how to appreciate Carl Yastrzemski playing the carom off the Green Monster, or the way Mike Piazza would get full extension on his swing. Then, maybe he took you to a batting cage or threw you pitches in the backyard to try it out for yourself.

This is about dads like them.

This is about Charles Jeter, who would always outguess his 5-year-old son as they watched "The Price Is Right" or outmatch him at Scrabble -- teaching him to win on his own each step of the way. The boy grew up to wear No. 2 as Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, winning plenty and appointing dad as vice president of his Turn 2 Foundation.

This is about Bill Bloomquist, who taught his son to fish and to not just try hard, but to try harder. The boy grew up to wear No. 16 as Mariners infielder Willie Bloomquist, and says: "My old man developed that attitude in me, and it's still there. When I was told that I would become a utility player, I decided that I would become the best utility player in the Major Leagues."

This is about Jesus Santana, who supported his wife and five children as an electrician. One of those children, Johan, grew up to wear No. 57 for the Twins.

Now the prodigy has as many daughters as he does American League Cy Young Awards, and it's also about watching cartoons and going to Chuck E. Cheese with 4-year-old Jasmily and 2-year-old Jasmine. It's about raising them with the same love Jesus showed in Venezuela, and being able to say now: "It's the most wonderful feeling in life."

That's dad. It's all about him now.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.