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The Father Factor:
Fatherhood Matters

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Why is Daniel Murphy's Paternity Leave a Story?

I realize that there's some inherent level of stupidity in "viral" discussions, but still, what seems to be behind the latest argument is surprisingly anti-fatherhood.

"Home Run" on DVD July 23!

"I spent a lifetime looking to replace the love I didn't get from my father." —Cory Brand

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) is proud to support the DVD release of Home Run on July 23.

Can't view the video? Click here.

You may recall, we wrote a blog post for this faith-based film while it was in theaters called The Possibility of Freedom. If you love us, click and read the full post, here's an excerpt from that profound and life-changing blog post:

  • Consider some of your favorite sports films. Chances are good there's a baseball film on your list. Let's see, for me there's Bull DurhamFor the Love of the Game and Field of Dreams to name a few. Aside from the fact that all these films star the great Kevin Costner, these movies share two elements: 1) There's something bigger than yourself for which to live. 2) It takes sacrifice to understand your purpose in life. In Home Run, we see an example of someone who isn't involved, responsible or committed to anything but himself.

Want more details on the film? Keep reading...

From the Home Run website:

  • Baseball all-star Cory Brand knows what it takes to win in the big leagues. But off the field, with memories of his past haunting him, his life is spiraling out of control. Hoping to save her client’s career and reputation after a DUI and a team suspension, Cory’s agent sends him back to the small town where he grew up. 
  • Forced to coach the local youth baseball team and spend eight weeks in the only recovery program in town, Cory can’t wait to return to his old life as quickly as possible. As his young players help him experience the joy of the game, Cory discovers his need to find freedom from his past and hope for his future…and win back the love he left behind. With this unexpected second chance, Cory finds himself on a powerful journey of transformation and redemption.
     

The Possibility of Freedom

At NFI, we like to say dads should be "involved, responsible and committed." In the new movie Home Run, we see what happens when someone isn't "involved, responisble or committed."

Cecil and Prince Fielder Have Long Road In Rebuilding Their Bond

While Detroit Tigers fans are no doubt celebrating the signing of All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder, the slugger returns to the place where his father Cecil won a World Series Championship – a father that he’s been at odds with for quite some time over reasons only known to them. Prince Fielder will undoubtedly face dozens of questions regarding the estranged relationship between him and his dad, although the elder Fielder has said the he’s been in brief contact with Prince.

“Well, we're having a few chats. We're doing a lot better than we were,” said Cecil Fielder Tuesday (January 24) on MLB Network Radio. “Time heals all wounds, man. Everybody has to come back together at some point. Number one thing, I'm just happy for him.”

Those words were a far cry from the violent talk from Fielder’s dad from last summer. Cecil told the Yuma Sun that he “wanted to drop a right on him instead of talking” to his son. In what should have been the feel-good story of the upcoming Major League Baseball season, the feud between the Fielders is still a prominent and tense issue.

Cecil Fielder and Prince’s mother Stacy underwent a tough divorce, which some writers say led to the split between father and son. Others have alleged that Cecil spent part of his son’s signing bonus without permission, and was embroiled in battling gambling and property debt issues as well.

Prince Fielder has never publicly addressed the split at length but the married father of two could possibly benefit in rebuilding the connection with the man he joined on the baseball field during spring training in 1994. News alternative Detroit Free Press even reprinted an old 1992 article featuring a story on Cecil Fielder and his baseball prodigy son, where young Prince even said his dad was the best homerun hitter in the game. Cleary at one point, they were inseparable and loving towards one another.

If Cecil’s words are true, perhaps they can reform their bond and give sons like myself and countless others hope. Hope that even those of us who don’t have our fathers in our lives that one day, we can try to rebuild the bonds. As Duk of the Big League Stew said eloquently of the Fielders’ situation in his column: fathers shouldn’t be apart from their sons.

Cleveland Indians Player Chris Perez Is Lucky To Have His Dad

It seems par for the course that fathers seek to bond with their kids – especially boys – playing the age-old game of catch, whether with a football or baseball. There’s something innate about that activity between fathers and sons; perhaps it’s an instinctive reminder for Dad that he once did this with his own dad – or at least wished he had. It’s something I definitely wished I shared with my own dad.

When I read the tale of MLB All-Star pitcher Chris Perez, and how he and his dad Tim bonded over Chris’ inclusion in the big name lineup last year, I confess I felt a tinge of envy. However, I’m glad to see that there are sons who look up to and value their dads even as they trudge along into adulthood and families of their own.

Perez shared with sports website The Bleacher Report on how he gifted his father with his 2011 All-Star ring, making it five sizes larger so that his dad could wear it.

Perez on the trying to surprise his father with the ring:

“Before entering the brunch, they handed out All-Star rings. When I picked mine up, they asked me to try it on. (I already had planned to give the ring to my Dad, so I had told them to make the ring 5 sizes too big for me.) My Dad was right next to me and noticed how big it was on me. I tried to play it off, but he kept making a deal about it.

Flash forward to after the game, my family and I are relaxing back in the hotel, and I pulled out the ring and gave it to him. He was shocked/surprised/happy/speechless. I couldn't think of anyone else that deserved the ring more than him; he's the reason I love the game, and the reason I became an All-Star.”

Chris Perez didn’t enter the game last year at the Midsummer Classic, but it’s a neat story showing that no matter how old you are as a son, you always want to please and gain the respect of your dad. Sometimes it’s tough to show our dads how much we love and adore them as adults, but I know as I speak for myself and other fathers that it never gets redundant to know that your children love you.

Tim Perez summed up his feelings about getting the ring from his son in a quick interview last summer. “I wasn't expecting it. We were in the room, and Chris just said 'I want to give you something,'" Tim Perez said to the Bradenton Herald. "My first reaction was, 'Son this is your ring. And he says 'No, dad, I wouldn't here without you.' I wasn't expecting anything. I was just a dad supporting his son.”

Tim Perez and his amazing humility is the very reason why fatherhood has to return to the forefront of the conversation when talking about combating societal ills. When a father does the right thing for his children, they become adults who respect the value and importance of what it means to be a dad when their time comes to be handed the torch.

Sure, I may pine for a time for my dad and I to have a similar bonding experience and I still have my baseball glove and ball from when I was 12 years old at the ready. Hopefully one day soon, my dad and I will have a moment to share and call our own just like Tim and Chris Perez.

Until then, I can only admire them from afar.

How Baseball and Military Dads Motivated Me

This is a guest post by NFI's Director of Military Programming, Tim Red, who heads the organization's efforts to help the U.S. military add fatherhood programming to its work to support military families, pre-, during, and post-deployment.

As a Texas-based dad, baseball fan, and guy who works to support military fathers, last week was a rough one for me. Here's why.

As you have probably heard, a tragedy occurred last week at a Texas Rangers baseball game. Shannon Stone, a 39-year-old father (and firefighter for the Brownwood, TX Fire Department) lunged to catch a ball that was tossed into the crowd by player Josh Hamilton. He stumbled and fell over the railing 20 feet down to the concrete. He was conscious when they left the stadium and voiced concern about his 6-year-old son who was alone up in the stands and had witnessed his dad fall. Stone had driven a couple of hours from Brownwood to Arlington to take his son to his first Rangers game, and they had stopped at a sporting goods store to buy a new glove in the hopes that they would snag a ball at the game.

Stone had a massive heart attack on his way to the hospital and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Hamilton, the most important ball player for the Texas Rangers, is also a dad. He came back to baseball four years ago after years of drug abuse. His experiences have made him a very humble superstar, and as a father, he has talked about how Stone's death has affected him. He plans on reaching out to Stone's wife and son and helping them "when the time is right." He knows, as a dad himself, what a dads' sudden absence can mean to a family, and he wants to help.

On top of hearing about this heart-wrenching tragedy non-stop in the Dallas news, I also read four distressing testimonies by military dads. They were distressing in the respect that these dads are looking for answers about how to better support their families, but they are not finding them within the current support structures in the military. As a retired National Guard dad, I want them to have these answers. NFI wants them to have these answers. But it has been a slow process changing a "military family culture" that has been so focused on the stay-at-home family that it often forgets that dads need help, too.

But I am going to turn lemons into lemonade and use these dads' testimonies as weapons to use in my negotiations with Military Family Programs around the country. I am hopeful that these dads' words will show folks just how important it is to support our nation's military fathers.

My rough week, as hard as it was, really reminded me that the work we do here at NFI is more important than ever. So, watch out - I have some lemonade to make!

The House that Ruth Didn't Build

A few nights ago, I got a chance to catch Ken Burns’ documentary “Baseball: 4th Inning, A National Heirloom.” In typical Burns fashion, it was well done and, along with a compelling play-by-play on the history of the game, it provided an excellent window into the lives and personalities of key players, such as Babe Ruth.

In Ruth’s case, I really first became aware of him as a boy in the 1970s when Hank Aaron was in the hunt to break his homerun record. Indeed, other than the fact that he could swing a big stick—and he made a rather tasty candy bar—I really didn’t know much about him.

Turns out that Ruth was born in Baltimore, which is not far from where I live today, and he had a very rough childhood. His father ran a local bar in town and had a difficult time parenting Ruth. It is reported that his dad beat him unmercifully because Ruth was a very rambunctious and out of control kid. When the beatings didn't work, his dad declared him to be “incorrigible” and shipped the 7-year-old Ruth to reform school.

This was a very difficult time for Ruth because his family almost never visited him. In fact, it’s reported that he told a fellow school mate that he was “too big and too ugly” for anyone to visit him. The only bright spot for him at reform school was that he discovered that he could really play baseball and, at 19-year-old, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles. He also married shortly after this, probably because he longed for a family that he never really had, and had a daughter.

However, after he was traded to the Yankees and his fame began to grow dramatically, he moved his wife and young daughter to a farm in Massachusetts and began living an expensive apartment in one of New York City’s finest hotels. He also began living a life of self-indulgence, drinking heavily, partying constantly and frequenting prostitutes. He even took a long time mistress. He was rarely home due to the long baseball season and because he chose to “barnstorm” during the off season. Eventually, his behavior contributed to his wife’s nervous breakdown. When this happened, Ruth took a bit of a “7th inning stretch” to reflect but he soon returned to "playing" his life as usual.

I find it a bit ironic that a man who exhibited so much discipline at the plate chose to “strike out” consistently in his home. Moreover, his absence in his daughter’s life mirrored the absence of his father in his life. I wonder if his absence ever caused her to think that she was “too ugly” for him to visit. Alas, Ruth’s behavior is a cautionary tale for all fathers. Sometimes we recreate the very thing that we hate and let our pain become our children’s pain.

In 1923, the Yankees moved from the Polo Grounds to the newly built Yankee Stadium. In the first game at the new park, Ruth hit a well-timed home run and this caused the stadium to be forever dubbed “The House that Ruth Built.” I suppose that this is very accurate given the success of the Yankees franchise. But, I must admit that for me Ruth’s legacy is more of a foul ball than a homerun given what I learned about the home that he failed to build for his wife and young child.

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