It was 36 years ago; I was 12 years old. It was opening day. It was the bottom of the sixth (with six innings being a regulation game in Little League). The score was 0-0. There was a man on third. Two outs. The opposing team had its best hitter at the plate. I was pitching. I had struck him out his two previous times up. The manager, my dad, came out to the mound and said, “This kid hasn’t been able to get his bat around on your fastball all day. Don’t mess around. Smoke him with fastballs and let’s win this in extra innings. Don’t throw him a change up or curve ball.” I threw him nothing but fastballs, but he kept fouling them off. So I decided I would fool him with a curveball. I can still see the batter’s eyes getting as big as bowling balls when he saw the ball coming in that, unfortunately, didn’t curve. People told me the ball went over the scoreboard, he had hit it so hard. I didn’t see it, I knew it was gone as soon as the ball left my hand. My dad never said a word. I figured he knew I had learned my lesson.
Thirty years later, my dad and I are talking in his backyard and he says to me, “Do you remember that Opening Day game that we lost 2-0?” I said, “Like it happened this morning.” He said, “Well, I’ve felt bad about this for so long. I gave you bad advice that day. You should have thrown that kid a curveball. He was sitting on your fastball.” My head started spinning. He had been tormented all those years because he thought it was his fault.
It would have been easy to let it go, but I had to stand up to it, and told him. Then I finally got my “I told you not to throw him a curveball!” dad lecture that I thought was sure to come that warm evening 30 years ago. I felt like a kid again.
Then we both had a beer. And laughed.