On the Job: Father’s Day

Father's Day Little Leage GameEach month for Marin Magazine, I make a photo and write a short essay (200 words) that fills a page in the front of the book. Here’s an example about Life on the Edge, and another about being Between Sea and Sky.

For June, the editor wanted something about Father’s Day, a cliche idea, but I liked the challenge of creating something that wasn’t a cliche and thought I might find it at a local Little League game.

I spent a couple of hours at one game and made some fine actions shots, but couldn’t capture the moment I wanted between a coach and a player or a father and a son. I was looking for that instant, communicated visually, when knowledge moves from one generation to the next.

I returned a week later, this time to a night game and spent about an hour shooting before the game as the kids and dads warmed up, playing catch and a bit of pepper. As the light faded, I looked for some final shots. It would soon be too dark to shoot the game. Suddenly, the coach called all the boys near and he knelt before them. I has to change lenses and got off two frames before the huddle broke. The above frame image ran in the magazine.

Below is the essay I wrote to accompany the picture.

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… And They Will Come

“Little League baseball is a good thing ‘cause it keeps the parents off the streets and it keeps the kids out of the house.” — Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra, the language-mangling New York Yankee, also once said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

What you observe when you watch the boys (and a few girls) take to local Little League diamonds is that this diminutive form of baseball depends as much on the coaching talents of fatherhood as the hitting and fielding skills of the sport.

Take a night game, for example. The fathers arrive fresh from work, some in their suits, others already changed into colorful T-shirts bearing the names of their children’s teams – Thunder, Storm or Raptors, outsized words for such pint-sized players.

Out come the gloves, the bats and the balls. A simple ritual begins. Catch. A child throws. A father catches. Back and forth. Back and forth. Encouragement is given, adjustments made. The moment is timeless, the lessons eternal.

As game time nears, the young players gather around their coach. He makes eye contact, commands attention. A man never seems so large as when he is surrounded by children who look up to him. A good coach, like Eric Dahlke of the Timber Rattlers in the Mill Valley Little League, takes a knee before his team, knowing that little ballplayers need men who are big enough to meet them at their level.

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