Friday, June 15, 2007
Father's Day Special
Steve Waldrop, Kyle's Dad
Welcome back for Part 3 of the four part Father's Day Special. Yesterday, you were able to read the thoughts of Rick Tintor, and Gene Neshek. This morning's entry comes from Steve Waldrop, the father of Twins pitching prospect, Kyle Waldrop. Here are his thoughts:.
As Fathers Day approaches, many memories have come back to me from over the years. Some sad, many more of pride and happiness. There have been lots of tears from Karen and me, both of disappointment as well as joy. Ever since Seth asked me to consider writing this I have been reflecting on the past as well as enjoying the present. Being the parents of a baseball player, amateur or professional, isnít always easy (especially if heís a pitcher!) but we wouldnít trade one moment of the time weíve spent supporting Kyle in his dream.
Karen and I have two children, Kyle is the oldest (21) and Leigh is 19. She just finished her freshman year at the University of Tennessee. We are extremely proud of her as well as Kyle. She had a great year and plans, for now, to study exercise science. She played some softball while younger and basketball until she suffered a knee injury her freshman year of high school. She is now very active and has a passion for serving the Lord. While Kyle has traveled many places with baseball, Leigh has experienced places the rest of us havenít, summiting 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado, missions in the Bahamas as well as in the jungles of Ecuador.
My earliest memories of Kyle and baseball are when he was 2 or 3, hitting a foam ball with a fat foam bat in the house. He swung left-handed then, and he could really smack the ball. We would play ball in the backyard, just throwing, catching, and hitting the baseball. Karen would often worry that I wasnít letting him have enough fun. You see, I was a high school basketball coach for 9 years, including the first 4 years of his life. I always stressed fundamentals with my players and I did the same with him. Iím sure there were times I was over the top with it, but I always told her that he would have a lot more fun later on if he had the fundamentals. He has always been a good athlete in any sport he attempted. I guess genetics were at work. Karenís Dad is 6í6Ē and played basketball in college, Karen also played basketball in college. My Dad, Ned Waldrop, was 6í4Ē and was a semi-pro baseball player in the 1940ís and Ď50ís and I played junior college basketball. I helped coach him in both sports up until the age of 11 in baseball and 12 in basketball. I have to tell you that he resisted playing organized baseball at first. He didnít want to play the first year he could, so we didnít push him. The next year he still didnít want too, until I convinced him to come with me to the sign ups at Farragut Middle School and just get some information on the league. When he got there, saw the other boys and had some adults encourage him to play, he was ready to go and weíve been gong ever since!
Seth has suggested some baseball stories of growing up, there are many more than I will be able to list here. Some that stand out in my mind follow. The time his first year of organized ball when he came to bat in the last inning with the bases loaded and our team down a run. He got the game winning hit, crossed first base, and then started crying. You see, everybody stopped after the winning run scored and he thought he had lost the game! The other coach, our good friend George Herbold, had to explain to him that we had actually won the game, that he had done a good thing. Playing Little League on ďThe HillĒ at Farragut as a 9 year old against the 11ís and 12ís. Seeing his face light up the first time I got him to throw a changeup in a game and striking the batter out when he swung before the ball got half way to the plate. Spending over a week in Clarksville, TN and watching the All Star team come from out of the loserís bracket and win the 9-10 year old state championship. Convincing him to try out for the Knoxville Thunder as an 11 year old when all the others where 12, and watching him compete for a position that day. Kent Mathews was the coach of that team and we won the Southeast AABC tourney which took us to the World Series in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Seth has asked was there a time when we first thought he might be able to do this professionally. Honestly, we never talked about that when he was young, and if I heard other people doing that, I would tell them to keep that thought to themselves. No need to put that pressure or expectations on a 12 year old! But in Puerto Rico, I did catch a glimpse of what could be. He was the starting shortstop then and we were playing the Puerto Rico National Team. I will never forget the sound of the crowd singing, chanting, and banging their homemade instruments. We had been leading, but had just lost the lead. Bases loaded, no outs, crowd going crazy. And Kent calls Kyle from short to pitch. You talk about two worried, nervous parents! He showed no emotion or nerves. First batter grounds back to him, force out at home. Next batter strikes out. Next batter hits a 2 strike pitch off the handle just over the first basemanís head for a single. Then he Kís the final guy. We did lose the game and finished third in the World Series, but it may have been at that point that I thought ďMaybeĒ.
Karen and I have always tried to support and encourage him in whatever he is involved in, and that continues today. He has been blessed with excellent coaches over the years. I felt I needed to get out of the way at 11 and let other more knowledgeable than me take over. We did make sure that we knew the coachís philosophies and character. In addition to George and Kent, Hal Bibee has always been a tremendous influence and help to Kyle. He coached Thunder and Kyle from 12 to 17 years. All of these men had the best interests of the boys at the forefront of their coaching decisions. They never made winning a game or tournament more important that the boys long term success. And Kyle had the privilege of playing for Tommy Pharr at Farragut High School, in my humble opinion the best coach in the state. I havenít seen all those other great coaches around the country, but I wouldnít have traded his experience with Coach Pharr for anybody.
We are, of course, extremely proud of him and what he has accomplished. We always stressed the classroom and he excelled there. His decision to bypass Vanderbilt and sign with the Twins was very, very difficult for all of us. It was literally 15 minutes before the draft began that he decided he would take that route if the Twins did what they said they might do. We let him know we would support whatever decision he made. He, as well and Karen and I, have been very pleased with this organization and how they have dealt with Kyle. Certainly, there have been times when he and we didnít understand decisions and wished things would move faster. But in retrospect, heís right on track. Frankly, Iím kind of glad that they are taking it slow with him. It would be exciting to have a 21 year old in the majors, but weíve all seen several of that move too fast and flame out. Either physical problems or confidence shot. Itís hard enough making that adjustment to AA ball right now. I have to remind myself when I watch him pitch that heís still only 21, and heís going against men, many of whom have 8-10 or more years of professional experience. Itís hard for us to see many games over the course of a season and itís nerve wracking while weíre watching. Only if you have a son whoís a pitcher can you really understand! But itís harder for us to listen online to the games, Karen wonít listen at all. At least while you are there you can really see whatís happening, was it a broken bat hit, should the play have been made, did the wind help or hurt? Either way, itís hard.
To finish up I want to share a story about Kyle that is somewhat baseball related, but not focused on baseball. This is just one thing of many that make us extremely proud of the young man he has become. Kyleís senior year in high school he had a senior project he was responsible for. Pretty much anything he wanted to come up with, he just had to identify, research, plan and complete it. After some discussion with us and others, he decided on putting together a tee ball game for the special education students of Farragut against our arch rivals, Bearden High School. He worked with the teachers and administrators of both schools to set it up. It was a tremendous success and the students seemed to have a great time. I didnít get to attend, but Karen said a father of one of the students came over to her after the game and told her she must be prouder of him that day than for any baseball game he had ever played. And that we are, even now.
Our prayers are that he will reach his goal of the major leagues, understanding that even now the odds are against him. However that turns out, we love Leigh and Kyle and, as Iím sure you can tell, are very proud of them. We look forward to seeing how the Lord continues to mold each of them and the plan He has for their lives.
Thank you Steve!
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