Recalling baseball bonds on Dad's Day

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SEATTLE — Happy Father’s Day!

Countless hours of family time are spent on the baseball diamond each year playing or watching our nation’s pasttime.

As Father’s Day neared, I found myself headed up to Seattle again to see the Mariners play the Yankees.

This is the first time in about 25 years that I won’t be going with my dad.

He passed away tragically of a massive heart attack about a year ago, at 58 years old. I find myself missing him incredibly come Father’s Day.

My trip up to Seattle with my brother and cousin was fun. We shagged fly balls, ate hot dogs, searched for autographs and took pictures while taking in three games last weekend.

It wasn’t quite the same, however, without dad.

I reassure myself with memories of dad and all the time we spent together.

We’d go to the ball park four hours before game time and hang out.

The players came in through a low level of security and were easily accessible to the fans.

We’d get 15-20 autographs per game, including Yankee greats Andy Pettite and Bernie Williams, and future Mariner Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.

These were the days of the Kingdome.

Fast forward to the days of Safeco Field, and last year I got a press pass to write about Mariner Director of Baseball Information Tim Hevly, who graduated from Whitman College.

I interviewed Hevly for a story, sat in on the Mariners manager interview and toured the clubhouse, meeting radio announcer Rick Rizzs.

It was the weekend that Ichiro was traded to the Yankees. It seemed that Ichiro’s first Yankee order of business was to almost nail me and dad with a batting-practice home run that was lost in the sun.

My memories are alike and different than those of fans of other teams that I talked with here, and a Seattle resident Mariner fan.

The Mariner fan, my cousin Brandt Holden, looks fondly back on the 1995 season when the Mariners beat the Yankees in the playoffs and the record-breaking win total of 116 games in 2001.

Brandt has made a yearly trip with his father and late grandfather since he was 11.

He has — like many other Mariner fans — have grown tired lately of the Mariners and their lack of success.

“The Mariners are my first love, but 10-plus years of mediocrity are really taking its toll,” Brandt told me. “It seems like we are out of contention by the end of May every year. I’m looking forward to when we have new ownership that’s committed to winning championships, like Paul Allen with the Seahawks.”

Local baseball fans, the Gillette family, are Chicago Cubs fans. Weston-McEwen baseball coach T.J. Haguewood is a Red Sox fan.

What they both have in common is that they can travel to Seattle to see their favorite teams play the Mariners.

Haguewood has been going with his father for a lifetime and has been to over 20 games in Seattle.

“That is the one thing that we could always share together was baseball,” Haguewood said. “Just being able to go with my dad to watch the Red Sox was a big deal.”

I always felt that way about my dad — we could always count on baseball to bring us together, no matter how well everything else was going.

Haguewood is so loyal to the Red Sox that he named his dog Fenway, after the Boston stadium.

George Gillette’s three kids — Mariah, Lora and Pat — all grew up in Milton-Freewater and have loved sports.

Gillette, who has officiated high school sports for 44 years now, has had his three kids competing in sports and watching them with him.

The Gillette family is going to meet later this month up in Seattle for a Cubs game or two.

“My dad has always been a Cubs fans, so we were raised as Cubs fans,” Lora Chesnut said. “We just love the underdog!”

I got my preference for my baseball team, the Yankees, from my father as well. The Yankees have won 27 championships in 111 years of existence.

“I feel like sports in general always brings the family together,” Lora said, “and helps you focus on something together. We all have such crazy lives that anything that can bring you together is wonderful.”

With dad, games were always memorable for me.

Sports can really bring a father-child together or a whole family together for anyone.

This time without dad, the Yankees took 2-of-3 games from the Mariners, and I’m sure he would have been proud.

I think I’m already beginning to plan next year’s trip. I’m going to possibly go with my dad’s brothers, sisters and my cousins — maybe the new Holden family reunion — to a Mariner-Yankee game in one of the Safeco Field suites.

It could be a challenge, however, because they are all Mariner fans.

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