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The Bond of Baseball

by Peter Proko

I don’t remember the first Phillies game my father ever took me to, but I remember the last. It was a couple years ago in Baltimore; our whole family went down with some friends for a weekend series and rented out one of the stadium’s luxury boxes. My dad loved baseball—and Baltimore for that matter—but he also loved his family, so having us all together and being able to celebrate my wife and I’s anniversary at the same time made for a perfect getaway.

This month marks three years since my father passed unexpectedly. He would have been already gearing up for this season and asking me about Opening Day. I think he would be excited about the future and anxious to read this month’s cover story. Maikel Franco is someone he would have loved to watch play the game, a ferocious hitter who knows how to use his glove as well. Aaron Nola’s humble and reserved approach to playing the game would also have appealed to him. These are team-first guys who are eager to take the next step and he would have been ready to take the ride with them, especially after the recent seasons of struggle.

When Citizens Bank Park opened its doors on April 3, 2004, we were lucky enough to win the lottery to get tickets for the first-ever game against the Cincinnati Reds. I have been to every home opener since and I will be there again on April 11. And while there’s been a void at the ballpark since my father’s passing, this will be the first year that I will attend a game as an actual father myself.

My wife and I welcomed our son Cole Alexander into the world on March 12. He came six-and-a-half weeks early and spent 12 days in the NICU, but is home now and doing well. I like to think he wanted to make sure he arrived in plenty of time for Opening Day, perhaps a surprise facilitated by my dad.

I am named after my father and in a roundabout way so is Cole. A long time ago my dad told me his parents considered naming him Cole, but ultimately decided to go with naming him after my grandfather instead. When my wife first mentioned the name to me I was hesitant. I don’t know why, it was perfect.

Cole is obviously too young for baseball right now, but I look forward to taking him to his first game, even if he won’t remember it. And even though he won’t be in the stands with me on April 11, I have a feeling my father just might be.

Kind regards,
Peter J. Proko

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 1 (April, 2016).
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