At the beginning and the ending of the day, the most important hat I wear is as a father.
In that sense, I embody that by wearing an Oakland Athletics hat this October. As if I required the added motivation to discard my normal Red Sox cap for the green and gold of the A’s, it is out of my spirit as a father that I do so. It is out of the solidarity for a member of that special fraternity that I root for Oakland in the 2012 MLB playoffs.
And it is from the bottom of my heart that I feel for what Pat Neshek is going through.
Of course, most are now familiar with Neshek’s story. The right-hander, who began the season in Baltimore’s farm system before being purchased by Oakland on August 3rd, has had a memorable run in Oakland’s bullpen in the two months that followed, posting a 1.37 ERA and 0.814 WHIP in 24 games since the acquisition.
On October 2nd, Neshek left the team to join his wife in the birth of the couple’s first child, a son named Gehrig John. However, what seemed like a blessing of a healthy baby boy soon turned to tragedy, as the child passed away from yet to be determined causes just 23 hours later.
Understandably, the family was crushed. After two days of sitting at home in sorrow, Neshek and his wife flew to Detroit to be with the team. Baseball would be their escape from the pain and their path to healing. When assistant general manager David Forst called the couple in mid-flight to let them know that the team would be wearing a special patch with Gehrig’s initials on it, Neshek knew they had made the right decision.
“I wanted to honor my son,” he said.
With the spirit of playing catch with his boy for the first time, Neshek took the mound in game one, getting two critical outs to end a Tiger’s rally in the eventual Detroit victory. As he was coming off the mound, Neshek could be seen tapping the patch on his sleeve, looking to the sky to honor the boy he barely knew.
It is in this spirit that I, as a baseball fan but more so as a father, fly the green and gold as my chosen October colors. I have the joy of playing catch in the backyard with my sons, with the dreams of them being half the man Pat Neshek has shown himself to be these past few days.
And I hope the A’s overcome their 0-2 deficit to Detroit so that Neshek can prolong the little time he has to play catch with his son, even if only by heart.