For former big leaguers, HOF Classic connects fathers and children

Written by: Alex Coffey

As former big league starter Tim Redding took the mound to relieve Phil Niekro at the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic, the memories came flooding back.

A mere 528 feet from where he stood is the Doubleday Batting Cage, a frequented spot for young ballplayers who come to Cooperstown. Redding, now a pitching coach for the Class A Washington Nationals’ affiliate Auburn Doubledays, has eight seasons of major league experience to his name. But some 30 years ago, he was just a kid from Rochester, N.Y. with big dreams – who got his moment of glory in a town that’s hosted the likes of Cy Young and Walter Johnson.

“We came when I was 10 or 12 years old, sometime in the early 90s,” Redding said in an interview with the Hall of Fame. “I still remember the Doubleday batting cages. They had a speed pitch radar gun there, and I had thrown the highest velocity of the day so I got a hand written certificate and a free ice cream.”

For Redding and countless others, it’s the power of Cooperstown at work: Connecting families on and around Father’s Day.

Baseball has taken Redding all over the world – from Houston to San Diego to Aguascalientes, Mexico. But while the life of a ballplayer is exciting, it generally allows limited family time. Now based out of Auburn, N.Y. most of the year, for Redding this year’s Hall of Fame Classic held a deeper meaning.

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“It was an unbelievable experience all around,” he said. “To be able to have my kids there from Michigan – they don’t get to see me a lot when I’m coaching. I played for 17 years, so for both of my kids, dad’s been home for four months during the winter time. And then February through September I’m out of the house. They come to see me when they can, during spring breaks and summer vacation. It’s been pretty much the norm.”

Redding’s son Brennan even filled in for his father when his flight was delayed, serving as a coach in Friday’s Classic Clinic.

“I originally volunteered for part of the clinic and then with the weather and the travel stuff I wasn’t there for the beginning,” Redding said. “He was going to participate in the clinic and ended up covering for me. He knows the game of baseball.”

Aaron Rowand, pictured above, took home both the MVP Award and the Home Run Derby title at the 2017 Hall of Fame Classic. (Milo Stewart Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum)

On the other side of the field, Aaron Rowand also shared many a father-son moment in Cooperstown. Rowand, who participated in his fourth Hall of Fame Classic this year, took home both the MVP Award and the Home Run Derby title. But the former major league center fielder still insists that his favorite Classic memory – and one of the highlights of his career – came two years earlier.

“I’ll be honest, it’s been one of single best moments that I’ve had in baseball, being able to share the Hall of Fame Classic with my son (McKay),” Rowand said. “In 2015, I came around third base and I wasn’t even thinking about anything other than rounding third and heading home, when I saw my son (a bat boy) waiting for me there with Jacque Jones and Travis Fryman. It ranks up there with anything else. My son remembers me playing, he remembers being in the clubhouse, but now that he’s gotten older he understands me more and is able to experience baseball with me. Sharing Cooperstown with my son – it’s something that you can’t really duplicate.”

Rowand now serves as the minor league outfield and base running instructor for the Chicago White Sox, a job, like Redding’s, that requires frequent travel. But despite the hardships experienced throughout the baseball season, he knows he can count on Memorial Day Weekend in Cooperstown for some quality family time.

“This weekend means a lot to me. I grew up a big history buff as far as the game of baseball went and I tried to pass that on to my son McKay,” Rowand said. “It’s just a special time in a special place with a lot of unbelievably talented and special people. As soon as the roster comes out my son has it pulled up and says, ‘Dad, guess who’s coming?’ It’s a great experience for me but a greater experience to share with him.”

Alex Coffey is the communications specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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