Several years ago now, I attended my first Northeast Indiana Baseball Association Hall of Fame Induction and Awards Banquet. If memory serves, the News Sentinel’s Blake Sebring received the Bob Parker Memorial Award.
At the time, I didn’t really have much of a clue who Bob Parker was and the significance he had on the sport in Northeast Indiana.
As my knowledge and understanding of the man increased, I attended more banquets and saw many other greats earn the high honor that is given in Parker’s name. In 2007, it was awarded to long-time sportscaster Kent Horman. The next year, to former Fort Wayne Daisies’ Isabel Alvarez. Then to Dona Schaefer, and the News-Sentinel’s Don Converset in the two years that followed up until this one.
To say that I am in good company is an understatement. I’m just a goofball with a book and a blog!
But that book and blog has created opportunities for me to talk with people who knew Bob Parker. I’ve talked with good friends, counterparts and people who considered him a father figure of sorts. I can’t explain the look in their eyes that they get when the reflect upon Bob, other than to say I have no doubt they are reflecting fondly as they wax nostalgic for those moments. Clearly, Bob had an impact in their lives. And that’s why I considered it such a great honor to have been recognized in the same breath as Bob Parker.
I have had a few people ask me to share the words that I said in accepting the Bob Parker award this year. Since I am that goofball with the blog, it’s pretty easy. 🙂 There were several spots that I went off script, but it’s what I meant to say. So, without further ado, here goes…
Before I get started, I want to first acknowledge two things: One, God’s timing is perfect and two, I have a wonderful wife who is here tonight on – of all nights – her birthday.
I’ll never forget what my father said to me when I was twelve years old and told him I was done playing organized baseball. He said to me “once you get out, it’s really tough to get back in.” As the years went on, I found that wisdom to be true in pretty much any aspect of life.
In my senior year of in high school, I set a new life goal – to one day see my name printed as the author on the front cover of book. You see, I had realized I was a better story teller than ball player. And that’s how I have come to view Bob Parker. I never had the honor of knowing him personally, but through his writing, his art and talks with those who knew him best, I’ve grown to know him as master storyteller focusing in on one of the greatest human passions imaginable.
Bob shared widely acknowledged and lesser known stories, feats and facts about the game, and specifically as they related to our little corner of the world. Without his commitment to his craft, we would have lost much of our accomplishments, bragging rights and sports glory. The stories would have been lost with those who lived them.
In 2006, I realized my dream when I opened a FedEx box and saw the advance copy of Baseball in Fort Wayne. I might as well have been a rookie stepping in for my first big league at bat. I looked at the book and thanked God the cover looked better than imagined and – my name had been spelled correctly.
It was also at that time, perhaps just like Bob Parker once had, I realized I am no author. I am a teller of stories. And those stories belong to coaches, players, teams, umpires, front offices. Even mascots. They’re stories of triumph, heartache, accomplishment and resilience of human spirit. They’re about ambitions and dreams.
And my dream, the dream of being a part of a big league club had also been realized. Because these are your stories and you all – everyone in this room whether physically or in spirit – are that big league squad. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to be just a small part of it.
And if he were here today, it be with enormous pride that I’d tell my father “dad, I found a way back in”.