I used to think by the time I came around, life had taken its toll on my dad, but maybe he was old before his time.

Then again, all we know of our parents is what we see of them when they are parents.

We have no idea, other than maybe pictures or video, what they were like as kids and young adults.

I do know my father quit school after the eighth grade to help support his family due to a mostly absentee father.

I do know he served in the U.S. Army during WW II, earning a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

I do know he helped raise seven kids.

I do know he taught me to love baseball.

That is why, when a new baseball season starts, as it did Thursday, I’m excited.

When my dad was growing up, baseball was the biggest sport in the country. Everyone played it; everyone cared about it.

So, he taught me what he knew, what he grew up loving.

He listened to baseball games on the radio during lonely nights at the bakery, where he stayed sometimes 10 or 12 hours or more.

Sometimes he would come home with a new burn from the large oven he filled with bread and rolls.

I would visit him at times, and we would talk about baseball. Since he worked nights and slept days, we took our father-son time when we could get it.

Since most of his life was spent working, his body was pretty worn out.

A lefty, he couldn’t raise his arm over his head, but that didn’t stop him from playing catch with me — without a glove.

He would toss the ball underhanded for as long as I wanted to play catch, and he never complained he was tired or his arm was sore.

It’s interesting how our parents’ interests become ours.

My father passed his love of baseball to me, and I have given it to my children.

My son, Alek, played baseball until his arm gave out, but I am just as proud of my daughter, Claire, who loves few things more than sitting in a sun-soaked stadium watching a game.

As our family has grown to include a son-in-law, and soon to-be daughter-in-law, we have brought them to games, and at some point this year we will find a few games to watch together.

I hope someday, when my children have families, baseball finds its way into their lives.

It has brought me a lifetime of joy and great memories, and it has done the same for my family.

Baseball is such a wonderful game, and it means so much to me.

And it started with a man old before his time, whose time ended too soon, who took the time to talk baseball with his youngest son in a quiet bakery.

 

Patrick Murphy, editor-publisher of the Humphrey Democrat and Newman Grove Reporter in Nebraska, is a former assistant managing editor of The Telegram.