A Word from Curt
Last night when the Astros won an improbable 1-0 10 inning victory over the Padres, I wanted to call my Dad and discuss the bizarre ending of the game.
But I can’t. Today, April 8, marks fifteen years since his death.
I still miss him.
I still think, “I can’t wait to tell that story to Daddy.”
But I can’t.
Sometimes, that fifteen years feels like yesterday and at other times it feels like fifty.
I’m more thankful than ever for the life of my father, Clayton Iles. He was a great father, husband, friend, Christian, and greatly loved by all that knew him. A simple man who had the human touch with others and they responded in kind.
Daddy, as I watch my grandchildren grow up, I only wish they could’ve known you, their great-grandfather. It’s hard to believe that you’d be 84 years old this year.
In honor and memory of my father, I’m including one of my favorite stories, “Playing Catch with My Dad.” It is from our second book, The Old House. I’m so thankful that this book, released in 2002, was held in his hands in the last two years of his life.
Rest in peace, Daddy.
I know where you are, but I still miss you greatly.
Playing Catch with My Dad
Written circa 1994
As I squat behind home plate, my dad readies his next pitch to the first batter of the inning. It is the late innings of a church softball game that we are easily winning. I’ve come in from my usual spot in left field to let my son Clay play the outfield, while I catch.
Suddenly it occurs to me that it’s been about thirty years since I’ve caught behind the plate for my dad. My mind goes back to my late preteen years when my softball-playing career began with the men’s team. My dad always had a team that traveled around to play other churches and pick-up teams. Arriving at the ballpark, I always expectantly counted the heads of our players hoping that less than ten would show up. If they were short, it gave me an opportunity to play. They’d stick me behind the plate as catcher where I couldn’t do too much defensive harm, and there I would catch my dad’s pitches.
So here I am again, this time I’m over forty years old and still playing catch with my dad. What a privilege to be on the same team with both my son and my dad, and what an opportunity to share this special love of baseball in our family!
Growing up, one of my favorite pastimes was playing catch in the yard with my dad. In those days, Dad still played fast-pitch softball. As I grew older, I became his practice catcher. He would throw a wide assortment of curves, fastballs, and knucklers that I would attempt to spear with my glove. Even as my hand burned, I gritted my teeth to prove to him I could catch his pitches. I believe he took great pride in testing me with his best stuff, and I took it as an immense challenge to catch them.
All through the years, baseball has been a strong glue that bonded me to my father. Now as a dad myself, this wonderful game is something my three sons and I share that time cannot change. I cherish all of those afternoons spent in the yard with batting practice. Those hours of hitting grounders to the boys are some of the most precious times of my life. Games at the Astrodome or nights spent sitting together in front of the television, cheering on the Astros, are special moments that I will carry to my death.
I recall a story I once read about Harmon Killebrew, a Hall of Fame player with the Minnesota Twins. He related how as a boy, neighbors always complained to his dad about how bad the Killebrew yard looked compared to the neighborhood’s well-manicured lawns. To make matters worse, the Killebrew lawn had a well-worn baseball diamond on it. His dad responded to the complaining neighbors with, “We’re not raising grass here. We’re raising boys.”
That’s what I love about baseball—it is a game for fathers and sons to enjoy together.
One of my favorite movies is “Field of Dreams.” It is so much more than just a baseball movie. It is the story of the relationship baseball can play in a father-and-son relationship. In the movie, Terrence Mann tells Ray, played by Kevin Costner, the following:
“The one constant has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers, been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that was good and how it can be good again.”
And it is good, and I’m glad I too can still play catch with my dad, the major influence of my life.
If you have a story or memory of my Dad, I’d love to hear from you. It would mean the world to our family. Email me with your story.