In 1977 I had to battle a doctor to be in the delivery room when my first child was born. One improvement in American life is that fathers are typically present now. One of the good sports stories of the summer concerns pro golfer Hunter Mahan, who last month was leading the Canadian Open after two rounds and on his way to a huge paycheck when his wife went into labor. Mahan promptly withdrew from the tournament and flew to Dallas to be by the side of his wife, Kandi.
Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal (it was, after all, somewhat of a money story) reported:
“Mahan said that he and Kandi had joked about this exact possibility, even before she got pregnant, throwing out hypotheticals—What if it happened during the Masters? But Mahan knew his answer. He knew it as soon as he saw those sonograms at the doctor’s office, saw the little face on this beautiful stranger. Come on. That sealed it. There would be no hesitation. ‘It wouldn’t matter what was happening,’ he said.”
Such a change. Boston Red Sox fans will enjoy Francona: The Red Sox Years, written by former Bosox manager Terry Francona and Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy (Houghton Mifflin, 2013). But even non-fans can appreciate the sadness of Francona’s dad, baseball player Tito Francona, not being allowed to see the birth of his only son. It was during the baseball season and Tito did not get to see Terry for three weeks.
Shaughnessy picks up the story:
“Twenty-eight years later, veteran infielder/outfielder Terry Francona was getting ready for opening day at first base with the Cincinnati Reds when Jacque Francona’s water broke back home in Tucson. He told manager Pete Rose that he needed to go home because of Jacque’s situation. ‘That’s fine,’ said Rose. ‘Just don’t come back.’ Terry Francona got the message. He stayed in Cincinnati and hit an opening day home run in an 11-5 win over the Expos. It was the only one of his children’s births that he missed, and he never shed the regret.”
But Mahan doesn’t have that regret, nor does Daniel Nava, a Christian on the current Red Sox team who received a three-day leave earlier this month to be with his wife. Of course, family members can sometimes bring turmoil.Francona describes the time Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia and his wife, Kelli, were imminently expecting their first child in 2009. Pedroia was hitting well but he had struck out once that day, and when Francona visited them in the hospital room he was amazed to see Pedroia’s mom screaming at the player because he had swung at a bad pitch.
Shaughnessy wisely has Pedroia tell the story:
“My mom just blew me up for swinging at that ball in the dirt. We’re all in the hospital room for Kelli, and my mom was [expletive deleted] me, saying, ‘What the [expletive deleted] wrong with you?’… If I play bad and the media gets on me, that’s a piece of [expletive deleted] cake compared to my mom.”