Los Chivos de Hartford and Oliver’s First Game de Beisbol

Baseball continues to play such an important part of my father/son(s) interactions. Especially now that Oliver is more than a sack of potatoes with eyes, and being that he can engage in activities for longer than twelve seconds now it was finally time to take him to his first baseball game.

I’ve written about how growing up baseball was so important to me and how it shaped me as a young man. I’ve discussed how it shaped my relationship with my grandfather (Pop) and now how it’s shaping my relationships with my sons. Then again… it’s America’s Past Time and a father/son rite of passage… so how surprising is it that my first game with Oliver was such a big deal.

No it wasn’t at the Cathedral that is Yankee Stadium we didn’t get to see Derek Jeter’s last home game, but we did get to witness one of baseballs top prospects, Brendan Rodgers, in one of MiLB most amazing parks, Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home of the Hartford Yard Goats. Not to mention they have the dopest logo and mascot in all of sports. Needless to say it was baseball, it was live and it was amazing.

We sat in the right field stands for a night game (which is not recommended for a 15 month old, let alone a four year old). The view was amazing and the stadium dogs, chicken fingers, pretzels, ice-cream, french fries and waters were tasty (by the way: that was just for the kids). We watched the Yard Goats win 11-1. They played as the Los Chivos de Hartford and rocked sick alternate jerseys for the game. Highlights included Brendan Rodgers going 3-4 and Peter Lambert pitching a complete game four-hitter.

Now listen I’m not going to sit here and lie and tell you that bringing two children to a ballpark is easy, or that it isn’t without its difficulties (and choice words muttered under my breath from time to time)… but it is quite amazing to be with both my boys, especially with Oliver for the first time, at a baseball game.

It was great to experience everything as a family, to be with my wife and two boys. But of course being a dad and taking my son to his first game is extra special. I enjoyed every second of exposing Oliver to how the game works… and he enjoyed clapping when I clapped. He smiled and seemed to be enamored by the green grass and beautiful sunset over the first base side seats. He enjoyed the food and the fans, but I’m pretty confident in saying I enjoyed being there with him and his brother more than either of them will ever know (that is until they have sons of their own). Then again if you read this blog often… you already knew that, besides it’s America’s Past time and a father/son rite of passage… and everybody knows that.

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Click here to read about Jackson’s first game at Yankee Stadium: Jackson’s First MLB Baseball Game

PGA Tour in PJs

Golf is a gentleman’s game. It takes patience, skill and precision. Sadly I lack in all three areas, but always enjoyed playing the game, especially those beautiful summer mornings when I was able to get out on the course with my grandfather.

I’m not a great golfer… but I’m not terrible. Clearly, track and field was my sport. Jax now has baseball covered for the family and Steph was a ballet dancer, so where does that leave poor little Oliver?

I’m sure you see where this is going by now. Oliver picked up a golf club this morning and the next Jack Nicklaus was born. He’s a natural, he’s barely even one and he’s already putting better than most adults (he definitely is putting better than me, for sure). It’s amazing how fast he’s picked up this sport. It’s like, one day you’re having your diaper changed and the next you’re on the PGA tour in your PJs.

Go get ’em Ollie.

…US Open beware.

The Bonds of Baseball

A few years ago Marc Fisher, of the Washington Post wrote, “Baseball has lived for the better part of a century on its unchanging character, its role as a bond between generations, its identity as a quintessentially American game that features a one-on-one face-off of individual skills tucked inside a team sport.” For almost 120 years baseball has been dubbed the “national pastime.” 

Children still take to Little League fields every spring, some on pace for the college scholarships and others are content to stand in right field picking dandelions and looking at airplanes fly overhead. The song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is still as well known as any on the radio and writers and directors have used baseball to tell amazing stories like, The Natural, Bang the Drum Slowly, Shoeless Joe (the basis of Field of Dreams) and The Sandlot.

This is a game that has stood the test of time. A game that to this day has not succumbed to the fast paced mentality that other sports thrive upon (at least not totally). Baseball is and will always be a game handed down through the generations. From father to son and son to grandson, baseball will always in and of itself stand for family and transition. In an ever changing society there has always been one constant in life… baseball

Baseball belongs to me. It belongs to my grandfather and to my sons. The memories can never and will never fade. The thought of my grandfather standing across from me on the other side of a sprawling, beautiful manicured lawn plays over and over in my head like an old silent movie. It’s as vivid as is it were yesterday. Shopping for my first “real” baseball glove. Watching him intently as he showed me how to break it in. Oil it, tuck a ball inside just right and wrap it up with twine. I still have that glove. It smells like days past, like Charles Place, like a younger version of my grandfather when he was still able to move without pain to show me how to field a ground ball like the Scooter… it smells like baseball.

Baseball is a form of communication in and of itself and I don’t mean the language of the game or the intricacies of how someone might describe the perfect swing of Teddy Ballgame or Junior. It’s a silent language that doesn’t need to be spoken because it’s the silence of the game that speaks volumes. I sat at my grandfather’s feet as he relaxed in his chair. We barely spoke during innings. We watched, and he inserted stories of Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio. It was like I was there. Most people my age never saw Gehrig or Berra play… but I did. Through my grandfather’s words I saw Murder’s Row torment pitchers and watched Maris and Mantle chase Ruth.

No one can ever take that from me. No one can ever tell me those things didn’t happen. They are history, they are symbolic to me. The sound of a baseball snapping as it hits your glove. Feeling the vibrations that ring through your hands and arms as your bat makes connection with your favorite pitch (low and inside- something I could pull).

Practicing robbing home runs in front of Pop’s shrubs led me to firmly believe I would be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees when I grew up… (damn you Derek Jeter).

Regardless of whatever happened to my dreams of becoming an all-star infielder, I’ll never really know… but what I do know is that soon the name Fragola will again be running out of a dugout and taking his rightful place on a baseball diamond.  Jackson starting t-ball is about the single most exciting thing I have been looking forward to as a parent!

Buying his first baseball glove and then a father and son’s first time ever playing catch. (Yes I cried a little in the sporting good store).

Playing catch with my son is more than father – son bonding time. It is a family heirloom that gets passed down from generation to generation. One that I look forward to sharing with boys of my sons. It’s also an an opportunity for me to share my passion for the game and share stories of players like Rickey Henderson, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey, Jr as my grandfather did for me with the best players of his time. And I look forward to being able to tell my sons about the old days when packs of baseball cards were only a few dollars and rookie cards were all the rage.

Super proud dad moment. The first time your son wants to go through his baseball cards on his own… thanks @Topps for keeping the family tradition alive. #BaseballCards #Topps

Soon I’ll just be a dad in the stands or maybe one day even a coach in the dugout. But for now I’m content passing on the love for the game to both my sons, one of whom has finally begun his amazing story as a baseball player.

PS: ThrowBack to ’86: I wasn’t much of a power hitter in case you couldn’t tell from those scrawny arms… but man could I lay down a perfect bunt.

Carmine D. Tiso (The OG Carmine) 8.22.26 – 11.25.16


I grew up with parents who were loving, caring, supportive and generous. I owe so much of who I am to them… but there was always something about my grandparents that had me captivated.  I loved their house on Charles Place and the giant oak tree that we would spend hours sitting in front of and talking about life. That entire house smelled older, worn but safe; the aroma of nan’s perfume and hairspray filled the house. But it was pop’s calming voice that always made me feel loved and happy.

Legacy is what every man lives for. Whether it’s fame, fortune, love or the simple fact of leaving behind a name that will carry with it the utmost respect for eternity. Carmine is just that… whether you knew him as Uncle Junior (Sooranos reference), Uncle Carmine, Babe or Pop… Carmine will forever carry with it images of a selfless man who loved his family more than anything else in this world. He was a man who stood up for what he believed in and never told you what you wanted to hear. He told you the truth. He was my Professor Dumbledore even before Harry Potter was published. I learned to value what I hold near and dear to me and that the choices we make are at the heart of who we are.

I still remember the day I told him I was giving up baseball and taking up track… the silence was short… but his words were strong… “Are you crazy?!!” It was hard feeling like you disappointed the man you looked up to, the person who taught you everything you knew about sports. But when he learned how serious I was he supported me more than anyone… that was him. Say what you mean and mean what you say and support those who mean most to you. When he knew you did he believed in you. To him, “words were, in his not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.” He didn’t always say he loved you, but you knew he did.

I had more conversations about the Yankees with him than Mike Francesca had with Chris Russo. I learned how to turn a double play like Phil Rizzutto, I learned how to shoot a jump shot (by the way… I never ever once beat him in around the world), and recently he taught me how to hit my 5 iron. Those are the images that will forever be burned into my mind.

But for me and anyone who knew him it was who he was in the quiet times that made you love him. Whether it was a long time customer who came in to ask his advice on an air conditioner he sold them in 1983, or a granddaughter who couldn’t wait for a plate of pasta on a Tuesday night, he was always there.

He was a Military Veteran, but refused to think of himself equal to others who served out country. He would often tell a story of his cousin who was fighting on the front lines in Germany. He would write home from overseas and tell Pop to be careful and stay safe. Pop, at the time, was playing baseball for the army, traveling up and down the East Coast entertaining the troops… He called it the “Battle of the Hudson!”He would tell this story and with a laugh say, “he’s getting shot at by Nazis and he’s telling me to stay safe… like crossing the Hudson River on a bus for a doubleheader was more dangerous than that!”

When nan passed away… I honestly think I learned what real selflessness was. He went to that cemetery everyday. He planted grass seed (and for everyone who knew him you weren’t surprised that it was the greenest, most well groomed plot of grass in the whole cemetery). He loved her more than he loved anything in this world and he never let anyone forget it. He loved her more than an Eli Manning touchdown pass, more than nan’s potato and egg sandwiches, even more than a Yankee World Series championship… although that was definitely a close second.

I once read a quote that said “today is a new day. God gave us the this day to use as we will. what we do today is important because we are exchanging a day out of our life for it. When tomorrow comes this day will be gone, leaving in its place that which we traded it for. We want it to be good, not evil, gain not loss, success not failure.”

That was pop… if you were to measure a man’s life against that quote… then he won. He was a legend who left behind a legacy of good, gain and success. He leaves behind family, friends, a grandson and great grandson (both who share his name) and both who will forever be better people because of him.

Until we meet again (and I finally get that rematch in around the world)… Rest easy Pop… and tell Nan I love her.

 

 

What it Means to be a Dad


I never know his to start these things. It’s always so weird thinking that there are people out there who read my stuff other than my family and friends. I mean you don’t know me. The only thing u all have in common is you’re bored at work and looking for something to read that hasn’t blocked by your boss on the Internet. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog almost as much as I’ve enjoyed being a father the last 13+ months. It’s never boring, it’s never easy… But most of all it’s never NOT worth it.

I’ve tried to touch on some topics that everyone encounters… Fathers, mothers, families, friends of people with kids, etc. here’s the thing, I still don’t think I’ve really been able to figure out what it really means to be a father.

Having a kid is like having an insane parrot glued to your shoulder. Sometimes I think how much I love him. I look at him and think I couldn’t love any person any more right now. And sometimes… maybe even in the same minute… I think to myself maybe I’ll just leave him at the next gas station. I think that sums up fatherhood decently right… Love and Frustration.

So what else? I think being a father is about learning to focus on the things you do well and asking for support with the things that you’re not so good at and being able to share the responsibilities. A perfect example to this point: I don’t know what I would do if Stephanie didn’t take care of our monetary situation. I’m not even sure how to use an ATM. The wife knows the bank we use. I couldn’t even ball park how much money we have. Thank god I can rely on her to keep us out of the red. So I guess that’s another fatherhood descriptor… Sharing and Reliability.

I keep going back to being able to teach my son about the world… How to handle certain situations and maneuver through an ever changing society. There are so many important lessons I want to teach my son… important things, tidbits of knowledge necessary to survive. Like… How how to open a sleeve of saltines without breaking them into a million pieces when you try to get them out. I’d like to teach him how to end a conversation normally. I can’t just walk away from a conversation. Have you ever tried to walk away? I’m always trying to say something witty and funny, but it usually just comes out sounding creepy. I guess being a father means being a teacher too.

In all reality I think the biggest thing I’ve learned being a dad just to be there for my son. Through ups and downs, as long as I’m around I think we’ll be ok.

One of the greatest “dad moments” ever… “no Olympic emotional outburst is ever likely to dislodge Derek Redmond’s Olympic 400 meter dash at the 1992 Games. What made this moment special was that it brought into focus not just the near-heroic desperation of a single professional athlete but a much more universal theme: the nature of parenthood.”

After hearing his hamstring pop and realizing his Olympic Dreams were over, Redmond got up off the track and refused to be helped off. With about 120 meters still to go Jim Redmond, Derek’s father hoped the barrier and reached his son. He puts his arm around him and whispered, I’m here son. We’ll finish this together.”