Baseball and family a winning combination

Meifert_90.jpgBy Ken Meifert

Last month I was in Columbia, S.C., for a Hall of Fame Champions fundraising dinner hosted by John D. Baker. Hall of Famer Phil Niekro joined us for what proved to be a wonderful evening of stories, laughs and friendship.

Phil shared many wonderful stories about his career and his brother Joe, who also pitched in the major leagues. In fact, Phil and Joe Niekro have more combined wins in the major leagues than any brothers in the history of the game with Phil having 318 and Joe have 221, for a combined total of 539.

6-18-09-Meifert_Niekro.jpgPhil shared a story of giving up a home run to his brother Joe – and it just happened to be the only home run Joe hit in the majors! For anyone who has a sibling, it is easy to imagine the good natured ribbing that went on between the brothers about that home run. It was obvious as Phil told the story that he and Joe shared a very special bond that baseball served to strengthen. Family is very important to Phil, who lost his brother Joe suddenly a few years ago. Reflecting on the loss, Phil took comfort in the fact that his last words to his brother had been “I love you Joe.”

Phil’s stories about his family caused me to reflect on the way that baseball brings people together – literally how it connects families across generations. Sound familiar? It is part of the Hall’s mission to preserve history, honor excellence and connect generations. I am thankful to be part of this great Game and I am thankful for the friends that baseball has brought me – friends like our host John Baker – and so many others.

John is a Columbia native and a lifelong Braves fan. I chuckled as he recounted his parents telling him years ago that if he spent as much time on his homework as he spent following the Braves he would be an A+ student. Now, please don’t get the impression that John did not get his homework done – he is a successful real estate developer today. But I believe it was a combination of great family and friends, his faith and the lessons learned from baseball that made John the outstanding person he is today. 

As we approach Father’s Day Weekend and the Inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Weekend, I hope you will take the time to enjoy a game (The Hall of Fame Classic on Sunday) or play catch (Family Catch on Doubleday Field Saturday afternoon) with your family this weekend. Make some new memories, share some old ones, and tell them you love them.

Ken Meifert is the senior director of development for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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