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Hummel column: Much more than just an old baseball glove

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

(NOTE: Lynn Hummel is on vacation. The following Father's Day article is a reprint of an article written when his father, Jake Hummel, was still alive)

As the man walked through his garage, he noticed his old baseball glove hanging on a nail. He was in no hurry, so he put on the glove and pounded his fist into it a few times. The leather was stiff and cracked and the glove was long since out of style, but the original quality was still obvious. The glove was over 25 years old and it was a special one. His dad had bought three of them, one for each of his sons. They were the best gloves around in their day.

As he pounded the glove he thought back to the days of his boyhood, and what his dad had taught him about baseball and about life all at the same time. To his dad, the same rules applied to both. You practiced hard, you threw hard, you ran hard, you tried hard, and more often than not you won. But not always, so you had to learn about losing and about sportsmanship too. Then you played all the harder next time. His favorite word was "hustle." That one word summed up his attitude about baseball and about life.

His dad always saw to it that he had a glove, from the earliest days he could remember. His dad was always playing catch with him, teaching him, encouraging him. His dad coached in his spare time and helped lots of other kids too. Rather than just telling them what to do, he showed them. He was a terrific player himself. Those who saw him play as a young man said he could have been a pro if he'd had the opportunity. As a little boy, the son was proud of his dad's ability as a ballplayer. He was still proud years later as his dad continued to play softball well into his 50s. He never lost that hustle.

The dad hustled in his work too. Up at dawn to load his truck, then back for breakfast with his family. The son got to go along on some runs during the summer. Then for a few summers during his teen years he worked for his dad, driving a second truck. As the son thought back, he wished a wish: that every son should have the chance to be with his dad at work and to work for him. Without many words being spoken, it seems that fathers pass strength to their sons by working with them and working where their sons can observe them.

The son remembered his dad visiting his own father often. Grandpa had white hair and moved around very slowly. He didn't speak English very well. So, the dad went down to bring him whatever he needed, to visit with him in German and take care of him. The son didn't understand what they were saying, but he could feel the special bond between them. His dad was his father's keeper.

Later, when his dad's brother had health problems and hard times, his dad was at the brother's place helping out. When they grew up together on the farm, everybody pitched in when there was a problem or a job to do. That never changed. He was his brother's keeper.

Though his dad was a man of few words, his kids always knew he meant what he said. There weren't lots of theories or books about raising children in those days and an occasional spanking was still considered a wholesome influence. And when his dad warned him that if there was any trouble in school, dad would be on the teacher's side, he learned something about respect for authority. When it came to intentional troublemaking, there was no lenience. But when something happened accidentally, he was surprisingly patient.

The dad had only gone through the ninth grade himself and saw things he had the ability to do, but not the training. So, he encouraged — yes, even pushed — his own children to become educated. One year, four of them were in college at the same time. He truly wanted his kids to have the opportunities that for him had been impossible. And they knew it.

Soon all his children were away from home and their dad was helping other kids. He was driving school bus. He was tutoring a girl's gymnastic group with no qualification other than enthusiasm. He was coaching, teaching and helping kids. And they loved him. When he was 70, they were knocking at his door asking him to come and play tennis with them.

In his retirement, he always had four or five jobs. Always something, always on the go. He was dedicated to fitness and preferred to walk and run rather than drive. If he felt he hadn't had enough exercise in a day, he'd run up and down the basement stairs before bed.

And once the father, his son and his son's daughter had gone to a running track for the Granddaughter's workout. Before the evening was over, Grandpa (then in his 69th year) ran a fast 220 yards on the cinders. He refused to grow old.

All these things the son remembered as he smacked his fist into that old baseball glove. He had a solid dad — an extraordinary dad and he was proud of him. The son had been given much from his father. More than he could ever measure. He hoped he had some of the good stuff to pass on to his children.

To each father, whether he teaches the lessons of life through a baseball glove, a horse, an old car, a musical instrument, an acre of land, a tractor, a fishing rod, a shotgun or a book; thanks for the lessons and Happy Father's Day.

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