This past month I conducted my first "Like Father, Like Son" seminar with a great group of dads from Washington Cathedral Church in Redmond, Washington. One of the key concepts I sought to teach at the seminar was that as sons we need to evaluate both the positives and the negatives received from our dads. We need to embrace the positives as a valuable heritage while we need to forgive the negatives, turning away from them and NOT passing them on to our children and grandchildren. I reminded the men that this is not an easy task but one that promises a great reward for the man who is willing to do it.
As spring training for major league baseball teams is beginning right now there is a story coming out of the Boston Red Sox training camp in Florida that illustrates both the challenges and the rewards of honoring our fathers. It is the story of J.T. Snow, the Red Sox free agent newly acquired from the San Francisco Giants. J.T. is the son of Jack Snow, the former All-Pro wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams from 1965 to 1975. Jack Snow passed away this January at 62 years old, but not before J.T. was able to tell his dad that he would be wearing Jack's old number with the Rams, #84, when he plays for the Red Sox this year.
But this father-son relationship had never been an easy one for J.T. and his siblings. Jack was a stern disciplinarian to J.T. and his sisters while they were growing up and was often super critical and overbearing. J.T., though athletically gifted like his dad, had inherited more of his mom's sensitive nature. There came a time just a few years ago when J.T. was playing for the California Angels that he had not talked to his parents for 2 1/2 years. Even when he learned that his mother had cancer, the silence continued.
It took a near-career-ending baseball injury to break the silence. In March of 1997, during spring training. a 100 mph Randy Johnson fastball hit J.T.'s wrist and ricocheted to hit the orbital bone around his left eye. It was then that J.T. called his parents and they took the call. Through his recovery the relationship with his parents went through healing as well. His mother passed away that following year from breast cancer. J.T. and his wife named their son who was born 8 months after her death "Shane" to honor her, as Shane was her maiden name.
In the precious few years that followed, Jack, J.T. and Shane formed a special three-generational bond. The love the three have for one another was evident to all who saw them together. The Giants' equipment manager nicknamed the three Snows, "Snow Man (Jack), Snow Ball (J.T.) and Snow Flake (Shane).
Even with Jack's passing this year, this story is one of tremendous hope because of J.T.'s choices. He is the one who reached out to his father and broke the silence. He forgave whatever wrongs he may have suffered from his dad and he honored him for the man he was with gratitude and acceptance.
"My dad did a lot to provide for my family by going out every Sunday and getting his body beat up, and I'll always be grateful for that. My mom was the calming influence of the family," J.T. recalls. He is also grateful for the valuable character qualities he has received from his dad. "I get my love of sports, my drive and my mental and work ethic from my dad. I got my personality from my mom."
J.T.'s honoring of his dad, Jack, is a powerful blessing he is passing onto his son, Shane. When he sees his son he is able to see the good qualities of his own dad within him. "He loves action sports, just like my dad did and just like I did." J.T has played the role of being a generational bridge from grandfather to grandson. With a little "nudge" from a Randy Johnson fastball he was able to push through the pain, forgive where necessary and bless his dad at the end of his life. In so doing he has both enriched his own life and that of his son by building upon the lasting legacy of Shane's Grandpa Jack.