September 25, 2022
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Father’s Day memories: Female sports journalists on the dads who shaped their fandom

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When I started working as a full-time beat reporter for MLB.com in 2010, my dad, Louis, was so proud he put my business card in the clear plastic sleeve of his wallet, the one where your driver’s license is supposed to go, so he could bring it up to random strangers. Two years before that, when I interned for the Tampa Bay Rays, he printed out every article I wrote over eight months and made it into a scrapbook.

In sports, we often hear of the father-son bond, of how pro athletes got their start playing catch in the yard or watching games with their dad until well past their bedtime. I got into sports because of my dad. We would listen to WFAN nonstop in the car. We’d watch the Yankees every night. (In 2008, he’d also watch Tampa Bay to talk to me every night about my articles. In 2010, when I got the Orioles job, he add a third American League East team to the nightly mix.)

I’d pick horses to win at the Kentucky Derby, play indoor soccer with my sister when Manchester United was on, and play street hockey to the New York Rangers pregame show. When my dad died from lung cancer in 2015, he was only 59. I felt cheated by time, by all the things in sports and life he wouldn’t be here for.

Father’s Day can be tough on a lot of people for a lot of reasons. For me, the best way to cope is to continue to remember, to keep talking about the things that made my dad so great.

This year, I reached out to five other women in various roles in sports media to do the same. Answers have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.


Emily Jones, Texas Rangers field reporter

My sister and I were raised by our daddy, Don. So much of our family time growing up revolved around sports, whether it was supporting our West Texas small town’s Plainview Bulldogs or curling up on the couch on the weekends to watch games. But it wasn’t until I was more than a decade into my sports broadcasting career that our bond came full circle.

Mike Hargrove and my dad were best friends in high school in Perryton, Tex. My parents asked him to be my godfather, and he obliged. Mike and my dad grew apart over the years, but always managed to stay in touch.

When I started working for the Rangers, Mike was managing the Seattle Mariners. My dad — always the jokester — implored me to go visit the visitors’ clubhouse and tell Mike his goddaughter needed help. I can only imagine what the Human Rain Delay (Hargrove’s nickname) must have been thinking when his public relations director summoned him to the tunnel outside the Mariners clubhouse, where I was waiting.

Daddy had never told Mike I was working for the Rangers. And we hadn’t seen each other since I was a little one, so he obviously had no clue what was going on. I quickly let him in on the joke, we shared a good laugh, and he breathed a giant sigh of relief. He’s already got four daughters of his own, after all.

Mike was one of the first calls I got after my daddy died in 2016. That conversation brought me so much comfort and made me eternally grateful for baseball, the game that brought my daddy and me so much joy.


(Courtesy of Jessica Kleinschmidt)

Jessica Kleinschmidt, Oakland A’s host/reporter

My dad, John, had heard about $1 Wednesdays at Oakland A’s games while we were living in Reno, Nev. The next thing you know, we were fueling up our forest green Jeep and driving to the Coliseum. When we got there, the person at the ticket window said they had sold out of the $1 tickets, but we could still pay that amount for box seats.

The moment I sat down, No. 3 hit a home run. I found a program on the ground, wiped the peanut shells off it, and opened to the roster page. I saw Eric Chavez’s name there, followed by a birthday that mirrored mine (except for the year). I also saw that center fielder Mark Kotsay resided in Reno. “Wow. What a coincidence,” I thought.

I remember that drive back so well. I was only 11 or 12, so I can only compare it to a really good “outing” when I played Little League and dad was taking us to McDonald’s. It was a high for me. We got home and I immediately searched on TV for when the A’s were playing the next day. We sat there the following night, with dad in his huge chair that squeaked when he sat in it, and watched the game. I pointed out Mark Ellis. I really liked the way he played and the way he and Bobby Crosby played together.

“I’m going to cover this team one day, dad,” I told him.

He immediately said, “OK, let’s do it.”

Chavez became my favorite player. My dad, as my Little League coach, saw that I had an arm and switched me to third base.

“Just like Chavez,” he told me.

When I went back to practice, I told all the guys on the team about Chavez and Ellis and Crosby — and “Did you know Kotsay lives in Reno?!” I started writing and researching and asking questions about the A’s. I made my dad read everything I wrote. Unfortunately, that $1 Wednesday game would be the first and last Oakland A’s game he and I attended together. My dad died in 2008.

At his funeral, it was the baseball community in the North Valleys that showed up. My dad was a Little League president, a groundskeeper, my coach, a mentor to so many kids who he would sign up to play ball so they would stay off the streets.

I made my first official “reporter debut,” in 2019 with NBC Sports Bay Area. The Angels hosted the A’s for their home opener. During that series, former A’s players threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Including Eric Chavez. I like to think that was my dad who made that happen.

Melanie Newman, Orioles/MLB Network broadcaster

My dad, Mike, is the reason I do what I do. He used to always tell me had sports broadcasting “been a thing” when he was going to school, that’s exactly what he would have done. Dad did some radio stuff in high school and college but I never got to sit down with him and find out more details. I always thought there would be more time for that.

He had the most beautiful voice though. There were so many nights I remember having great bedtime stories read by him. Growing up we would get free tickets in school for hitting reading goals, we went to the (Atlanta) Olympics in 1996 and Auburn football every Saturday. We would drive two hours to go to the games. I remember my seventh grade homecoming, my dad was like, “Hey I know the dance is Saturday but I got tickets for Auburn and Alabama if you’d rather go to that.” To me, it was a no-brainer.

He tested at genius-level IQ and I have no doubt he would have been an amazing broadcaster. When I got the Orioles job (in 2020), he could tell me everything about the 1970s Orioles, all kinds of minutiae. He had football stats from years and years just living in his head, he was that kind of a mind. He loved baseball growing up. His family got stationed in Ozark. It was the last place they were stationed before his dad was shot and killed. My dad was a big Nolan Ryan guy. The 1994 strike turned him off (of baseball) for a bit, but he got back into it for the Houston Astros’ World Series run.

He had big plans to come up and see me debut with the Orioles, but then COVID kept everyone out of the ballpark. Last year, when they did start letting fans in, he couldn’t get the time off work. And then he got really sick. My dad died in January and it still hurts every day, especially when the Orioles do the military homecomings because that was what he talked about, that moment he never got with his dad. There’s so many moments now I won’t get with him. My dad’s birthday was Tuesday, Flag Day, and I found myself thinking so much about our last conversation, when he told me that above all he was glad I have his heart and his way of thinking.

He was the only person who never challenged what I was doing all those years making no money, working in the minor leagues. He just trusted me and knew I was doing what I loved. I wish he had seen me in the big leagues, but I know he’s still watching. And I’ll never stop trying to make him proud.


(Courtesy of Dani Wexelman)

Dani Wexelman, MLB Network radio host, Perfect Game reporter and SportsNet New York analyst

My dad, Larry, served in Vietnam. He was drafted by the Marines out of Mizzou. When he spoke, everyone stopped to listen. He was a high school guidance counselor and the women’s basketball coach at Valley Park (Mo.).

When I was eight, my dad took me to my first softball practice. I had only played little league soccer before trying softball. He saw an ad in the newspaper, drove me over to Babler Elementary in St. Louis and told my coach that I’d never played before and that I’d need help, but damn if my dad didn’t talk me up before that first practice anyway. I know he asked my coach to give me a chance because my dad knew I’d make the most of it. And I did. I fell in love with the game and the time it gave us together. I ended up playing for that same coach and team for the next decade and eventually made varsity as a freshman in high school. Yeah, dad was proud of that one.

Even when my dad was sick and battling cancer, he showed up to every single practice and game he could, always with a smile on his face. It’s impossible to forget these images of him showing up for me during his toughest moments.

If I listen close enough, I can still hear him cheering me on.

When I look back, I realize softball gave me these precious moments with my dad, the long talks on our car rides home together, the summer vacations at the ballpark with lobster Larry, the stops at Silkys for ice cream before dinner, the immense pride I had (and still have) of being Larry’s daughter.

My dad died when I was 16 years old. Last year marked 16 years without him and that milestone sucked. I am who I am, in my career and in life, because of him.

Elanna Rubenstein, ESPN NFL coverage producer 

When I expressed interest in playing baseball as an elementary-aged tomboy, my dad, Kenny, never hesitated. The following weekend, we stood in the aisle of Sports Authority and — after my dad confirmed I didn’t want to play softball — we walked out with all the gear I needed to start Little League. I was one of a handful of girls who played in the boys league.

I am not sure why, but softball never quite piqued my interest as much as baseball. Growing up watching Yankees games with my dad and admiring Derek Jeter, I wanted to be him. Connecting with my dad over America’s pastime was the peak of my childhood. From watching the Yankees on TV, making our way to the Bronx for a game in person or channeling my best DJ swagger as my dad took the time to teach me the fundamentals of baseball in our front yard.

My dad also loved his New York Football Giants (though he may classify it as a more love-hate relationship). In 2008 and again in 2012 after the team won the Super Bowl, my dad was first in line at Bob’s Stores to get the official team T-shirts celebrating the championship.

One of my most cherished memories with my dad was surprising him with tickets to a Giants game in November 2016. My dad picked me up that morning ahead of a two-plus hour drive to East Rutherford expecting to sit in some cold nosebleed seats. But I had secretly arranged for us to have press passes and field access for the game. My dad was blown away. Walking onto the field pregame and seeing my dad’s face light up with happiness is one of the best memories I have of him.

After the game when the stadium had long cleared out, we spent some time on the field. My dad just marveled at my career and where it had taken me. We dreamed about the future. He died this past October of congestive heart failure after a 20-plus-year fight. I miss him every day. Without my dad’s constant love, affection and push to be the best, I wouldn’t be where I am today, from a girl deciding between softball and baseball to working for the worldwide leader in sports.

(Top photo of Kenny and Elanna Rubenstein courtesy of the Rubenstein family)





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