To my dad — and my best friend — thank you for making me the person I am today. Happy Father’s Day. I love you more than you’ll ever know.
When I think back on my childhood, one day stands out most. I was seven years old, and it was early November. I had strep throat, or the flu, or some bug that I can’t remember now but at the time kept me home from school with a high fever. I was devastated about it — not because I was sad about missing a day of school, but because that night was game five of the 2009 World Series. The Philadelphia Phillies trailed the series 3-1 to the New York Yankees. It was a must-win game, and my dad and I were supposed to go.
We had a strict rule in our house: If you’re too sick for school, you’re too sick for anything fun. It was a fair rule, and my parents followed it to a T — except for this one time.
Much to my mom’s dismay, my dad made the executive decision to take me to the game. At the time, he thought he was making a bad parenting move. Who takes their sick kid to a baseball game on a school night? But looking back, the memory of that night absolutely outweighed the bending of that rule.
I don’t remember much about the actual game. I know it was freezing. I know I got hot chocolate at a baseball game for the first time. I know the Phillies won. And most importantly, I know that I recovered from strep throat, or the flu, or whatever bug I had, and I was left with one of my greatest memories of all time:
An amazing baseball game with my dad.
If you know me, you know I love sports. But what you may not know is that my dad is the reason why I love sports so much.
Sitting glued to our basement couch on Saturdays watching Michigan football, throwing softballs in the backyard and attending as many Phillies games as we could are some of the strongest memories from my childhood — and they are some of the things that shaped me the most.
As a little kid, I struggled to figure out my identity. I liked fashion, beauty and princesses like many young girls; but I also liked playing softball, watching sports and talking about my favorite teams, interests my friends didn’t really share.
No matter what, though, there was always one place where I could be myself. That was with my dad.
My dad immersed me in the sports he grew up with, and it didn’t take long to realize that my passions aligned with his. I liked fashion, beauty and princesses. But as I spent more and more time with my dad, I realized that I loved playing softball, watching sports and talking about my favorite teams.
As I spent more and more time watching and playing sports, I discovered a strong connection to them unlike any other hobby in my life. And not only did I love the strategy, competition and perseverance associated with sports, but even more, I loved how it strengthened the relationship I had with my dad.
His love of sports is immense and he passed it on to me. And as that happened, he became more than my father. He became my friend.
The relationship I have with my dad is incomparable to anything or anyone. A lot of kids don’t get excited about hanging out with their parents, but I do. A Friday night at home watching a Phillies game with my dad was more than ok — it was great. And it facilitated some of my favorite moments.
I’m not the type of person to get homesick. Of course I miss my parents and my home, but after living in three different cities across two countries as a kid, I was used to change. But in March of 2021, the spring of my freshman year, I got homesick for the first time in my life.
For as long as I can remember, March Madness was something that my dad and I always watched together. When Trey Burke sent the Wolverines to the Elite Eight in 2013, my dad and I screamed from our Philadelphia basement. When Kris Jenkins hit the buzzer beater and Villanova won the 2016 National Championship, my dad and I jumped up and down together in our Amsterdam apartment. When Jordan Poole hit a shot nobody thought would go in so Michigan could survive and advance in 2018, my dad and I stood in front of the TV at some random Pittsburgh hotel in awe.
As I revisited all of those memories — my dad at the center of each one — the thought of watching the first-seeded Wolverines in my Ann Arbor house without him just didn’t feel right. And my dad understood it. He recognized how special this was for us, and because of that, he bought me a plane ticket home.
And although Michigan’s season ended in heartbreaking fashion in the Elite Eight and tears streamed from my eyes as the final buzzer sounded, there was no place I’d rather have been.
And one year later, after a season from the Wolverines that fell short of expectations — and Michigan was lucky to get a tournament bid as a No. 11 seed — there was no question about where I’d be watching the tournament: next to my dad, cheering Michigan on.
When the Wolverines upset Tennessee to move on to the Sweet Sixteen, and videos of Skeeps and The Brown Jug flooded Instagram and Snapchat stories, there wasn’t a second when I wished I was at school. Michigan may be in Ann Arbor, but my connection to the Wolverine spirit has always been strongest with my dad.
My dad did more than just watch sports with me. He showed me that I could do more than follow games from our couch — he knew I could impact games from the front office.
Within the last decade, the stigma surrounding women in the sports industry has become more visible. But in my household, the expectations haven’t changed — because my dad raised me with the belief that girls belong in sports just as much as boys. And he knew it was possible because I showed him day after day that this was where I was meant to be.
When, at the age of 11, I declared to my dad that I would be the first female general manager for a Major League Baseball team, he knew I could. In fact, the only issue he had with my declaration was me being the first female to do so.
I remember him echoing my beliefs in myself to reach that level, but more than that, he believed in the ability of women to reach that mark. He believed that I could become a general manager, but he also knew that times would change and other women would get there too. And I’m happy he ended up being right.
As the outlook of women in sports brightened, my dad’s belief remained unwavering, and his support only grew. I know that every time my dad pushed me to work harder or do better, it was because he believed I had greatness.
And it’s a greatness that stems not just from my love of sports, but from the love of my dad.