Father's Day Is Special Treat For Some Area Duos
By Keith Mills
Happy Father's Day, Kevin Hockaday -- and Steve Markey and Matt Butler and Gary Fratantuono and Cal Ripken Jr. and Al Bumbry.
Another Father's Day is here, and once again millions of fathers and sons around the country will converge on the baseball diamond to repeat what has been a time-honored tradition.
Baseball wasn't invented for fathers and sons, though sometimes it seems that way (with no disrespect to the daughters out there). Nowhere is that more prevalent than on this year's Youse's Maryland Orioles Collegiate baseball team, the former Leone's and Johnny's powerhouse which features a variety of local high school and college players whose baseball careers have been directly influenced by their fathers.
"I don't know if it's the history of the game or the strong connections you make through the game," Ryan Ripken said, "but for some reason, when you play baseball, fathers and sons always seem to be in the middle of it."
| Ryan Ripken
One of the most famous father-son combos in this area is Ryan and Cal Ripken Jr., whose Hall of Fame career with the Orioles was played out for all Baltimore to witness and savor. Ryan was 2 when Cal broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games-played record in 1995. He was 9 when his dad played his last game for the Orioles.
He's 18 now, and a first baseman for Youse's, which plays in the Cal Ripken Sr. Baseball League. That team will go after its 29th All-American Amateur Baseball Association tournament championship in Johnstowne, Pa. in August, its third in a row and ninth over the last 10 years.
Ryan is just one of a handful of area players whose fathers not only played catch with them when they first starting playing the game, but either coached them or influenced their development as outstanding high school and collegiate players.
Add to that coaches Al Bumbry and Tim Norris, whose sons Steven and Brooks are both alumni of the Maryland Orioles program, and the father-son connections are great on this year's Youse's team, which will spend Father's Day at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf against the Southern Maryland Nationals in a Ripken Sr. League game.
| Al Bumbry
Brendan and Matt Butler
Matt Butler is a 1984 graduate of John Carroll School in Bel Air. His son Brendan graduated from the same school two years ago and just finished his first year of playing for Towson University, hitting .308 with five doubles, two triples and 34 runs batted in.
Matt coached Brendan on the Bel Air Terps Pop Warner football team.
"My father was a really good football player," Brendan Butler said, "and that's what I remember about him coaching me. He was a football guy first."
Matt Butler played football at Salisbury State before settling back in Harford County with his wife, Cindy. Brendan also played football at John Carroll before giving up the sport because of injuries and concentrating solely on baseball.
An alumnus of the Harford Sox amateur baseball program, Brendan enjoyed a superb career at John Carroll, where he hit .486 as a senior for coach Joe Stetka. The Orioles selected Brendan during the 50th round of the 2011 MLB Draft.
"My father was always supporting me," Brendan said. "I need to thank him, a lot. You don't always do that, but he's always been a big influence on me."
Brendan Butler earned a spot on the Colonial Athletic Association All-Rookie team this spring and plays third and first base and the outfield for Youse's.
"The father-son connection is a special connection," Brendan said. "Bringing you up to play sports and instilling that competitive attitude, that's what my dad did for me."
Dominic and Gary Fratantuono
Like Brendan Butler, Dominic Fratantuono is a member of the Towson University baseball team, and he hit .301 this spring for coach Mike Gottllieb with five home runs, six triples, 33 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
And like Butler, he once played in the MIAA A Conference. Dominic was in the final graduating class two years ago at Cardinal Gibbons, where he played both baseball and soccer and was named to the Maryland State Baseball Coaches Association All-State team. He represented the Crusaders in the Brooks Robinson All-Star Game.
Long before he got to Gibbons, he was coached by his dad Gary, a former catcher for coach Mel Montgomery at Old Mill High in Millersville.
"He taught me how to love the game," said Dominic, the starting right fielder for both Towson and Youse's, "how to play the game and how to be the best player I could be."
Dominic grew up in the Linthicum section of Anne Arundel County and began his career playing for his dad in the Linthicum-Ferndale T-ball program. When he was 9, his dad began coaching a Maryland Orioles travel team, a team that stayed together until two years ago, when it lost during the championship game of the NABF U-17 World Series in Lynchburg, Va.
The core of that team included Chris Pelz and Steve Shillinberg, teammates of Dominic at Cardinal Gibbons; Sean Doyle and Brandon Franke of Archbishop Curley; Mike Schmidt and Mike Bronakoski of North County; Russ Patti of Centennial; Cody Beckwith of Perry Hall; Christian Wolfe, a teammate of Brendan Butler's at John Carroll; and Glynn Davis of Northeast High in Pasadena.
Davis signed with the Orioles two years ago and is now playing for the Delmarva Shorebirds. Schmidt plays at UMBC, while Bronakoski is a teammate of Dominic Fratantuono's at Towson. Patti just finished his sophomore year at York College, while Wolfe, after playing two years at Harford Community College, just finished his first year at UNC-Greensboro, where he played first base and hit .291.
"Those days were great," Dominic Fratantuono said. "We had a lot of fun and learned a lot about how to play."
Dominic and his brother Justin were teammates at Cardinal Gibbons for two years before Justin transferred to Calvert Hall for his final year of high school when Gibbons closed in June 2010. Justin also earned All-State honors in baseball and just completed his first year at the United States Naval Academy.
As it was during the days with the Linthicum-Ferndale Little League, baseball now for Dominic is still a family affair. His mom, Janine, and dad, Gary, are regulars at most Towson and Youse's Maryland Orioles games, while Gary is still a major influence on his oldest son's career.
"I look back now and am really grateful for what he did," Dominic said. "The time he put in, how he coached us, I'm so thankful for that. He made a lot of us a lot better players, and I will always appreciate that."
K.J. and Kevin Hockaday
K.J. Hockaday went to John Carroll, and graduated in 2011 as one of the school's best baseball players ever, and is now heading into to his second year at the University of Maryland. He hit .305 this season in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference as the team's starting third baseman.
Kevin Hockaday is also no stranger to success. A little more than 20 years ago, he led Joppatowne to back-to-back state basketball championships for coach Mike Bauer, solidifying his reputation as one of Harford County's premier athletes during the early 1990s.
"My father was a great basketball player," said K.J., who also played basketball at John Carroll for three years before giving it up his senior year to focus on baseball, "and he had a chance to go overseas and play. But he and my mom decided to raise a family. They gave birth to me and have given me every opportunity to play whatever sport I wanted. They have always supported me."
Kevin and Tina Hockaday have three children -- K.J. and his two younger sisters, Alyssa and Karizma, who both play softball at Harford Tech.
Kevin Darnell Hockaday Jr. always loved to play baseball, and his father was always there for him.
"I'm glad he gave me the opportunity to play baseball," said K.J., the starting third baseman and cleanup hitter for Youse's. "It's something I love to play. He took me to tournaments, tried to get me into college and was with me through the whole process when I got drafted."
The Orioles picked K.J. during the 14th round of last year's June draft after his sensational senior season at John Carroll, during which he hit .642 with 10 home runs.
Instead of signing, he played the summer for Youse's, helping the Orioles win their third straight AAABA title in Johnstowne. Then he helped Maryland finish with a 32-24 record during his first year at College Park this spring.
K.J. is a chiseled 6-foot-3, 222 pounds, though next to his dad Kevin, he looks normal.
Kevin Hockaday Sr. was a 6-foot-5 scoring and rebounding machine at Joppatowne, where he led the Mariners to the 1990 and '91 Class 1A state basketball championships.
In his senior year in late February 1991, he scored 19 points with 15 rebounds during Joppatowne's 51-46 win against Havre de Grace in the Class 1A regional finals. In early March, he dominated inside as the Mariners beat Pocomoke, 67-47, for their second straight state title. During the semifinals and finals at Cole Field House, Kevin Sr. scored a combined 29 points, with 22 rebounds.
Now, he isn't living his life through the athletic careers of his son and two daughters, but savors every second of it. K.J. will eventually get the chance to play professional baseball, and Kevin will continue to provide his son with every once of support he can.
"He is truly a remarkable man," said K.J, who hit 30 home runs at John Carroll to break New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira's MIAA A Conference record of 29. "He's not only my dad, but he's my best friend. He helps me every day. I can go to him about anything, whether it's baseball, girls, school. He's always just put me in the right opportunity to be successful."
Brad and Steve Markey
Brad Markey's Little League career reads like a road atlas -- the Emmorton Little League program of Harford County, Forest Hill, the Harford Sox, the Mud Hens, Churchville, Chesapeake Bay Hawks and Mid-Atlantic Mets.
From there, it was on to C. Milton Wright High School. After one year at Georgia Tech, he transferred to Sante Fe Junior College in Gainesville, Fla., and will play next year at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
Through it all, his father, Steve, has been right by his side with an assist from his mother, Tammy.
"He actually started with his mom," Steve Markey said. "Bradley was 3 years old and she'd go out to the yard and pitch to him. She learned her lesson one day when he drilled her in the stomach."
"Not sure I remember that," Brad said. "But I was always in the backyard with my mom and dad, and through the years, he was always my coach."
"I'd get home from work," Steve Markey said, "and he'd say, 'Let's go play catch.' We had a tunnel in the backyard, since he was little, so he could hit. As he got older, I was afraid to pitch to him."
Steve Markey grew up in Laurel, where he played baseball at St. Vincent Pallotti High School. Now an attorney in Harford County, he also owns the Extra Innings batting complex on Rosedale Avenue in eastern Baltimore County.
Brad Markey had a sensational career at C. Milton Wright High in Bel Air, leading coach Tony Blackburn's Mustangs to the Class 3A state championship and an undefeated season three years ago and earning All-Metro Player of the Year honors from The Baltimore Sun.
This past spring at Sante Fe, he finished with a 10-4 record, 70 strikeouts and a 1.33 earned run average while being named first-team All-State in the brutally competitive Florida Junior College Baseball Association.
The ace of the Youse's staff during last year's AAABA championship run, he's looking ahead to his first year at Virginia Tech and looking back on what has been a superb career by thanking his father.
"He was always there," Brad said. "Still is. He coached me until I was about 14 or 15. But we always had code words when I was on the mound."
"I think one day Bradley's going to be a coach," said Steve, who is now a member of the Youse's Maryland Orioles board of directors. "He was always willing to help out another ballplayer. I see him in here (Extra Innings) and I watch him work with the younger kids."
"I'd always listen to him," Brad said. "Sometimes I didn't like what I was hearing, but I always listened. He always had my best interest at heart."
Ryan and Cal Ripken Jr.
Most Orioles fans will remember the snapshot of Kelly Ripken holding her 2-year-old son Ryan, her daughter Rachel by her side, as Cal took the now-famous victory lap around Camden Yards the night of Sept. 6, 1995, when he broke Lou Gehrig's all-time record of most consecutive games played.
No. 2,131 seems like just yesterday, and so does that image of young Ryan in his mom's arms.
Ryan is now a gifted 6-foot-5, 18-year-old multi-sport athlete, who is about to embark on a college baseball career that will take him to the University of South Carolina. First he'll spend the summer with Youse's, a team coached by his dad's former roommate, Tim Norris.
Norris, a 1978 graduate of Archbishop Curley; Cal; Larry Sheets; and Mike Boddicker shared a house together in Bluefield, W.Va., during the summer of '78 as they all began their baseball careers.
After coaching with his son Brooks this past spring at Archbishop Curley, which lost to Calvert Hall, 1-0, in the MIAA A Conference championship game, Norris is back in the dugout, running one of the nation's most successful amateur teams.
"When I was asked to come play here, I was really excited," Ryan Ripken said. "You hear about what they've done in the past and the history of the team. It's very exciting. Hopefully, this summer we can do some great things and finish with a championship in Johnstown."
Ryan graduated from Gilman recently after completing an outstanding high school career in both basketball and baseball. During the spring of 2010, as a sophomore, he helped the Greyhounds win the MIAA A Conference baseball championship with a win against Calvert Hall. This past February, he helped Gilman win the B Conference basketball championship.
Now, he's playing first base for Youse's, while savoring what has been a truly outstanding career at Gilman, capped off two weeks ago when the Orioles picked him during the 20th round of the draft.
"It feels like everything went by really quick," said Ryan, who was named to The Sun's first-team All-Metro. "It feels like our freshman year was just a few days ago. It's sad in a way, but I'm excited to be moving forward."
Through Ryan's entire high school career, Cal and Kelly have been there. When Larry Sheets took over for Marty Meloy as Gilman's baseball coach three years ago, he asked Cal to assist him.
"It's been a very special time for both of us," Ryan said. "My father is just like most people. He's always been there, always helped me out."
Talk to Ryan Ripken and it's like talking to Cal. He's quiet and thoughtful, yet loaded with insight and perspective for a teenager heading to his first year of college.
"Baseball's a really tough sport to play," Ryan said. "You go through a lot of ups and downs. He (Cal) has always played a crucial role in my development. Not just in baseball, but in life. He's helped me grow and mature and has made me a lot better person, and hopefully, I can keep growing."
Steven and Al Bumbry
Al Bumbry is a coach for Youse's Maryland Orioles. His son Steven last played for the team during the summer of 2008, and is now a member of the Orioles' Class AA farm team at Bowie.
"Just like any fathers and sons, we have our moments," Al Bumbry said. "But I've always enjoyed working with him, particularly when he was 16 and he told me he wanted to concentrate exclusively on baseball."
That's when Steven was a junior at Dulaney High School, during the spring of 2005. Two years later, he was a freshman at Virginia Tech. During the summer of 2008, he formed one of the great outfields in Youse's history, when he teamed with LSU's Leon Landry and Georgia Tech's Jeff Rowland to help the Maryland Orioles win the 26th of their 28 championships.
Three years ago, the Orioles picked him during the 12th round of the draft, and he's been with his hometown team ever since.
"Sometimes it hurts when he's not doing well," Al said, "but that's part of the territory. I remember when he was 4 or 5 years old, when I worked for the Red Sox as a coach. He'd come to ballpark and we'd go on the field and I'd throw to him or hit him balls. Seeing him now brings back all of those memories.
"Now, I watch games and watch him. I try to point out the good things along with the negative things. I think he feels comfortable telling me things he won't tell anyone else."
Al Bumbry is one of the finest players in Orioles history, a former American League Rookie of the Year and All-Star center fielder who spent 13 years playing in Baltimore.
Since he retired from playing and coaching in the big leagues, he has spent time working with kids in the area. He is a gold mine of knowledge and perspective, and has aided in the development of hundreds of young players. He turned 65 this April, and still throws batting practice to this year's Youse's team, which now includes the son of one of his former Orioles teammates -- Ryan Ripken.
"It's strange seeing him now as big and as tall as he is," said Al, who threw batting practice to Ryan for the first time during Youse's first workout together two weeks ago. "I remember him when he was knee-high to Cal. It was great throwing to him, and great seeing him out here."
Al Bumbry will spend Father's Day at Prince George's County Stadium in Bowie, watching Steven and the Bay Sox play the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
"It's been fun watching his career evolve," Al said. "He's had to deal with some injuries along the way, but he's always done things the right way and he works hard."
Just like his dad.
Happy Father's Day.
Posted June 16, 2012