Father's Day and baseball go hand-in-hand for Boise Hawks

From a play-by-play man to a catcher far from home, Sunday was about dads and sons.

tphibbs@idahostatesman.comJune 16, 2014 

Mike Safford, the voice of the Boise Hawks, and his son, P.J., enjoy Father's Day at the park.

TREVOR PHIBBS

— Father's Day and baseball are harmoniously bonded. Fathers have enjoyed spending time with their children at the ballpark for centuries. Sharing laughter. Cracking peanuts. Snagging foul balls. Reminiscing about memories shared watching the game with their fathers.

Mike Safford has voiced hundreds of games over the past 10 seasons as the play-by-play announcer for the Boise Hawks. His son, P.J., has been alongside virtually from his first breath six years ago. Introduction to the sport was inevitable.

"What's been neat is watching him grow up," Safford said. "In the past, he'd live in the bounce house at whatever ballpark we'd go to. Now you can see he loves baseball. As soon as I get my work done, we're down on the field or in the batting cage hitting balls and playing a game of catch."

P.J. ditched his customary blue Batman jumpsuit for his green neon jersey at Memorial Stadium on Sunday. He said the wardrobe change is for special occasions, specifically holidays. An enormous sacrifice for a devoted "Caped Crusader" fan.

"Awesome," P.J. said when asked what he thought of his father's profession. "He always helps me with stuff, and lets me talk on the radio. He's the best dad that I've had."

"I like that (I'm the only one)," Safford chimed in jokingly.

Justin Marra hit his first home run of the season, manufacturing a 6-4 lead for Boise in the sixth inning of an 11-9 victory. He spoke with his father in the morning and thanked him. Despite the time difference, he knew his father was listening on the radio from the East Coast.

"My dad has obviously been my biggest supporter," said Marra, who is from Toronto. "Unfortunately, he can't come up to watch too many games. I know he wants to. I know he's listening at home on the radio, and it means a lot to show him he's the reason I'm here. I appreciate him, and I hope he knows that.

"He usually texts me when (I hit a home run). It's a little late for them, but I know he stayed up and listened. I'm excited to find out (what he said)."

Droves of fathers dusted off their gloves for an opportunity to catch with their children before Boise's third game of the five-game series against Tri-City. They participated in danceoffs and relay races. Baseball provided cherished time, the type of moments to reminisce about in the future.

"I grew up in Boise, and my dad used to take me here," said Adam Rankin, who won tickets to an upcoming Hawks game with his son, Zachary. "Just great memories of coming here with my dad. I'm happy to be here with my son."

Boise 11, Tri-City 9

The Hawks opened the season with three consecutive wins for the first time since 2001, when they finished 52-23.

Boise scored 25 runs in the three games, including posting back-to-back double-figure run totals. Kyle Schwarber resumed his torrid start, uncorking a two-run blast well beyond the 400-foot center field wall to pull the Hawks even at 3-3 in the third. He nearly added a grand slam in the eighth before the wind caught the ball at the track, but he was still credited with another RBI. Schwarber is 7-for-11 with two homers and nine RBIs.

Zak Blair's poke to center unknotted a 7-7 tie in the seventh. Trevor Clifton pitched four innings, striking out five with four walks. Yomar Morel earned the win after blowing a save opportunity.

Trevor Phibbs: 377-6424; Twitter: @IDS_Phibbs

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