MODESTO, CA—Speaking with reporters before a game Monday, local Little Leaguer Nathan Garrett expressed his heartfelt wish that, just once, his unemployed father could not make it out to see him play.
“Every time I come up to bat, I hope deep down inside that this will be the time that I look up into the stands and don’t see my dad,” said the visibly downcast 10-year-old, confirming that his father Peter Garrett, a former hospital records clerk who has been out of work for 15 months, had not missed even one game all season. “I look down the rows of bleachers but he’s always there. And when I see him my heart just sinks.”
“I would give anything for him to be in an office not watching me play,” Garrett added.
The fourth-grader admitted he often feels envious of his teammates, whose steadily employed fathers are either unable to make it to games or only show up for the final inning or two. In addition, Garrett reported being especially saddened when his dad failed to miss even the most inconveniently timed games right after school in the middle of the week, stating that he felt embarrassed and ashamed that everyone else on the team might notice that his father was the only parent in the stands.
With his father never putting in long hours at work, Garrett acknowledged that he has devised ways to help him cope with the constant attention he receives.
“I try to put the whole thing out of my mind, but sometimes it’s really hard not to think about how Dad isn’t stuck behind a desk somewhere, especially when he stands up and cheers my name,” said Garrett, sullenly noting that the number of games left in the season that his father could potentially miss were rapidly running out. “And once I start thinking about how he came to yet another game and how he’ll probably come to the next one too, I just feel awful.”
“I guess Dad will always be the one whistling and clapping for me in the stands instead of furthering a career,” Garrett continued. “And that’s just something I have to live with.”
In addition to showing up at games, Garrett’s long-unemployed father is said to frequently disappoint his son with his constant availability at home as well. In particular, Garrett stated that his dad, who hasn’t had a job interview in months, is always ready to play catch in the backyard at any time, drive him to and from practice at all hours, and even help out with school or Boy Scouts projects.
Moreover, Garrett noted with a dejected sigh that his father frequently offers to take him to the local minor league ballpark.
In spite of his frustrations with his father’s behavior, Garrett said that ever since he joined Little League last spring—shortly after his dad was laid off from the job he’d held for over a decade—he has clung to a sliver of hope that his father might one day apologize and offer an excuse about having important work to take care of instead of showing up.
“I just want Dad to come up to me before a game, put his hand on my shoulder, and finally say, ‘I’m not going to be there tonight, champ,’” said the second baseman for the league’s Blue Jays club. “If he only knew how much I think about walking off the field after a game without being hugged or congratulated. That’s all I want.”
Ultimately, Garrett said that, when he later looks back at this time in his life, he wants to remember his father having work obligations that prevented him from attending his son’s extracurricular activities.
“I just wish Dad would realize how much it means to me that he not be here,” said Garrett before taking the field. “When it comes down to it, I just want my dad to have a little less time for me, you know?”
The 10-year-old then reportedly covered the tears welling in his eyes with his glove after hearing the phrase “Go get ’em, Nate!” shouted from behind the dugout.