“Part time warm up partner, part time pitching machine, part time baseball critic, full time dad”
While a lot of Keys dads are spending Father’s Day leisurely on the couch, or the sandbar, a handful of local dads are spending their Father’s Day flying home from Omaha, Nebraska – where they are hoping to bring home baseball tournament glory with their boys playing for the Lower Keys Barracudas.
Leaving last Monday out of Key West airport, dads like Coach Chris Rady have been playing with a group of core players since they were four years old. When the kids were six, they were playing eight-year-olds in tournaments, “We got our butts kicked, but learned from the experience,” said Rady, and the practice over the years has paid off.
The Omaha trip is an invite-only tournament taking place over three weeks, and the team has what it takes to make it pretty far because of their talent and the coaching staff made up of volunteer dads like Rady, Head Coach Drew Haggard, Jason Roberts, and grandpa Greg MacLaren. They won their first game in extra innings “and have been holding on strong and playing competitively with a lot of heart,” said mom of player Jack Haggard, Ginny, from the Omaha sidelines on Wednesday.
Rady has an athletic background in soccer, but learned baseball through coaching his son Anden, who plays pitcher, third base, and shortstop with 10 other teammates who live between Marathon and Key West. “The majority of the kids have been together since the beginning,” he said, adding that each coach has their own strengths. “I learned the game from being a coach, and my military background holds them accountable for everything they do.”
The team’s philosophy includes raising respectful, good men. “Baseball isn’t everything,” he said. “We strive for good manners and building good rapport.” The team was complimented several times on the trip for being so well behaved – sometimes a tough feat for about a dozen 10-year-olds.
And, taking on travel baseball is a huge commitment for the families, with most weekends away at tournaments and four-to-five evening practices a week. “There is nothing I would rather do than this,” Rady said. “It’s a rewarding experience to be a dad, and a coach.”
To follow the highlights of the team, search Lower Keys Barracudas Travel Baseball on Facebook – where dad Drew keeps everyone informed on the team’s progress.
“I love that I get to have all these great experiences with my Dad and PopPop.”
– Anden Rady of the Lower Keys Barracudas baseball team
“It’s great having my dad as a coach because you always have someone who loves you and wants to make you a better ball player.” – Jack Haggard of the Lower Keys Barracudas baseball team