It's a balancing act. A hard task for any father with children who are pursuing an athletic career. No father wants to become too involved, but a father also doesn't want to appear too distant if his sons need advice. Andy Van Slyke is no different, even if he is a bit more high profile than most dads. Van Slyke parlayed his success into a 13-year Major League career and clearly knows what it takes to make it at the highest level.
But he still encounters the same problems as any other father as he watches his four sons advance in their athletic careers. Should he impart his knowledge as a player? Or sit back and let his sons be independent and figure things out on their own? Even he doesn't know the answer. "I don't know where the balance is, to be honest with you," said Van Slyke, who is currently in his second season as the Tigers' first-base coach. "I don't know where the balance is being a guy that has a pretty good idea about what it takes to have a Major League career. I experienced it. My only encouragement to them is to play hard and play smart and play every day like it's your last day, because it might be." Simple advice, and it seems to have worked so far. His sons A.J., 23, and Scott, 20, are both working their way through the Minors with the Cardinals and Dodgers organizations, respectively. Jared, 18, just graduated from John Burroughs High School in St. Louis and received a football scholarship at Southeast Missouri State. He will be a candidate to start at quarterback at the Div. I-AA program as a true freshman. "Am I proud of the fact they they're doing what they want to do? Sure. But I don't think I'm going to be any more proud if they have big-league careers or my son Jared ends up throwing a football in the NFL," Van Slyke said. "I'll look at them as young men long before and after they wear any uniforms." "I don't have to live vicariously through their lives like a lot of dads do, and are guilty of. Do I have anxiety? Absolutely. I am worried, like any other father, if they don't make it what's their future after? All those things I'm not immune to."
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.