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Barry Foote has been a fixture at the Leland Hot Stove League banquet since its inception four years ago.
The North Carolina native was a catcher who played 10 years of big league baseball in the '70s and '80s. He later managed in the minors and coached in the majors for 10 more years.
Some people say Foote only comes to the hot stove banquet for the free food, but I think there’s more to it than that. Although he has never been the event’s keynote speaker, he always has something interesting to say.
Last week Foote talked about the importance of parenting. And when you think about it, what’s more important? A parent affects the lives of children, who grow up to become parents themselves. It’s a cycle.
Foote grew up in Smithfield and was a three-sport athlete in high school. He said he always had great parental support. In fact, his father once drove from Asheville to Wilmington to watch him play a baseball game.
Foote says there are two types of parents—parents of convenience and parents of inconvenience.
Parents of convenience support their children when it is convenient to do so. Parents of inconvenience support their children regardless.
Foote’s folks definitely fell into the latter category.
“If it was inconvenient, they were going to be there,” he said.
From my perspective, that kind of parent is sorely lacking with today’s high school athletes. Some parents are there every game, but just as many never show up.
I understand some parents cannot get off work to see their children play every game. But too often, I see athletes with no parents or family members in the stands at all.
I can’t tell you how many times I have followed an athlete through four years of high school and never seen his or her parents. Sometimes I see these parents walk arm-in-arm with their children at “Senior Night” and think to myself, where have you been all these years?
I feel bad for these athletes. I wonder what goes through their minds during games when everyone but them has a personal cheering section. I wonder what goes through their minds after games when everyone but them has someone there to offer a consolatory embrace or congratulations on a job well done. It has to be a lonely feeling.
I remember my parents attending pretty much every ball game I ever played and how reassuring it was to have someone there who supported me no matter what. I imagine my experiences in sports would have been quite different without their support.
As Barry Foote spoke from the podium at last week’s banquet, he asked his father to stand. An elderly gentleman seated near the back of the room stood for a moment and sat down just as quickly.
Barry Foote’s father will turn 80 in a few weeks. He’s still a parent of inconvenience.