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Players Take Their Kids To Work

April 21, 1998

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) _ Before a recent Texas Rangers’ game against the Baltimore Orioles, a couple of guys named Narron and Dent were shagging balls in the outfield at The Ballpark.

But it wasn’t Rangers third base coach Jerry Narron and dugout coach Bucky Dent. Rather, it was their sons, kindergartner Connor Narron and first-grader Cody Dent.

The scene was part of an age-old baseball tradition: major-league dads sharing their love of the game with their children.

These ballpark kids can be seen soaking up the baseball life _ shagging flies, working as ball boys or girls or just hanging around the clubhouse _ on most game days when school’s not in session.

Across the diamond, Cal Ripken Jr. recalled hanging around big-league parks with his dad, Cal Ripken Sr., when he was a kid.

``I was hanging around the ballyard from the earliest time I can remember,″ the Orioles’ star said. ``I’d get to shag balls and I got to put my uniform on and do a lot of baseball things.″

``The coolest thing, you could actually go up and talk to a pitcher, a catcher, an infielder. You could ask them all kinds of questions. It was a lot of information that you could pool and try to help your game.″

Narron and Dent say they simply love spending time with their sons.

``It’s just a lot of fun to have them out here and have them with us,″ said Narron, who plays catch with his son before batting practice. Dent hits grounders and fly balls to young Cody.

Both boys have their own uniforms, provided by Rangers equipment manager Zack Minasian, with their dads’ names and numbers on the back.

Connor said he likes chasing balls (``I dive,″ he said.) at The Ballpark, but hopes someday to trade his Rangers jersey for another.

``I like the National League,″ he said.

Lee Stevens’ son, Matthew, is in kindergarten. Stevens began bringing him to the park last year.

``I’d been waiting for him to get old enough to come out. He really enjoys it. And it’s really special to me, to see him shagging balls, wearing a jersey with my name on the back,″ the Rangers’ DH said.

Second baseman Mark McLemore says his son, Darien, 4, ``gets a great kick out of it. He’s still too young to know what it really means, but I know what it means to me. It’s something I always wanted to happen.″

Tom Grieve, the former Rangers general manager and now a TV announcer for the team, has two sons in professional baseball, including budding Oakland A’s star Ben Grieve.

The elder Grieve, who was on the Washington Senators’ roster when the franchise moved to Texas in 1972, began taking his sons to work with him at an early age.

``The important thing is to be able to spend some time with them. We’re away from them half the time,″ he said. ``There aren’t many jobs that your kids can come with you to work.″

But Grieve said all the ballpark kids know they had better respect the privilege.

``If they play hide and seek in the dugout, or they’re pulling practical jokes on the players, or they’re drinking cokes in the clubhouse, they’re probably not going to be invited back,″ he said.

Grieve said he never had to ask his sons _ Tim is now in the Arizona minor league organization _ if they wanted to go to the ballpark.

``They were always ready to go. They loved being at the park, they loved being in the clubhouse. They loved players joking around with them. They loved fielding grounders on a big-league field,″ Grieve said.

``Just seeing them and how much they enjoyed doing it was a thrill for me. They pick up a few phrases you might not want them to have, but to me that was a small price to pay for being around big-league baseball.″

Ripken said he has just started bringing his 4-year-old son, Ryan, to the ballpark.

Young Ryan loves wearing his dad’s jersey. But that’s not the sweetest part of this father-son tradition.

``He loves his daddy, and he wants to be his daddy,″ Ripken said. ``I think that’s the greatest compliment a dad can receive, that your son likes what you do or likes being you.″

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