‘Pop pop’ Al loved his baseball

Published 8:35 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Staff Writer

‘Pop pop’ Al loved his baseball. And I loved it when he came to watch me.
For years, he made the almost hour-long drive from Odenton to Silver Spring, Md. to watch his only grandson play the game he loved so dearly. And, trust me, I was nowhere near perfect on the playing field, but he always cheered me on like I was Brooks Robinson or Cal Ripken Jr.
Sometimes, he even made it to the game before me and my dad. ‘Pop pop’ would pull out his beach chair, nestle himself behind the backstop, and hoot, holler and cheer me on for hours.
Between innings, I’d go over to him to get some advice and a gum drop, or maybe some jellybeans.
From tee ball, to coaches’ pitch, to machine pitch, to pee wee, to junior league, through middle school and high school, he was there.
‘Pop pop’ Al is no longer here.
He succumbed to a heart attack on Monday afternoon while getting in the car for a doctor’s appointment.
He lived a fruitful and varied life, with a passion for sports, especially baseball, at the center of it.
And baseball was always something we could bond over and talk about.
I stopped playing in high school, but continued pursuing my passion as a sports writer in college. ‘Pop pop’ was always genuinely interested in what game I was covering this week or what controversial story I was going to write next. He even started pulling for ECU because I went there.
I would like to think that becoming a sports writer made him proud, and I really think it did.
He made me proud, as well.
‘Pop pop’ Al never had much to offer as far as material possessions, but what he gave came straight from the heart. He never missed a birthday, Christmas or Easter, and always greeted me at the front door with a card and candy. This past Easter, the last time I saw him before his passing, he gave me an Easter basket. I still have it and always will.
He was reliable and thoughtful.
He taught me how to cast a fishing rod, took me to my first NFL game and taught me how to appreciate the little things in life.
‘Pop pop’ Al was also adventurous. He grew up on the Chesapeake Bay in Annapolis, Md. As a bay boy, it was only natural for him to enlist in the Navy. After serving his country during World War II, he was honorably discharged.
His admiration for the Navy, and his country, stuck with him in retirement (my dad said he found ‘Pop pop’s honorable discharge card from the Navy in his wallet on Monday).
He spent most of the rest of his years near the Naval Academy as an electrician. It was a job that allowed him to travel, as he worked in Saudi Arabia for a few years and Houston a few more. Yet, he always found his way back home.
‘Pop pop’ Al never changed much to me over the years, even as old age, emphysema and heart problems caught up. And the last time I talked to him, he had the same questions about sports and work. Questions that could’ve been summed up with one — how are you grandson?
I’m doing fine ‘Pop pop.’ I hope now you are too.