Achieving Greatness

Baseball Hall of Fame Induction weekend ended this morning. Ron Santo and Barry Larkin were enshrined and, in my first Induction as Mayor, I was pretty busy. First a TV interview for WCPO in Cincinnati, then a radio show in Albany, followed by an enjoyable stint on Sirius with Jim Duquette and Mike Ferrin. Throw in a long interview with MLB.com’s youth reporter, a couple of parties and a SABR meeting, and it’s nap time.

One of the best parts of the weekend was seeing an old option trading friend Chris. Chris has been friends with Larkin since college, a teammate in collegiate ball and a roommate. When I was trading in the SPX pit at the Chicago Board Options Exchange, Chris was a clerk, then moved to trader, started his own firm and is now pretty, pretty big. I had hoped he’d be here for the weekend and, when I found out he was and reached out to him, he reached back and we spent two immensely enjoyable hours at Stagecoach Coffee, talking about the old days.

But not too much of that trading stuff. I remembered that Chris had an autistic son, and he knew about Nate. Nate is about 6 or 7 years older than Chris’ boy. We talked at length of our shared experiences, the highs and lows of being a parent, and how we’ve worked in ways sometimes different, sometimes similar, to get the most out of our sons.

It reminded me of a couple of things. As Chris wondered what was to come in the next few years, I thought back to Nate at 15. Was college on my mind for him? Nah.  I just hoped he’d get through high school. From the present I can see how much development took place in Nate in these last years. I believe Chris is on the verge of that same wondrous experience. I sure hope that’s the case.

Our conversation brought home why I write these blogs. I’ve said it before. When Nate was 5, 10, 15 years old, we were desperate for stories from the future, stories of similar kids who did something, anything, with their lives. The Katz’ have one story to tell. It’s not going to be everyone’s but it’s there for everyone to read about and see, perhaps, a glint on their own horizon.

I thought about another thing. Chris was and is very good at his job. I was kind of a shnook with a good spot in the pit, a smart guy with little to no interest in my chosen career. That being said, I did well. Chris did better. Both of our sons have benefited from being the kids of successful people who have the resources to get the best out of their children.

What of most of the rest of the world? I know I have readers who struggle to make ends meet, who work two jobs and don’t have the luxury of time to spend with their kids who need them, in schools that are unhelpful at best, harmful at worst. What of them?

And it’s because not everybody is as lucky as Chris or me, or Chris’ son and mine, that I feel obligated to share our story with blog posts, private emails or face to face meetings. To a very large degree we are all part of the same huge community and we need each other’s advice and knowledge to get the very best out of the kids we love so dearly.

Chris and I talked a lot about what is a successful life, from a parental point of view and from the view of our kids, whether our sons even look at it the same way. So there’s Larkin achieving the very height of his profession. There’s Chris’ son, dazzling his classmates with his proficiency in art history, and there’s Nate, graduating college and already a professional artist. All three deserve plaques in their individual Halls of Fame. And you and you kids do too, I’m sure of it.

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About Jeff Katz

Jeff Katz is Mayor of Cooperstown, the “Birthplace of Baseball” and home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. His latest book, Split Season:1981 - Fernandomania, the Bronx Zoo, and the Strike that Saved Baseball, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2015), received national attention, with coverage appearing in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Sporting News and NPR’s Only a Game, among others. Katz appeared on ESPN’s Olbermann and The Sporting Life with Jeremy Schaap and MLB Network’s MLB Now, with Brian Kenny. Split Season: 1981 was a finalist for the 2016 Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
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