Nick Punto was 12 years old when his father sat him down for a talk. There was a lot Lou Punto needed to share with his son, and regardless of how young Nick was at the time, he wanted him to hear it then.
It was definitely traumatizing in a good way to hear these things about your father, Nick recalled with a smile.
Like many kids in southern California, Nick played Little League baseball and had developed a love for the game. Lou saw his sons passion and decided to share his past to help shape Nicks future.
Lou also loved baseball. Growing up in New York, he became a standout infielder and was a draft-and-follow with the Boston Red Sox in the 1960s. Lou chose to attend college, where he became involved in the rock and roll scene.
The prospect from the Bronx took on a new role as the lead singer in a rock band, embracing the music scene and lifestyle. He also stopped pursuing baseball.
The story of his fathers baseball career that never was struck a chord with Nick.
He was very influential for me because of what he went through and maybe the talent that he had and just didnt really maximize because of basically the 60s, he said. He passed that down for me and really created a good focus for me by seeing his mistakes. He kind of laid all that out on the table for me, it wasnt a secret. He told me all of his mistakes. I pretty much went on the straight path and was successful.
Nick embraced baseball and basketball in high school, using sports as an outlet during his parents divorce and the ups and downs of teenage years. He remembered his fathers story as he got drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies and worked to make his major league debut in 2001.
Nick, 34, is playing his first season for the same organization that expressed interest in his father over 50 years ago.
I think I was always trying to make him proud, he said. Thats pressure that I put upon myself, not anything that he did. Its just the competitiveness in me would want to make my father proud just because of how much I love and respect him.
Lou is still very involved in his career, watching games and offering his son advice and support. Nick points out that while his father never reached the majors, he knows his child better than any scout.
He knows a lot about baseball but this level is a little too advanced for him. But he definitely knows his son, he said. He knows when he sees me out there whats wrong emotionally. Not physical things like, 'This is what you should be doing,' hitting or fielding ground balls. Its more of like a confidence thing.
Nick is now the father of a two-and-a-half-year-old son. He plans to share his own stories as his son grows up. Thanks to his fathers life lessons, they will not include the same mistakes he was told.
The conversation was definitely advanced for a 12-year-old, he remembers. It was something more that you would tell an 18-year-old. It just happened to fall on the right ears.