FLINT - It was a moment that will mean nothing to you. And, who knows, it might not have meant much to him. It's hard to tell with teenagers.
But it meant the world to me.
We were up north at a softball tournament I've played in now for 25 years with a bunch of creaky old newspaper types. One of our players had a bum leg, and someone called for the designated runner, so out trotted Sam, my oldest.
He took his place at first base, listened to some instructions from the first base coach then nodded calmly, even though he was probably terrified.
Then, when the man at the plate sliced a soft liner to right, Sam took off flying, pivoted smartly at second and didn't stop until he was standing safely on third, a look of relief on his face.
The third base coach said something to him upon arrival, probably "Nice job, Sam."
But there was no way Sam was going to crack a smile. You don't do that when you're a prideful 17-year-old making your first ever appearance on your dad's softball team and you know all eyes are upon you. He was all business.
But in the dugout across the way I was smiling.
Sure, I was proud. Every dad would love to play ball with his son. Movies have been written about it. A lot of dads, though, don't last long enough. Age ravages. Backs creak. Hamstrings refuse to cooperate.
I'm a bit surprised I made it myself. I'm 50 now, and while scuffling around in the dirt with the other fathers who refuse to grow up and leave the games of their youth behind them is still a lot of fun to me, the aches have begun to outweigh the benefits.
So I wasn't sure I'd ever get the chance to play with Sam, as I did with my dad. And then, just like that, it happened.
It sure took me back. Dad was 47 when he let me join his team. I remember how out of place I felt with all these older, bulkier, hairier men. I also remember worrying that I'd screw up.
It's funny how sons worry like that when all a dad can think about when he sees his son on the field is how wonderful it is.
I wouldn't have cared if Sam tripped over second and fell flat on his face.
And when he came to bat for his first time later in the game, it didn't matter one bit to me whether he struck out or hit a 12-run home run.
OK, that's not entirely true. I think I put finger dents in the metal dugout pole pulling for him to get a hit. (He grounded into a fielder's choice, incidentally, but beat out a throw to avoid a double play.)
I wanted a hit for him because I remember how badly I wanted to impress my dad. We played together for four years, until I left town for my first ever newspaper job.
And every single game I'd wonder if I had made him proud. His approval meant the world to me.
But he never said a word. That's just how he was. And I never asked if I'd made the grade because that's how I am. He died nine years later at age 60, just after playing a game.
Looking back, I'm sure he was proud of me but words unspoken are often words unheard.
So after the game with Sam, I made sure to throw my arm around his shoulders and say, "You did great, buddy. Really, really great."
Sam tried to hide a smile the way teenagers do. But it leaked out at the corners.
That was my best hit of the day.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.