Holland's success in KC fills father with pride
Closer's All-Star appearance in 2013 is crowning moment for emotional dad
KANSAS CITY -- The memories flow through Scott Holland's head, overflowing his brain with the sheer volume.
"Oh, man," he said, before pausing. "There's just ... there's just too many."
First, there was his son Greg, all 5-foot-10 of him, pitching for Western Carolina University, the only team that would give him and his mid-80s fastball a chance. And so he'd make the 90-minute trip down Interstate 40 for Childress Field at Hennon Stadium.
Velocity gained on that fastball. A promotion in the bullpen soon followed. Before he knew it, Scott was watching his son pitch in late-game situations in Southern Conference tournament games.
Greg and the Catamounts started to overpower the Elons and the Furmans and, suddenly, Southern Conference tournament games turned into NCAA Tournament games. Scott watched anxiously as Greg stared down powerhouse North Carolina for a chance to reach the NCAA Super Regional in 2007.
Greg's success as a Catamount eventually led him to the Majors as the Royals drafted him in the 10th round in 2007. And so when Kansas City plays, Scott sits down in his Marion, N.C., home and waits for the ninth inning. This is when his boy trots out to put the finishing touch on Royals victories.
But they all pale in comparison to the 2013 All-Star Game, when Greg -- the small-statured, the afterthought, the middling reliever on a mid-major, the 10th-round pick -- made an appearance on the game's biggest stage. Scott, his other son Chase, his daughter Ashley and his wife watched from the stands.
"Turning on the TV sometimes and seeing him, I still tear up ... I'm an old softy. Most people don't know that, but I still get emotional when he comes into the game," Scott said. "Just being there and watching him walk out for the All-Star Game ... I'll never forget it."
These memories resonate with Greg, but he likes to reflect back on his days in Marion, when he, Scott and Chase would grab their gloves and a ball, head to the backyard and play whatever games they could think of.
Greg and Scott remembered one particular game: Dad launching popups into the sky, and Chase and Greg battling for position to see who could catch the most.
"They'd go out and I'd just throw it as high as I could, and they'd run to see who could get it, pushing and shoving the whole time," Scott said.
From the moment Greg first picked up baseball, he's had a supporting father to lead him along the way. That meant trips to sporting-goods stores for gloves, cleats, bats and all the other necessities -- rides to games and, on non-game days, extra batting practice and ground-ball drills.
"He was always there for me, as well as my brother and sister, he gave us whatever we needed," Greg said. "It's kind of tough, when you finally get a couple days off and you end up running your kids around all weekend."
Scott even saw himself as a coach to Greg for parts of his youth.
"I was a pretty good baseball player, too, and so was my dad, so I felt like my dad taught me how to play the game, the stances and how to field the positions and all that stuff," Scott said. "And I learned all that, then taught my boys. I feel like they probably learned as much from me as they did from any coach they had probably until Greg got into college."
When Greg strolls in from Kauffman Stadium's left-field bullpen to nail down the final three outs, confidence, competiveness and focus radiate from him. Greg said his demeanor on the mound partially derives from watching his father's softball games when he was a kid.
"For [Chase and me], it's just one of those things where whatever we do, we'd compete and I think growing up watching him play softball on the weekend with his teammates, they were all competitive, and I guess he just instilled that in us," Holland said.
The weekend games taught the boys valuable lessons.
"He and his brother went with me a lot, and they learned at a very young age that losing isn't OK," Scott said with a chuckle.
Competition was important in the Holland family, but so was making your own choices.
"Most importantly, he didn't really push it on us," Holland said. "He said, 'If you want to go, we'll go. But if we're going to practice, we're going to do it to the best of your ability,' and I think that's helped motivate me a lot."
With nearly 900 miles between them, Scott rarely gets to see Greg pitch in person. So Scott cherishes opportunities, like the upcoming Father's Day road trip.
On Friday, the Royals embark on a seven-game road trip in Chicago and Detroit. Kansas City has designed the trip so that the players will be joined by their fathers, who will fly with their sons to the cities and receive special field passes as well.
Last season, Scott and the rest of the dads went to Tampa Bay and Cleveland with the team.
"All the dads had a great time. It was really nice of the organization to treat us that way," Scott said. "I told him last year when we got back that I'm really looking forward to next year."
Holland echoed his father's sentiment.
"It's kind of fun to see all the dads around and getting to interact with them," Holland said.