Street passing on father's wisdom to his boys
ANAHEIM -- The rule is they can come in the clubhouse only if the Angels win, which frequently means daddy recorded the final three outs. So there were Ripken and Ryder late Saturday night, dressed in full baseball attire and eagerly fielding a foam baseball thrown from their distinguished father, Angels closer Huston Street.
Street, wrapped in ice and noticeably worn from a full day's work, called them over to sit on his lap. He whispered in their ears, motioned around the room and then looked them in the eyes to make sure they understood.
This was a teaching moment. Street is in constant search of them, no matter time nor place. And it is in those moments when he is most like his late father, Texas Longhorns legend James Street.
"I still think about him every day," Huston said of James, who died of a heart attack two Septembers ago, at age 65. "Shoot, every day. He was one of my best friends, still is someone I talk to on a daily basis. You never let go. I don't think you ever should. You carry someone who's meaningful with you your whole life and you remember their words; you miss him. I'll always miss him."
James was a legend in Austin, Texas, while quarterbacking the Longhorns' national championship team in 1969. He shook hands with former president Lyndon B. Johnson, threw one of the most memorable passes in Texas football history -- a fourth-down, 44-yard strike that sent the Longhorns to the Cotton Bowl Classic -- and pitched in three College World Series. After his playing days were over, he founded one of the largest structured-settlement firms in the country.
But most prevalent in Huston's mind were the bevy of lessons James taught him, most of which came in the way of memorable catchphrases.
Huston's all-time favorite: You're either getting a little better or a little worse; you don't stay the same.
The most timely one: Success is all about what you're willing to sacrifice.
"It's kind of the crossroads I'm dealing with now," Huston said. "You want to be great at baseball. You do. But when I was younger, the sacrifices were to stay in at night, or make sure you got your rest, or eat properly, or work out in the offseason. Well now, to work out in the offseason, I have to leave my kids for six hours. And during the season, if I want to come to the field and get my entire routine in, I don't get to leave home at 2 o'clock. I have to leave home at 12:30, so that's an hour and a half that I have to sacrifice from my family time.
"That's why you see every Hall of Famer stand up in front of the crowd at Cooperstown and say, 'Thank you to my family.' I understand that now more than ever."
Huston and his wife, Lacey, now have a 4-year-old (Ripken), a 2-year-old (Ryder) and a third boy (Rafe) set to arrive Aug. 10.
Huston considered having an athlete father "a privilege," but he is worried about his kids wanting too badly to follow in his footsteps as a baseball player. James never pushed Huston into sports. He told him things like, "winning is being the best you can be," and, "never take a lazy step," and "only you know if you're giving your best." But he also said, "I'm proud of you no matter what."
Now Huston wants to emulate that, all of it.
Huston wants he and his wife to always seem like a team, because that's what Huston's father and mother, Janie, were. He wants to maximize his time with his kids, he wants to teach them respect, he wants them to understand how lucky they are and he wants them to feel important, because Huston always did, even amid three bothers.
"He's learned from a pretty good dad," Janie said. "It's really amazing to me. I see a lot of similarities between the two."
Huston and James share the same birthday, Aug. 2, and Huston still wears James' old uniform number, 16. Every once in a while, Huston will catch his oldest roll his eyes when he repeats some of James' old sayings about getting something done.
"I can't!" Ripken will say, and Huston will remember how James used to respond in those situations.
If you can't, you can't. But if you say, 'I think I can,' then you might be able to. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
"And he would say it like 38 times in a row," Street recalled, laughing.
"He was like that person you could always count on. You learn from that and you say, 'That's what I want to be -- I want to be that person they can count on.'"
Janie, whom Huston considers the family's bedrock, was married to James for 32 years. She has her favorite catchphrase, too. It's a simple one:
"I actually think those kind of things have gotten us through not having James here," Janie said. "It's like he's in our head. He would not want us to be feeling sorry for ourselves, or having a pity party or anything like that. So now we have good memories of Daddy, and now we take this second chapter without Dad and we take all the things that we listened to, all the things that we learned. We had a fun life, and that's going to continue just because we're going to make it continue. It doesn't mean we're not sad that he's not here. A day doesn't go by that we're not missing Dad."