Is Dad Strength real? We asked the experts

June 16th, 2024

has seen the memes.

You know, the ones about the types of makeshift beds expecting fathers have to sleep on while waiting to welcome their new little one into the world.

“I know that’s been a meme on the Internet for like the last few months,” Turner said before talking about his experience when his second child, Tatum, was born last September. “I’ve seen what dads have to sleep on in the hospital, but that doesn’t bother me. I can kind of sleep anywhere. It was more so just the travel through the night.”

When Trea got the news that it was almost time for Tatum’s arrival, he had to take a red-eye flight from San Diego to Philadelphia after his Phillies beat the Padres at Petco Park on Labor Day.

He arrived, bleary-eyed, at the hospital early the next morning. But this was his second child, so it was a little easier this time around -- easier, which is not to say it was easy. Especially for his wife, Kristen.

Trea caught himself mid-sentence when describing the birth of his first child, Beckham Dash. And then he made a course correction as smooth as one of his slides into home plate.

“Our first one, we had in the offs -- she had in the offseason, not me, I didn’t do anything.”

Don’t sell yourself short, Trea.

After all, while moms most definitely have to go through far more adversity to bring a new life into the world, dads have some responsibilities, too. And with the travel, the nerves and the hope that all goes well, it can wear on a guy. Especially if he has to go back to work right away after the baby is born.

Dads need strength to see their family through the process, and then strength to return to their lives with the joyful new addition(s) to the family. Most can go back to work in anonymity and re-adjust after an adrenaline-fueled day or two in the hospital without too much scrutiny.

And then there are some, like Turner, who return to work in front of millions of people. So when Major League players excel on the first day back on the job, it’s a notable achievement.’s research department found that among the more than 200 instances of hitters returning to action from the paternity list since 2011, 28 of them belted a home run in their first game back. From 2011-23, these returning players produced roughly 0.13 home runs per game in their first game back. The same hitters had an overall home run rate of roughly 0.11 per game overall in the same season. While that’s not a statistically significant increase, that doesn't mean those big flies had nothing to do with the circumstances in which they occurred.

On this Father’s Day, we ask the question: Is “Dad Strength” a real thing?

“I think it’s definitely more mental than physical,” said Turner, who launched a solo home run off the Marlins’ Eury Pérez in the first inning of his first game back. “I think Dad Strength is the wrong terminology, but … now that I think about it, I don’t know what the right words are.”

Whatever you call it, there seems to be something to it, though the central factor behind Dad Strength may not be what we thought.

“It’s more like, you kind of have three days of craziness, you’ve got a kid being born, and then you get thrown back into the game, and it’s like, ‘Oh, what’s going on?’” Turner said. “And it’s kind of like reacting, just playing baseball.

“That’s when you’re at your best, when you’re not really thinking, right?”

It's in some sense like when world-class athletes are sick or hurt but play through it anyway.

Turner’s teammate, superstar first baseman , is the only player on record to hit a Dad Strength homer twice -- on Aug. 26, 2019, he went deep against the Pirates after his first child, Krew Aaron, was born; and on April 25 of this season, he smashed a homer against the Reds in Cincinnati following the birth of his third child, Kamryn Ray.

Harper agreed with Turner that the secret to Dad Strength isn’t so much the idea that a player is a father to a newborn child -- though that’s obviously a great feeling -- but the reality that after the whirlwind of a new birth and all that goes along with it, there’s just no time to overthink anything.

In baseball, that’s a great thing.

“I think it’s kind of something that everybody talks about when you come back,” Harper said. “Obviously, I think everybody’s super excited and happy when you come back and you’ve had a healthy kid and you hit a homer and they’re like, ‘I know you’ve got your Dad Strength.’ But [in reality], I don’t think you have time to think about it, right?”

Beyond Harper and Turner, 25 other players have homered on the day they returned from paternity leave since 2011. One of them is Rangers catcher Jonah Heim, who homered against the Phillies’ Ranger Suárez on May 3, 2022, after the birth of his second child, Luxx Blakely.

Heim had a similar explanation of why he thinks Dad Strength happens.

“I think you’re just high on life and enjoying life, and baseball just seems kind of like a background thought,” Heim said. “You’re worried about your 3-day-old daughter instead of trying to hit 97 mph. So it kind of just makes you relax a little bit and kind of shows you that some things in life are a little bit bigger than the game of baseball.”

Heim is looking forward to having a chance to join Harper in the exclusive “Multi-Dad-Strength-Homer Club.”

“My wife is actually pregnant right now,” he said. “She’s due at the end of June, so hopefully we get to test it out again.”

While Harper and Turner certainly seem to be onto something when it comes to explaining Dad Strength, Heim has his finger on the pulse of what makes it so enjoyable.

“You just go out and have fun,” Heim said. “And life is waiting for you when you get home.”