Swihart's path paved by dad's instincts
Red Sox catcher coached early on by father, who saw future in baseball
Arlan Swihart will be in the stands at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City with roughly 200 friends and family members, experiencing a Father's Day weekend like no other.
For probably two of the three games against the Royals, Arlan will look behind the plate when the Red Sox are on defense, and his son will be squatting down with the gear on.
Blake Swihart arrived in the Major Leagues on May 2, and he's the first to admit he never would have gotten there without his dad, who pushed him constructively during his youth in New Mexico.
"Ever since I was young, he's always been my coach," said Blake. "He showed me the fundamentals of the game. He showed me how to swing. He was my first hitting coach. Everything happens because of him. He kind of mapped out my plan for me, sports-wise, growing up."
An athlete himself, Arlan played college basketball and softball in highly competitive leagues.
"At some point, around the time he was 6, I figured out that he could catch everything I'd throw at him, which was probably in the mid- 80s," said Arlan. "I figured I should probably engage and try to coach him a little bit. The nice thing was he was extremely coachable. He's a pleaser. He wants to make everybody happy in the world, and he really works hard to do exactly what you want."
And Arlan learned early that his son played until the last out.
"It's amazing. I remember when he was 10 years old, we were playing in a semifinal game, a tournament, and we were undefeated," said Arlan. "A kid was up to bat and some of the kids on the bench we're saying, 'We're going to lose, we're going to lose,' and Blake said, 'Come on guys. We're not going to lose this game. We haven't lost all year.'
"Some of the kids again said, 'We're going to lose.' And Blake said to them, 'Let's hope [the next two batters] don't know that.' One of them got on base, and the other one hit a home run. We won. Blake doesn't know the word quit."
But Arlan did make Blake quit basketball and football late in his high school career -- only because he had his son's long-term interests in mind.
"You just had to look at it realistically," said Arlan. "I think his senior year in high school, you could ask his high school coach, I think they would have won the states that year. They wound up making it to the final four. He was upset with me. I said, 'Blake, I'm just your dad, trying to figure this out."'
"I also think he could have played college football and been very good with his arm strength and ability to see the field. But 6-foot quarterbacks in the NFL are few and far between. I'm a risk manager, and I had to weigh what the cost-benefits were. I think baseball was where he'd have the best opportunity.""
Considering what Blake now does for a living, Arlan's instincts proved to be on target.
"I think he just understood that stuff," said Blake. "He was an athlete growing up, and he understood, 'What could take me to the next level?' and 'What could take me the furthest in my life?'"
Even though Blake now plays at the highest level, his dad stays involved.
"He texts me every single day," said Blake. "We talk every day. Sometimes, he'll text me, and he'll say, 'I think you're doing this, this and this. Think about it.' He watches everything and gives me feedback on everything. He's still my coach and dad at the same time."
But this weekend at Kaufman Stadium, Arlan will simply be a dad who is proud of his Major League son.