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Dads see parenting as a privilege

June 20, 2004|By BOB PARASILITI

Mike Ramsey and Harold French have never met, but they probably know all about each other.

They both want to leave a mark on the world, but neither seems worried about becoming famous. Fame pales in comparison to being known as a great father.

That makes today - Father's Day - special to both men. The holiday serves as a national reminder about a bigger job each has taken on readily and seriously.

"The greatest responsibility for a man to have if he has kids is to raise them the right way," said Ramsey, manager of the Hagerstown Suns. "It's the greatest responsibility to be there for them. If they don't turn into baseball players, I don't care. I just want them to become good people."

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Fame is fleeting. Fatherhood is forever.

Fathers are creators and inventors, ancestors and founders, leaders and guides - all combined to take children and prepare them to be successful in the world.

"It gives you a chance to grow with your kids in the types of things that will give you a link in the future," said French, a father and stepfather of four.

The traditional image of Father's Day is a man taking his son fishing or to watch a baseball game, the way Jay and Jay R. Shafer sit and watch Suns games at Municipal Stadium. It's a portrait of one of life's veterans passing on experiences to a rookie for future use, like Chambersburg's Tim Schuler, a national class runner who is passing on his knowledge to his daughter, Kylee.

But most of all, Father's Day serves as a reminder to most men that spending time with their children is time well spent. And in many cases, sports are a major cornerstone in a father's relationship with his offspring.

"I think sports helps build self-esteem, an ability to react to different attitudes and to help them plan for what's ahead," French said. "It shows them how to be motivated and to have the desire to be a winner and succeed. To them, though, it's a chance to have fun and there's no homework."

French's beliefs keep him - and his wife, Christy - hustling, juggling the sports schedules of four children, ages 12 to 15, and coaching soccer.

For Ramsey, the moments are precious as his job as a minor league manager takes him away from his Orlando, Fla., home for long periods of time. He admits his opportunity to watch his two sons compete in the offseason and his family's ability to travel helps keep him in his "main job" as a father.

Father's Day first was proposed in 1909 by Mrs. John B. Dodd, who wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. Smart was a Civil War veteran who lost his wife while she was giving birth to their sixth child. He raised all six children by himself.

When she became an adult, Dodd realized the commitment her father had shown in raising her family as a single parent, leading to the first Father's Day on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Wash. President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea for the national holiday in 1924, but it wasn't until President Lyndon Johnson signed the proclamation in 1966 that Father's Day officially was recognized.

Ramsey and French represent a countless number of men who believe there is a huge difference between being a father and a dad.

"I look forward to spending time with the kids in our backyard," French said. "You know, they won't be here forever."

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