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Baseball brought Byrd, father together

Baseball brought Byrd, father together

CLEVELAND -- Paul Byrd's dad never knew much about baseball. Larry Byrd, jokingly nicknamed "The Legend," played basketball for a year at a small Indiana college.

"He didn't know anything about baseball," the younger Byrd says. "So when I always wanted to play baseball, he went and got a book on pitching by Tom Seaver, 'The Art of Pitching.' He didn't know the ins and outs of the game, so he went and got a book. It made me feel great."

But if Larry never had the knowledge base, he always had the passion to help his son pursue his dream.

"He worked the night shift at Old Fitzgerald, a distillery," Paul says. "He was a security guard. He had put in 20 years on the police force and was a security guard. He would get home after working all night long and he would wake me up, and we'd go to McDonald's. I'd get an Egg McMuffin, hash browns, and we'd go over to the ball field.

"He'd squat down and catch, and I'd pitch. And he would throw batting practice to me, and I'd hit. And I really appreciated that, because he's exhausted. He's dead-tired. And then we'd go home, and he'd go to sleep. He'd sleep most of the day, but I always appreciated the fact that he would come in and get me up. And I could tell he was tired, but he was committed to doing that because that was my heart."

Of course, there was one moment when Larry might have regretted his son's career choice. When Paul was preparing for his first Spring Training in 1992, his dad, over 60 by that point, still wanted to catch him.

"So he put on his mask and his stuff, and I was just throwing, nice and easy," Byrd says. "And I hit the mask. And when I hit it, I turned the mask on his head. This little barb on the mask cut across his forehead. So he stood up and he kind of wobbled, and took his mask off.

"You know when you get a cut on your head how it bleeds. There was blood gushing down his face. So I had to take him to the hospital and get some stitches."

The two Byrds laugh at the story now. But Paul is still touched by the memory.

"It was a sign to me, that here my dad was in his 60s, and he still wanted to squat down and catch me," Byrd says. "And how much I admired that. He still wanted to be involved. I think baseball is a lot more than making it to the Major Leagues and making money. It's about a relationship and people spending time together, whether that's at the Boy's Club or in the backyard with your dad."

Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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