Bryson Bourn strolled through the Indians' clubhouse before a recent home game at Progressive Field, wearing a baggy Little League uniform. The young son of Cleveland center fielder Michael Bourn had an unusually high number on the back of his blue top.
"Forty-eight?" teased one of Bourn's Cleveland teammates.
"Man, he was late signing up!" Michael Bourn explained with a laugh. "That was all they had left."
It took some convincing on Bourn's part to get his son to sign up this summer, and perhaps that is life coming full circle for the Tribe's center fielder. Once upon a time, he had a stubborn side that would lead to clashes with his dad, Raymond. These days, Michael Bourn shakes his head and laughs at the trouble he knows he gave his parents.
Now, with a son of his own, everything has been put into perspective, and Michael Bourn appreciates how his father raised him more with each passing day.
"My dad always told me when I was young," Bourn said, "he'd say, 'Mike, I hope you have a son.'"
"'And I hope he's just like you,'" Raymond Bourn said earlier this week, finishing Michael's anecdote with a chuckle. "I was serious about that."
During Cleveland's recent four-game series against the Rangers in Arlington, Raymond Bourn made the trip with his wife of 43 years, Carrie, from their home in Houston to watch his son play. Leaning against a wall outside the visitors' clubhouse at Globe Life Park, Raymond wore Cleveland's white home jersey with his family's name and his son's No. 24 stitched on the back.
Raymond Bourn, 64, is enjoying retirement, but it took a lot of hard work and discipline to keep his son on a path to the big leagues. When Michael was young, Raymond would work 12-hour shifts as a chemical technician at a Houston plant. When he clocked out, he would head home, gather up his sons and their friends and serve as their coach.
Michael Bourn -- the older of two brothers -- did not think much of it at the time.
"When you're a kid, you don't know," said the Indians' center fielder. "You're just like, 'Oh, my dad's working. OK.' As I've gotten older, now I've got a little boy. I'm like, 'Man, he was doing all of that with me?' That makes me want to do it all for my son. I know what kind of work and time he put in for us."
Michael Bourn credits his dad for keeping him out of trouble, which easily could have been found. If Raymond did not like the crowd surrounding his son, he would say so. In the Bourn household, Raymond also had a simple but effective set of rules.
"No baggy pants. No cursing. Shirt tails tucked in," Raymond said. "Those were my rules. Michael said I was a little bit too strict at times. He was never in trouble -- not that I know of -- but he tested boundaries, and I had to let him know what the boundaries were."
Part of keeping Michael on the right path was keeping him engaged in athletics.
From a young age, Raymond could see the potential in his son, who played baseball, basketball and football. He had coached kids in baseball for nearly a decade before Michael came along and, when his son was still quite young, Raymond was shocked at his ability.
"From coaching small kids, I kind of learned their limitations," Raymond said. "Hitting the ball to them, catching balls, throwing to them, learning fundamentals. He was ahead of the curve, so I kept pushing him. I got to the point where I'd tell my wife, 'Mike's only four, and I'm hitting the ball like I was hitting a ball to a 12- or 13-year-old.'
"I told my wife I was frightened because I didn't know what Mike's limitations were. I didn't want to back off. I wanted to keep testing him. From there, he just kept getting better and better."
Raymond Bourn worked hard with Michael on training him to play shortstop, but an unexpected situation altered his son's future. When Michael Bourn was around 12 years old, his team's center fielder was injured and unable to play in a tournament. Raymond managed to add an extra player to help out, but he also played shortstop.
That is when Michael spoke up.
"He said, 'I'll go play center field,'" Raymond recalled. "And then, as he started progressing and getting up in age, he went out as a center fielder for high school. The rest is history."
Bourn's nine-year career in the Majors includes a pair of Gold Glove awards and two trips to an All-Star Game. This marks his second straight season as the leadoff man and center fielder for Cleveland, which signed him to a four-year, $48 million contract prior to last season. Bourn bought his father a BMW after signing that deal.
"My dad was my rock," Bourn said. "When you get older, you start to reflect on the things you were doing when you were younger. Now that I look back on it, man, I put my mommy and daddy through some stuff. My dad kept me on the right path."
Raymond Bourn got his wish: Michael now has a son.
These days, Michael sometimes hears his father's voice come out in his own.
"A little bit, yeah," the outfielder said with a laugh. "A little bit."