I don’t have kids, but I remember snickering at a Facebook passage that read, “By the time you figure out your dad was right, you have a son that thinks you’re not.”
Ain’t that the way it goes. My dad was my Little League coach, taught me a lot of good things, showed me how to be a man, but he wasn’t real good on the communications skills that said, “I love you.”
I knew he did, but there’s that rebellious streak that runs through young guys that says dad’s an idiot and I’m going to look around for someone that’s cool. I don’t know exactly why, but I picked a friend’s father that was a polar opposite of mine. He’d come home drunk, park his car in the driveway and bet all us kids shooting baskets that he could make one from across the street. Looking back, I’d bet he couldn’t even see across the street. He’d throw it up on the roof, then pony up a fiver apiece to a half a dozen kids, then go in the house.
Somehow I thought that was better than my dad, who invested time in my baseball team, taught me how the fundamentals, and provided me with unconditional love. In the infamous words of Bob Seger, “... Wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then … ”
I lost my dad to a hideous disease called Alzheimer’s. He was in a nursing facility by the end and I flew into see him. As I walked in the door, his eyes, dull with the disease, perked up and he quickly motioned me over to the wheelchair he was sitting in. He shook my hand and looked me in the eye.
“Chum,” he said. Used to call me Chum, not the coolest nickname, say like A-Rod, but that one was taken. “Chum, I love you.”
It was as if he’d realized he hadn’t said that enough, like he knew I needed to hear it out loud. He was right. A week later he was gone, and I thank God daily that he was able to leave this world while he could still remember my name.
You might be able to figure out where I’m going with all of this. Pete Doumit was that kind of man, kind, loving, respected.
I had a chance to sit in Pete’s office out in Big Bend Community College after practice and talk baseball with him and his son Ryan. It was one of those moments that you don’t forget, even though both of them probably have.
Ryan just kind of sat there listening to Pete some up a 45-year coaching career, having lived most of it or heard the stories. It was one of those nice moments, just three guys talking baseball. I’d of given anything to be a fly on the wall when Ryan called and told the family, “I’m going to The Show,” meaning he was being called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pete wrapped up his 45-year coaching career that included selection to the Washington Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame (2006), the American Baseball Coaches Quarter Century Award and the Big Bend Community College Athletic Hall of Fame.
After listening to the stories of as many people in the Columbia Basin as possible, I’ve come to the conclusion that the prestigious ABCA/Dave Keilitz Ethics in Coaching Award he’ll be recognized with in 2019 is one that sums up his life the best.
The comment section under the story I wrote about the conversation that day exploded with well wishes and remembrances of anything from baseball to the classroom to life lessons on the way. There might have been hundreds of people reaching out to a man that has touched the lives of so many, and Pete answered each and every one of them. I want to be like that when I grow up.
Thanks for the memories Pete Doumit.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org