Blake Snow

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Things my dad taught me: Never ask what you’re not willing to hear

The following is an excerpt from a graduation speech my father Brent Snow gave in 2008 at the University of West Georgia:

I grew up in the deep south—deep southern Idaho–so I picked potatoes rather than cotton! My family was very athletic and my older brother Bruce was probably the best all around athlete in Idaho when he was a senior in high school. Being two years younger, I was constantly compared to him in every sport I played as well as in academics. While I was often on the “short” end of those comparisons, I never resented being so. I respected and admired him a great deal and thought it was an honor to be compared to him.

After finishing my Ph.D. in 1979, I became a faculty member at Oklahoma State University. After I had been there for a couple of years, my Father called me and said he was coming to Stillwater and maybe we could go see a couple of basketball games that were on the schedule. This was quite common for us as athletic events were really an excuse to be together, laugh, and for me to be interviewed about how I was doing—was I doing what I should as a Dad?, husband?, and in my work? I loved those interviews with my Father as he would listen and share some advice and wisdom all the while watching a point guard hit a three pointer! You didn’t have to know my Dad very long to realize he was a very wise person.

After one of those games on the way home, we had been talking about my Brother and me always being compared as athletes. I decided to try to be a little clever by putting my Dad on the spot and testing his wisdom:

“Well Dad, how would you compare Bruce and me as athletes?”

“In what sport?” he said –surprising me that he was willing to do so.

“How about baseball?”

“Okay. Let’s start with hitting. As you know Bruce was an exceptional hitter—both for power and average. He had such strong wrists and arms and he hardly ever struck out. When he came to bat there was an air of excitement and anticipation by players and fans. The outfielders and infielders all moved back about as far as they dared. I’ve never seen a high school kid hit like Bruce. A scout for the Minnesota Twins told me that Bruce was just exceptional. He was so good that teams often would intentionally walk him to keep him from hitting. So as a hitter, Brent, Bruce was much better than you”.

“As far as throwing, well, Bruce had such as strong arm. When pitching, he just overwhelmed batters with his speed and control. He rarely walked anyone and struck out most of the hitters he faced. His ERA was extremely low and rarely lost a game as a starter—maybe one or two in high school. Whoever the catcher was when Bruce was pitching put extra padding in his catcher’s mitt to protect his hand from Bruce’s fastball. When he wasn’t pitching, he was generally catching and, of course, nobody stole second base on him. His throw to second was a line shot right on the bag. As you know, he could throw a football farther anyone you ever saw as well– “So he could really throw much better than you”.

“As far as fielding, well, Bruce just never made an error. I remember he bobbled a ball once when playing third base but still threw the guy out because of his arm. He ran down balls that would usually be a hit so he was just terrific as a fielder. As a catcher, balls just never got by him so he was just fantastic behind the plate! As a fielder, then, he was much better than you”. By now, of course, I was becoming almost sorry for even asking the question!

“As far as running, he continued, Bruce was both quick and fast. He could beat out bunts and run the bases with speed and agility. He almost always stole second base if he was on first and often would steal third as well. He was so smart as a runner and always got a jump on the pitcher. He knew baseball very well and people came from all over to watch him play. His high school coach told me he never tried to coach Bruce but just turned him loose and stayed out of the way. “So as a runner, he was quite a bit better than you as well”.

Then he paused with a smile and said, “But other than that you were about the same!” We were both laughing by then and so I asked if there was anything in baseball that I was better at than Bruce? He continued to laugh and said, “Well, I thought your uniform always looked better!” I was reminded again of the wisdom of my Father!