Hope Springs Paternal Chances are, your father caught the first ball you ever threw and dreamed of your success long before you could talk. These six athletes, like so many others, have grown to appreciate that early investment in their futures

June 15, 2003

Joe And Barry Zito

When Barry Zito was seven, a Little League umpire told Barry's
father, Joe, that the boy had a natural curveball. How was Joe to
have known? He'd been a musician his entire life--he once was a
conductor and arranger for Nat King Cole--and had no baseball
background. After that day, though, Joe devoured books on the
sport and passed the knowledge on to his son. When Barry was 13,
Joe sent him to former San Diego Padres pitcher and 1976 Cy Young
winner Randy Jones for pitching lessons, paying Jones for each
session, he says, by taking $50 "out of the meal money." The
investment paid off. Last year, at 24, Barry Zito went 23-5 for
the Oakland A's and won the Cy Young Award.

Joe: "From the time he was 7 1/2 until almost 19, we were in the
backyard every day. I think we missed three days."

Barry: "Three sounds a little low, but it wasn't many more days
than that. We did something every day, whether it was reading,
pitching or running."

Joe: "The one thing I've always tried to teach him is that all of
the great things in life are inside yourself: love, harmony,
courage, conviction, commitment."

Barry: "I can't put into words what he means to me. It's like
asking, 'What do your two legs mean to you?'"

T.J. And Leo Ford

When his youngest son, T.J., reached junior high, Leo Ford began
bringing him to his men's league basketball games in Baytown,
Texas. T.J. didn't have his father's great stroke and was one of
the smallest kids in his class, but he could play. It wasn't long
before Leo's teammates agreed that the pint-sized teen should
take over as the team's point guard. Leo's little boy is still
little by basketball standards (5'10"), but he led Texas to the
Final Four last season as a sophomore and was SI's college player
of the year. He is expected to be among the top 10 picks in the
June 26 NBA draft.

Leo: "He was a quiet kid, always trying to give someone else the
limelight. If the parents of a friend were at a game, he'd try to
make his friend look good. He's still that way. If you teach them
to do the right things, everything falls into place."

T.J.: "He was tough when I was growing up, but I respect him. He
prepared me for everything I have faced."

Leo: "When he was growing up, sometimes I felt sorry for him
because most of his friends were bigger, but he was determined.
He kept working and working until he found a way to beat them."

T.J.: "I still wish I was taller."

Kara And Bill Lawson

Bill Lawson, a security consultant in the Washington, D.C., area,
is used to having a lot of input in his three daughters' lives.
He wanted his middle daughter, Kara, now a rookie point guard for
the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs, to go to Stanford but planned to
review all her options with her. When he heard that she'd picked
Tennessee without consulting him, he vowed to never attend
another of her games. For 3 1/2 years, he didn't. He finally
broke his vow midway through Kara's junior season in Knoxville.

Bill: "Of all the girls she is the most like me. I was hoping
years ago that she would be out of the house before we clashed,
because I knew I wouldn't bend. And we almost made it." (Roars
with laughter.)

Kara: "I'm not as stubborn as he is, but I am stubborn. I like to
be the best at whatever I do."

Bill: "She once told a reporter, 'My contribution to society will
not be made on the basketball court,' and I think that is very,
very true."

Kara: "I'd like to be an AD in one of the major conference
schools. I think there are only four women ADs in those right
now. Maybe I'd like to be president of the NCAA. Or president of
a university."

Bill: "She is everything I want her to be today. I don't know
what tomorrow will bring."

Rodger And David Carr

Rodger Carr's annual Christmas gift for the oldest of his three
sons, David, wasn't intended to surprise the boy--the youngster
would sometimes toss the regular-as-the-sun-rising present around
the living room with the wrapping still on it. Although Rodger
played basketball at Cal State-Bakersfield in the 1970s, his
first love was football, which is why he placed a tiny toy
football in David's even tinier hands when his boy was in
diapers. Last June, two months after the Houston Texans made him
the first overall pick in the NFL draft, David placed a remote
control in each of his father's hands--one for each big-screen TV
he had bought his dad for Father's Day. Neither Carr can remember
what David bought Rodger for Father's Day the year before, when
David was still in college, a married father struggling to make
ends meet.

David: "Whatever it was, it was cheap, because I had no money."

Rodger: "The biggest thing a father could get from his son is to
know that he loves and serves God. David is raising his two kids
right, and his wife is a sweetheart. What more could a father ask
for?"

Michelle And Danny Kwan

Danny Kwan immigrated from China in 1971 and worked as a busboy,
and then as a systems analyst for the phone company in Los
Angeles. When his two daughters, Michelle and Karen, became
serious about ice skating, the financial burden was so great that
he once offered them $50 for every day they did not skate,
figuring that would be cheaper. When they earned fellowships at
an ice skating training center in Lake Arrowhead, Calif., Danny
moved his family there and commuted two hours each way to his
job. Michelle is now a two-time Olympic medalist and a five-time
world champion--and earns an estimated $4 million a year.

Danny: "I am proud of her. She has worked hard and has kept
herself in good shape. She has become a good person."

Michelle: "The thing I admire most about him is that he gave us
opportunities--opportunities that he wasn't able to have. When I
was little, we'd go out for a nice dinner on Father's Day.
Actually, it was a nice dinner but not really a nice restaurant."

Danny: (smiling) "Sizzler."

Michelle: "Yep, Sizzler. This year we are talking about going to
Las Vegas. He wants to see Celine Dion."

Danny: (smiling) "Yes, Celine Dion."

Jimmie And Gary Johnson

After a long day at the track, Jimmie Johnson often tells his
father exactly where he can go--and Gary Johnson always responds
with a nod and a smile. Hired by Jimmie to drive his motor coach
to each Winston Cup Event, Gary, a former truck driver, considers
his gig the best job in auto racing, better even than being a
young, famous NASCAR driver, as his son is. "It's just so good to
be around Jimmie," Says Gary, whose son took up racing as a boy
in El Cajon, Calif. "If he ever needs a hug or a pat on the back,
i can give that to him."

Gary: "Jimmie was always a good kid. I worked him hard when he
was young, but he always did his chores. He never got into big
trouble..."

Jimmie: (interrupting) "... at least none you found out about.
Our family did everything together. On weekends we'd ride
motorcycles or Jet Skis. We'd also travel the country so that I
could compete in races. I spent the week just trying to get
through school, looking forward to the weekend. I couldn't wait
to find out what cool place we were going to go that weekend."

Gary: "We always had a good time back then. And we still do.
Driving for him means I get to go from track to track. I couldn't
have stood to watch his races on television--that would have
driven me crazy. Now the best part of the weekend is being with
my son and going to the winner's circle. There's nothing better
than that."

B/W PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEY TERRILL TWO B/W PHOTOS: ROBERT BECK (2) B/W PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL B/W PHOTO: ROBERT BECK B/W PHOTO: GREG FOSTER

For fathers-and-sports memories from SI writers--including Peter
King, Jack McCallum, Kelli Anderson and Roy S. Johnson--go to
si.com/si_writers.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)