Most of you didn’t know him. But at 4:56 p.m. yesterday, I lost my number one newspaper reader, Tomato’s best friend, and baseball fanatic.
My father rushed to the scene on January 28, 1933, in Wisner, Louisiana, as the fifth of five children. James Royce Watson, a fast-to-first-base, left-hander at bat, never thought he would grow up to be a great father, a mission-critical Christian, and a hero in my sport.
He played running back for the Wisner Bulldogs and was known to pull the hairs off the legs of opposing basketball players to excite them and force them out of games. I’m not sure if that’s true, but that’s what he said. From the time I was five years old until she graduated from high school, my father coached me, my sisters, and the girl-to-be in baseball, softball, basketball, and track and field. Countless times he could have been doing something else.
Pops to me, or Poppy to his grandparents, spent the holidays taking teenage mission groups to Southern Louisiana and other areas to build fences and paint churches. . He and my mother continued to work as adults traveling to Mexico with other adults from Broadmoor Baptiste of Shreveport and Cooke-Baptiste of Ruston.
Along the way, he was a voracious reader of David Balducci, Nelson DeMille, and John Grisham. We often talked about books and the fact that he had a “gold card” from the Lincoln Parish Library. He also read every word I ever wrote that he had access to.
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My father had an obsessive love for Louisiana Tech baseball. He talked about prominent figures from other eras, such as George Stone, Mike Jeffcourt, and David Segui, and doted on new breeds of bulldogs, such as Taylor Young, Steele Netterville, and Jonathan Fincher. When he missed a match due to a hip problem, he loved to hear voice maestro Dave Nitz call the match.
When I was a kid, he took my family to a game at Houston’s Astrodome to watch Cesar Cedeno and Pete Rose win or miss.
But my dad hated strikeouts.
“For two strikes, you have to be ready and not be seen. You have to swing and go down,” he often said.
Ironically, three strikes took away my father’s support for Tech Baseball and his ability as a master gardener to grow the best tomatoes in the area. A few weeks ago he was diagnosed with his AML leukemia and given a short term future by his primary care doctor. blow.
He was diagnosed with Covid in the middle of the night while at LSU Health Ochsner a little over a week ago. Then on Monday, he contracted pneumonia at the Louisiana Medical Center, and Button was helicoptered to Our Lady of the Lake’s critical care ward in Rouge. Strike three.
But Dad fell down on the swing. Over the past few weeks he has been taken to six different medical facilities without any complaints. I borrowed Emilene’s electric razor and shaved his face. He lifted his chin so I could get under his neck. .
“If the doctor comes tomorrow, he won’t recognize me,” he joked.
My dad was the last to come out of the batter’s box on the ground late Tuesday afternoon, just a few miles from where he earned his CPA certification at LSU. He may not have gotten on base in his final at-bat, but heaven has acquired a go-to lefty.
Jimmy Watson covers sports in the Shreveport Bossier area. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.