A Family Affair

PORTLAND, OR- My father never wanted to coach my brothers or me in Little League because he always thought he'd have a tough time remaining impartial with us on his team. Or perhaps he just didn't want to face the fact that he might have to bench one of us.

After years of playing on teams where the "star" players were the coaches' sons (and yes, some of those kids should have been benched), I could see my Dad's point.

But I often wondered what it would have been like with him sitting in the dugout instead of on the bleachers. Portland outfielder Will Venable certainly knows what that's like – his father Max is the Beavers hitting coach. I asked the Venables what it's like working together.

"It's great to be able to come to work everyday and have your Dad there," Will says. "It's fun. It's great to be able to spend time with him, I'm fortunate."

Max, a twelve-year major league veteran, genuinely seems to enjoy having Will on the team although he does admit there can be some anxiety. "So far it's been good. For myself, [you do get] a little nervous watching your own kid perform everyday."

And, he says, there's never any preferential treatment for Will.

"I treat him just like everybody else; everyone like I treat my son, there's no difference at all. As far as work, he's just like one of the guys giving 100 percent. Anytime we're here it's straight up business; baseball talk, the information I have I give it to him."

Will agrees. "I think what everyone respects about [Max] is that he's really professional, really laid-back and having me around is no different than if it was any other situation. He treats me like everyone else, I treat him like one of the coaches. Mutual respect and professionalism on the field."

But is there any additional stress coming to the plate with your Dad standing over there coaching first? Not for Will.

"It's just business as usual. There's no added pressure or anything like that."

Indeed, Will is used to Max coaching him. In 2006 he was the hitting coach for the Single-A Ft. Wayne Wizards where Will was a starting outfielder.

And having his Dad around appears to be encouraging. With Ft. Wayne Will batted .314 with 91 RBI. The next year he moved up to Double-A San Antonio while Max went on to coach at Lake Elsinore. With the Missions Will saw his average drop to .278. And now, reunited once again with his father, so far he's batting .295.

Overall both Max and Will seem happy to be on the same time. They realize how ever-changing minor league baseball is and are relishing the time they get to spend together. Will sums it up nicely:

"A lot of these guys, their parents don't get to see them play everyday and one of mine does and that's definitely something special."

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