Jackie Tucker turned around what could have been an extremely difficult day.
Instead of dwelling, but not forgetting, on the first Father’s Day since Jackie Tucker Sr. died in October, he celebrated with his middle son after the latter, Cole, got a day off from the ballpark.
“It was going to be a tough day,” the Ahwatukee resident said. “My mom texted me that morning and said ‘Make this about you and your son, and the legacy you have with him.’ We had a great day out on a boat and BBQ.”
And then, it was back to the life that Cole has always wanted as a professional ballplayer. The elder Tucker was in Bradenton, Fla., helping the Mountain Pointe product get comfortable with his new surroundings and deal with the initial expectations that come with being a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I was down there to help him get settled,” Jackie said. “Watching your son have his dream become reality is really something.”
Cole Tucker, who was hitting .306 through his first 11 games in the Gulf Coast League, said the transition has been enlightening.
“You have to play at such a high level day in and day out,” he said. “You have to bring your ‘A’ game every day in order to be successful. These guys don’t take a day off.”
Tucker, 18, credits his father for planting the seed that hard work will lead to big things by rolling a ball to him in the living room for as long as he can remember.
It surely dates back to the time when his little brother, Carson, 12, was born and it wasn’t long after that when Carson was given the same spiel while Jackie rolled him ground balls in the living room.
“We get our athleticism from our mother (Erin), but when it comes to the game of baseball, he helped us a lot,” Carson said of Jackie. “He showed us how to play the game right and told us what hard work can let you do wherever your dreams take you.”
Carson is a top player in his age group in his own right as the Altadena Middle Schooler has made the USA Baseball U12 squad. The roster was finalized to 18 after a three-day trials period at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.
Following national team training earlier this week, the team headed south to Mazatlan, Mexico, for the COPABE Pan American Championships, which starts today and runs through July 21.
And Jackie, who played one year of pro ball with the Cardinals after two years of playing second base for Florida Southern, gets to spend more time around the diamond while watching one of his sons play among the elite.
“It’s pretty special, but they did it themselves,” Jackie said. “I introduced them game to all three (oldest brother Quinn won a state title with the Pride) and they worked as much as they wanted.
“Right now, Carson is better than Cole when Cole was his age, and he’d even admit it now.”
This is the second year Carson, who plays for a travel team out of Tennessee, is playing for USA Baseball after winning gold last summer.
A year ago, he was the youngest player. Now, he is the veteran who earned a ring and is ready to show the way to the top of the medal stand.
“It’s crazy and amazing to be in this position,” he said. “We have a team that can win it again. They are looking at me to be a leader and I hope we can get it done.”
However, it turns out in Mexico or Bradenton this summer, Jackie Tucker has seen the adage of “all you want in life is to have your children achieve more than you” come to light.
“It’s a different world that I ever reached,” he said proudly. “They are doing more than I ever did already. It’s what you what you want to see out of life.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.