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Dad pitches Major League Baseball teams on wooing their newest fan

June 12, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a Virginia man decided to let the nation's major league baseball franchises make their own pitch for his baby son's affection.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that may be of interest to you, too.

Allegiances to sports teams run deep in many families, but one Virginia man decided to let the nation’s Major League Baseball franchises make their own pitch for his son’s affection.

The NewsHour’s Julia Griffin explains.

PETE VAN VLEET, Father: This photo is good for two Astros tickets.

JULIA GRIFFIN: So, when are you going to redeem that?

PETE VAN VLEET: If it were up to me, we’re having such a good year, we’d go this season, but that would be unfair for Jack.

(CROSSTALK)

JULIA GRIFFIN: Right, because he wouldn’t remember it.

PETE VAN VLEET: He wouldn’t remember it.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Jack wouldn’t remember a Houston Astros game because he was just born in February.

And while his father, Pete Van Vleet, is a lifelong Astros fan, he wants Jack, like his 5-year-old daughter, Madeline, to choose his own allegiance.

PETE VAN VLEET: I didn’t want to force anything on my own kids, especially in the realm of baseball, so I let them pick their own team.

JULIA GRIFFIN: A few seasons ago, Madeline picked Detroit, reasoning that Tigers are fierce.

PETE VAN VLEET: A friend of mine asked when, after Jack was born, is he going to be an Astros fan? I said, no, he can root for whomever he wants. And then it dawned on me, why not let the teams have a say?

JULIA GRIFFIN: When spring training got under way, Pete, who, for the record, is an employee of PBS, mailed letters to all 30 Major League Baseball teams. The query was simple, but serious.

PETE VAN VLEET: “I want to give you, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Francisco Giants, the Washington Nationals, a chance to make your own case as to why my son should pick your team to root for. I must tell you, I do not take this lightly. Friends may come and go. Political affiliations and beliefs in higher powers may change, but one’s team is one’s team forever.”

JULIA GRIFFIN: It wasn’t long before responses, or, arguably, bribes, began to arrive.

From the Milwaukee Brewers, a letter and autographed baseball.

PETE VAN VLEET: From Matt Garza, their ace pitcher.

JULIA GRIFFIN: From the Miami Marlins.

PETE VAN VLEET: “Billy the Marlin, our mascot is goofy, adorable and is blatantly superior to all other Major League mascots.” So, if he’s fishing for a team, the Marlins are a good one there.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Pittsburgh Pirates president Frank Coonelly wrote a personal note.

PETE VAN VLEET: “The Pirate ship has plenty of room on it for a young fan from Ashland, Virginia.”

JULIA GRIFFIN: Nationals team manager Dusty Baker sent pint-sized team gear and an invitation.

PETE VAN VLEET: “We want to get you started by inviting you to our ballpark to catch a game, visit the field during batting practice, and, of course, a sharp outfit for you to start your collection.”

JULIA GRIFFIN: While the Chicago Cubs sent an array of 2016 world champions memorabilia and made a play for Madeline.

PETE VAN VLEET: “I know big sisters have a lot of influence over their little brothers, so maybe you can help us convince Jack to be a Cubs fan.”

Why not? That’s very smart of them.

JULIA GRIFFIN: Not only did they send all the swag, but they are going after the sister vote as well.

PETE VAN VLEET: Exactly.

JULIA GRIFFIN: A total of 13 teams have replied so far, but have any knocked their argument out of the park? Is 4-month-old Jack persuaded?

There is a smile.

PETE VAN VLEET: Maybe that’s it

JULIA GRIFFIN: Well, for now, no comment. Jack is just enjoying the pennant pursuers’ pursuit.

For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Julia Griffin in Ashland, Virginia.

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