More to David than just the man leading MRU
New president a major fan of America’s past-time
David Docherty is a baseball fanatic — plain and simple.
The importance baseball plays in his life was evident on Sept. 22, his 50th birthday.
At the Mount Royal University Legacy Awards Dinner that night, he was given a painting of the historic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs.
“I was shocked to say the least, but quite touched,” he said. “Wrigley can hang in my living room anytime and it is now.”
Two weeks earlier, he mentioned his love of the Cubs many times and talked about one of his favourite stadiums.
“Wrigley with Angus (his son) was probably the best,” he said. “That was just a fun game. Monday night against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates and they had 34,000 people out there.”
At the beginning of the semester, I heard Docherty was a hardcore baseball fanatic and asked to discuss it with him.
His secretary gave me 15 minutes to talk baseball, he yacked my ear off for almost 40.
Walking into his third-floor office, he pointed to five baseballs encased on a shelf.
I ask which was his favourite?
The first was a “screaming foul ball” he snagged off the bat of former Toronto Blue Jay Frank Catalanotto at the Rogers Centre.
The second was his first mention of an ongoing theme throughout the talk — his family.
It was autographed by then-Tampa Bay Devil Ray speedster Joey Gathright at Jacobs Field in Cleveland.
“The day Angus and I arrived in Calgary, we went to see the (Calgary) Vipers play and they were playing Yuma,” he said. “Jose Canseco was the player manager of Yuma and everyone was out to see him. Angus and I had no idea.
“They announced ‘next up to bat, Joey Gathright,’” he said, in his best baseball announcer voice.
He and Angus talked to Joey after the game, and told him about the original autographed ball.
“I said, ‘it was great to see you play again.’ We had a great conversation with him for about five minutes after the game.”
A family game
Angus — it was a name that came up often.
It’s his 16-year-old, his oldest son, the family’s biggest baseball fan.
“He’s the one who will BlackBerry me ‘(Mark) Teahan got traded to the Jays, he’s batting for the Jays on Sunday.’
“He’s that kind of ball fan.”
Docherty spoke proudly of the trips he and his son take every year, trying to take in a new stadium and two or three minor league games every time.
“Angus drove out with me to Calgary over the summer,” he said. “We spent a couple of days in Chicago watching the White Sox play since the Cubs weren’t in town. Saw Minnesota play at the new Target Field, gorgeous new field and we watched the Billings Mustangs and the Vipers play.”
Don’t worry, he also does similar trips with his younger son Quinn, including a basketball game at Bucknell University every year.
“Those trips are pretty special to me.
“When you drive with your son for a number of hours to watch different ball games and talk about anything you want to talk about, that’s pretty neat.”
He joked his fiancée Kris, who has a daughter, doesn’t allow him wear his favourite baseball hat, courtesy of the Toledo Mudhens.
“She’s like, ‘that’s ugly and stained.’ Just like I have one from the (University of North Carolina) at Charlotte baseball team. It’s all sun-dried and sweaty and she’s like ‘you can’t wear that.’
“And I’m like ‘these are two of my favourite hats.’”
Baseball in his blood
Growing up in Southern Ontario, Docherty spent three important formative years in Chatham.
The agricultural town had two ties to baseball — a short drive to Detroit for the Tigers and home to the simply the greatest Canadian pitcher ever, Ferguson Jenkins.
“It was very hard not be a baseball fan,” he said. “Baseball was Chatham’s sport back then.”
He fondly remembered the Detroit Tigers, listing off some of the major players like Al Kaline, briefly stopping to mention he’s the second greatest Tiger’s player next to the great Ty Cobb, “but Kaline was a way nicer guy.” Mickey Lolich. Jim Northrup. Willie Horton. Denny McLain.
“Next year he (McLain) was caught throwing games, ended up doing time in jail, just awful.”
Baseball was one sport that wasn’t passed down to Docherty from his father, like he has done with his kids.
“My parents were Scottish and didn’t understand hockey, so hockey wasn’t big in our household,” Docherty explained. “I played it as a kid but it wasn’t first and foremost.” He paused.
“But they didn’t understand baseball either” he said with a deep laugh.
But once the Jays formed, he had a new found favorite team.
Docherty was living in Toronto when the Blue Jays won back-to-back World Series, and was downtown when Joe Carter launched the walk-off home run to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993.
“I wished I was at that game, but I wasn’t,” he said. “Being downtown, that was pretty darn cool.
“It was crazy, just insane.
“It was the complete opposite of Vancouver for the Stanley Cup. People were just happy, they were just celebrating.
“I happened to be downtown when Canada won the gold medal with the Sidney Crosby goal, that was pretty neat, but that was nothing to Toronto when Carter won the game.”
Baseball is a sport that has continued to grow into his career as a professor, which started in 1994 at Wilfred Laurier University, before eventually making it to Mount Royal this year.
“Baseball is a numbers game and in my professional life, I teach statistics, so why wouldn’t I be attracted to baseball?
“ERA, WHIPS, RBI, all that matters,” he said. “Left-handed versus right-handed, when to steal, all of that matters.
“You can’t teach statistics or probability theory without having an appreciation for baseball.”
But for him, nothing beats a Sunday afternoon at a ballpark.
“I love nothing more than a sunny Sunday afternoon to go to the ball park and it doesn’t have to major league. In fact I much prefer minor league and sit and watch and have some peanuts and a cold beer and just chat.
“When I’m with my boys, you chat about life, you just chat about whatever comes to mind.
“And that’s part of what I love about it.”