Bynum pushed to excel by father
Shortstop's dad was also his coach through middle school
BALTIMORE -- Orioles shortstop Freddie Bynum can still remember his humble beginnings in baseball, which taught him the fine art of hit-and-run in inimitable fashion. Bynum can recall tagging along to his father and namesake's weekend softball games, where he had to be stealthy to get his hands on a bat and sneakily fast to be able to use one.
"I was always stealing bats their bats during games and running down the line to hit rocks," he said. "They used to get mad at me and yell at me down the line because they needed their bats to hit."
Bynum, like countless other baseball fans, got into the game because his father loved it. The fleet-footed infielder said that his training began when he was 7 or 8 years old and that his dad coached him all the way through middle school. Freddie Bynum Sr. makes his living as an industrial mechanic, but he's always found the time to throw the ball around.
"He's always been a working man, but my dad's worked the same shift my whole life: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.," said Bynum. "When he gets off work, he'd get some extra energy. He'd come home and come practice with me. He didn't play baseball. He played a lot of softball on the weekends, but he was always ready to go when I was ready to go. He'd toss the ball or whatever."
Eventually, the pair of Bynums became involved with a local team, and that's where the son began his true baseball education. Bynum said that his dad was tough on him, but that the player-coach relationship never strained the father-son one. In fact, he said the game may have made their bond even stronger.
"I never questioned my dad when it came to me doing something in baseball or something he told me to do. Period," Bynum said.
"He was harder on me, but that's my pops. He's supposed to be harder on me. I loved it, but he didn't let me get away with stuff. He didn't care that I was his son, and he made me do things like everyone else no matter what."
Things got a little different when Bynum began his high school career, where his father was a constant presence. Bynum said his father would try to "overcoach" his coaches, but that it never caused any friction. And as Bynum began his professional career, he found out that his dad had mellowed quite a bit in terms of giving advice.
Now, he's content to discuss the game and to praise his son for being persistent.
"My dad's not a big guy to call me with tips unless I call him and ask him questions, which I like to do," he said. "He'll tell me to relax or to just have fun. And he loves that I'm at shortstop now. It didn't matter where I play, because he just wanted me to be in the big leagues and have a chance to show my abilities, but he's thankful that I can get in there every day."
One of the first things Bynum did upon making the Major Leagues was buy his father a big-screen television with a DVR so his dad could follow along wherever the game might take him. And now, Bynum Sr. revels in the new technology, which gives him a chance to record every game and to have a ready-made study guide for his son.
"I believe he gets more excited than me sometimes," Bynum said. "He's happy for me -- him and my mother. But my dad just loves it because he knows I made it and didn't quit. There were a lot of guys I played with growing up that he coached that could play ball, but they quit just because people told them it was a typical white sport. They'd get picked on, so they quit.
"I never cared about being cool or being the popular guy. I just loved playing baseball and I was good at it."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.