Father & Son May Have Different Approaches, but Only See Ballplayers

Roy Hobbs Baseball

The Coopers
Photo courtesy of Cooper FamilyRobbie Cooper signing his Phillies contract with Dad Dave (R) and Phils’ Canadian rep Alex Agostino.

The time came when Dave Cooper, a.k.a. Coop, realized he needed to step back and give his son Robbie some room as Robbie pursued his talent for baseball.

“Robby is very different than me,” Coop said. “Guys on his team would call him the California guy, really laid back. Me, I’m intense when I play. So I decided that I wouldn’t coach his team any more.”

Dave’s intensity came from his first sport – hockey. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario, he describes himself “a professional sandlot baseball player,” who focused on hockey and played baseball when it was warm. He was good enough to have a short stint in the minor leagues of professional hockey, and when that was over and turned his primary focus to baseball, he was good enough to play in the Pan American games with the Canadian National Baseball Team. He has continued playing ever since. He will play with the Border City Brewers in the Masters Division of the 2011 Roy Hobbs World Series.

Both his sons grew up in dugouts watching their dad play amateur ball. The family vacations were to places like Phoenix to watch spring training. And as he grew up, two things were evident about Robbie: He loved being around baseball, and he was very good at it. “He was born and bred to play the game,” Coop says.

So it was tough in Robbie’s mid teens for Dave to step away a little bit and let someone else do the coaching. But, “Kids get tired of hearing the same voice all the time,” he said.

Robbie, a left-hander, was pitching for a select team in Detroit that had a very demanding schedule that summer.

“There’s a point in a kid’s mid-teens when they want to do the things that other kids do,” Dave said. “And there were times when Robbie just didn’t want to go play ball. I didn’t tell him he had to go, but I did tell him if he didn’t he was the one who would have to tell the coach. In the end, he always went.”

After high school, Robbie played college ball in California with mixed results. When he was not drafted by a professional team this year, he decided not to go back to school, and to play summer baseball at home in the Can Am League, a league populated by former professional players and upcoming prospects.

There, he seemed to find himself. The scouts showed up. He pitched the championship game in the Canadian National Junior Tournament. Based on his summer performance, he got offers from several Major League teams and decided to sign with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Both Robbie and Dave believe that a key to his success was Dave’s example as a player.

“My playing pretty much has to do with his playing,” Robbie said. “I grew up around it. And when he said something, I listened. Because I knew he knew how to do it.”

“That’s so important in my opinion,” Coop said, because they see each other not only as father and son, “but as baseball players.”