Richard and Kathy Verlander have written a book about raising star athletes. Their credentials? Son Justin of the Detroit Tigers won the American League Cy Young Award and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. His brother, Ben, is a Tigers prospect. WKAR's Scott Pohl talks with Richard Verlander.
The title of the new book -- Rocks Across The Pond: Lessons Learned. Stories Told -- stems from an incident in Justin Verlander’s childhood. While skipping rocks on a pond, the father challenged the son to see who could throw a rock the farthest.
RICHARD VERLANDER: I picked a rock up and threw it promptly halfway across the pond, and thought I’d done pretty well. Justin picked up a rock and threw it all the way across, into the trees on the other side of the pond, so I quickly realized that he had a pretty special arm, and as it turns out, it was also an indication just how pathetic dad was! It’s a little bit of a combination of the two. It seemed like a perfect metaphor for our journey when we were thinking about our title, so that’s where that came from.
SCOTT POHL: You and your wife Kathy have recipients of the George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award, and it leads me to ask you about your years as Little League parents. When you look back at those years and the other parents around you the time, did you think you doing anything extraordinary in the way you were raising Justin and Ben?
VERLANDER: You know, we really didn’t. Even in hindsight, I would say the we didn’t do a whole lot more than what countless volunteers, moms and dads in Little League, are doing. We referenced that when we were honored with that award, that we really are just a reflection of all of coaches and teachers and volunteers and folks along the way. Really, it’s their shoulders that we’re standing on.
POHL: I like the cover photo of your book. It shows Justin fist-bumping a little boy with a glove and a Tigers shirt on. It leads me to wonder the extent to which you feel he’s already of a mindset that he will ‘pass it on’ to the next generation himself.
VERLANDER: I think he is. He’s still a young man himself. Age is relative; he’s 29. I think he really sees that as a responsibility. The athletes and superstars of these little kids look up to you so much, and it is a big responsibility. I think that Justin’s graced with that and sees what an impact you can have on a young person’s life.
We hope that they pass that along to the next generation. We make reference in the book that we were very fortunate, Kathy and I, to have great parents ourselves. I think it’s an obligation that you have, probably one of the most important responsibilities we have in our role as parents, is to play that kind of role in young peoples’ lives.
POHL: Ben is also a Detroit Tigers draftee. How has he been doing?
VERLANDER: Ben’s doing well. Ben is a rising junior at Old Dominion, which is the same university that Justin attended, in Virginia. Ben is more of a utility-type player, but he’s doing really well in school. This summer, he’s playing in a wooden bat league in the Shenandoah Valley, which is not too far from our home in Virginia, and really loving that.
Ben’s a very good hitter. He loves giving his brother a hard time, because Justin is still 0-for his career at last check.
Ben’s his own guy. He’s certainly in a pretty big shadow, but he embraces it, and he’s his own man.