FAMILY TIES : Sons of Pro Players, Coaches Say They Thrive in Footsteps
You can’t really blame Jeff Repoz, Tony Muser Jr. or Tim Henze if they are a little nervous when their fathers attend their high school baseball games.
It’s almost like having a scout watching. Except this guy will probably critique your swing, offer you a ride home, kiss your mother and stay for dinner.
When these fathers talk about mechanics and execution, it has nothing to do with grease monkeys or capital punishment.
As a result, these high school players were weaned on baseball. Family vacations revolved around it. They have made trips to Japan, Milwaukee, Florida and Texas to watch their fathers’ teams.
Compared to a typical high school player, this is a different ballgame.
Repoz, Henze and Muser have two things in common: as underclassmen, they’re already team leaders, and each of their fathers was a college or big league player or coach, or both.
Repoz, one of the county’s leading hitters as a junior at Katella High School, is the son of Roger Repoz, a former California Angels outfielder.
Henze, a junior catcher who has thrown out 11 of 14 baserunners this season, is coached at San Clemente by his father, Gene, a successful former college coach.
Muser, the starting shortstop as a sophomore at Los Alamitos, is the son of former big leaguer and current Milwaukee Brewer coach Tony Muser.
Bruce Ogilvie, a San Jose State sports psychologist who has worked with the Portland Trail Blazers, the Lakers and the Rams, says the path of father-and-son athletic dynasties can be perilous.
“On the positive side, the son is introduced to his father’s (baseball) life, socially and psychologically, and is better equipped for having had a taste of that world,” Ogilvie said. “They’ve experienced the real complexity of baseball, which is another society.
“But when you talk about minuses, it’s a difficult act to follow.
“Anytime you have a parent who has become a public figure and received a great deal of adoration and attention, it’s very difficult for a child not to get caught up in the idea that they have to live up to those same expectations in order to be a lovable, acceptable human being. And that can really get you into trouble.”
Ogilvie said he had worked with one young man whose father was a former professional football player. The son was a four-sport athlete until he broke his leg playing football at age 17 and learned his athletic career was over.
“Within three months, he’d tried to commit suicide . . . he’d OD’d--and he hadn’t even been a drug user before--and gotten kicked out of school. He practically became a derelict.”
But Repoz, Muser and Henze have thrived in their fathers’ footsteps. And part of the reason seems to be that their fathers gave them time to master the game on their own.
That observation coincides with a theory held by Thomas Tutko, San Jose State sports psychologist and author.
“What we found out from the athletes I’ve known is the best system is one of non-pressure, where the parent is very supportive with good understanding,” Tutko said.
“I think it’s very wise that (the fathers) see ‘Hey, this kid will be putting enough pressure on himself and contributing to it would only add to the dilemma.’ ”
Muser, Repoz and Henze usually were too busy with their careers to attend their sons’ games, at least until recently.
Lately, Tony Muser Sr., who is recovering from serious burns suffered in a Brewers clubhouse explosion in Arizona in February, has enjoyed a rare chance to see his son’s games.
“When he’s there, I get twice as nervous because I want to do good for him,” Tony Jr. said. “I feel I have to do better because Dad is a pro, and if I don’t, it can be hard to deal with.”
Gene Henze and Roger Repoz said they actually avoided the games on purpose until their sons entered high school.
Repoz’s oldest son, 19-year-old Craig, was the New York Mets’ first pick in the January 1985 draft.
All of the sons said the special instruction and insights from their fathers had outweighed the pressures.
“It’s been an advantage for me because he helps me out and he knows what he’s talking about,” said Jeff Repoz, who practices hitting in the garage with his father. Repoz gave both his sons a copy of Ted Williams’ classic book “The Science of Hitting.”
Roger Repoz added that when Craig got to Mets camp, he told his father, “Dad, (the coaches are) telling me the same things you’ve been telling me!”
With the Henzes, both in their first year at San Clemente, there are different dilemmas.
“I want him to work harder than the other players and set an example,” said Gene Henze, who had a winning percentage of more than .700 in 14 years at Black Hawk College in Illinois.
“If my son’s doing that, they’ll be inclined to say, ‘Hey, the old man’s serious if he pushes his son that way.’
“One bad thing, to be honest, is that I may not compliment him sometimes when I should.”
A few of the players are aware of signs of favoritism. Tim Henze remembers the day his father criticized a player for leaving a bat in the dirt, where the grips get stepped on and cut by players’ spikes.
“I’m not perfect and a few seconds later, I laid one down and my Dad didn’t see me so I didn’t get yelled at,” Tim Henze said. “The other guy was mad. He came into the locker room and said, ‘I don’t believe it. I get yelled at for laying a bat down, and you do it and he doesn’t say a thing to you.’ ”
And what about the problem of how to address the coach/father?
“I’m kind of hesitant about calling him ‘Dad,’ ” Tim Henze said. “Occasionally, I’ll say ‘Coach’ so it doesn’t seem like I’m the coach’s son.”
With all of the natural comparisons and expectations, Tim Henze said he never considered letting another sport take the place of baseball in his heart.
He said simply: “It’s in the blood.”