It was a swing of the bat that the Dent family will forever remember. Fans of baseball recognize the name Bucky Dent—he played for the Yankees and made a legendary play against the Red Sox 35 years ago this October.
Bucky had a good career in the big leagues, mostly because of his defense, but a rare 3-run homer in the 7th inning in a 1978 playoff game sent his Yankees to the American League East Pennant.
After his days as a shortstop were through Bucky Dent entered the coaching ranks. But in 2007 he walked away from his job with Cincinnati so he could watch more baseball; more specifically, so he could watch his son Cody play for the Florida Gators.
Cody’s twin sister Caitlyn plays for the NC State Wolfpack.
Over the past four years Bucky and Marianne Dent have traveled thousands of miles to watch their children play the sport they love, sometimes watching games in two cities a week depending on schedules. To Florida fans Bucky Dent became a familiar face, often being shown on TV because of his fame.
In the 2011 College World Series game against Texas, Bucky was there when Cody hit a game-winning 2 RBI double. He was also there in the CWS Final when Cody was tagged out sliding into home in the bottom of the 9th—a play that would have given Florida the win in Game 1; instead, South Carolina won the Finals 2 games to none.
Through all the highs and lows Bucky Dent was there cheering for his son. A career .182 hitter, Cody, like his father, was known more for his glove than for his bat. Although he was a walking highlight reel defensively, there was something that both father and son wanted to see: a Cody Dent homerun.
That’s why it was so special. On May 6th, right before Cody’s final home series of his Gator career, he stepped to the plate in the 4th inning with two outs and one on base. He took the first pitch he saw—a fastball—and bounced it off the McKethan Stadium scoreboard. The one and only homerun of his career came against Florida A&M in a 22-1 blowout victory.
And Bucky was there to see it, with tears in his eyes, being high-fived by everyone around him.
As proud as Dad was to see his son hit that homer, that wasn’t the reason he walked away from coaching. Even if the homerun never came, Bucky was going to be there to watch his kids play ball.
"I wanted to be a part of their lives,'' he said. "I missed a lot of it when I was coaching. My wife did a tremendous job with them and counseling them while I wasn't there. I just felt like, 'Hey, I don't want to miss any more time. I want to be there for them and I'm going to be there.'”
In a society where we have so many absent fathers, isn’t it refreshing to see one who will walk away from an MLB coaching career to be there for his kids? I guarantee for Cody and Caitlyn, having their father at their games means more than knowing he is a professional coach. Bucky admits that not every father is able to make the move that he made (he is obviously doing well financially), but he serves as a model for us fathers to be there as much as we can, saying no to what doesn’t matter, and being there for our kids.
And he will have more to watch, and more miles to travel. Cody was just drafted by the Washington Nationals.