Detroit, Michigan. 2005.
The site of the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Seventy-seven of the game’s most dominant baseball players have converged at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Manny Ramirez and Mariano Rivera, Pedro Martinez and Albert Pujols. The biggest names in baseball put aside their divisional and league rivalries for the opportunity to give their leagues home-field advantage in the World Series.
Among them is nine-year-old Brett Siddall. In just a couple months Siddall will be starting fifth grade, but for now, his father Joe, a Detroit Tigers coach, totes him around Comerica, introducing him to the stars and giving him batting practice in the Tigers cages.
Ten years later, Siddall’s own professional baseball journey is just beginning.
Long before Siddall roamed the outfield grass at Centennial Field, donning a Vermont Lake Monsters roster, he was just like any other little leaguer in Windsor, Ontario. Small in stature, donning rubber cleats, and with major league aspirations, Siddall wasn’t different than any other kid getting their first crack at baseball.
His father, however, was.
Unlike many of the dads beginning their coaching careers. Joe Siddall had arguably more experience in baseball than any other father in attendance. After all, Joe did play in the bigs.
Joe called baseball his job for 13 years, playing in the minor league systems of the Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers, and Boston Red Sox. Four times he had reached the pinnacle of baseball, spending small parts of four seasons at the major league level with Montreal, Florida, and Detroit.
But after retiring as a member of the Pawtucket Paw Sox, Joe wanted to be a full-time dad, spending time with his four children. And part of those duties would be the opportunity to coach his son Brett.
From ages seven to fifteen, Joe coached his son, watching as Brett worked his way through youth baseball, providing the coaching presence of a father with the knowledge of professional.
“Other dads volunteered to coach as well,” Joe said. “I’m a pretty laid back guy. I was always hands on but I tried to keep my distance to let him do his thing. It was fun, just a great thing to be around.”
As Brett grew up, Joe was by his side, watching and coaching him until, at age 17, Brett was selected to the Canadian Junior National team, taking second place at Americas World Junior Tournament and earning All-Tournament honors as Canada took second place, all leading up to a successful career at Canisus.
“Having my dad with all the knowledge he has being able to coach me growing up was huge for me,” Brett said. “Baseball being a game of failure, he showed me that tomorrow is a new day so you have to just continue to learn and work and be the best you can be.”
Through his first two seasons with the Golden Eagles, Brett hit .326 with 71 RBIs and a .457 slugging percentage before erupting during his junior season. Siddall hit .324 as a junior, bashing a career high 10 home runs and 41 RBIs with a .584 slugging percentage.
“Out of high school I had a chance to go in the draft, but I wanted to go to school,” said Brett. “I had a breakout year, got some calls, and had an idea that I was going be to drafted.”
Ideas quickly turned to aspirations, as Brett began to get phone calls and letters from multiple teams. Joe remained cautiously optimistic, aware that letters only meant so much, especially so early in the season.
But as the season continued to roll, so too did the interest, and in the thirteenth round, the Oakland Athletics selected Brett with the 398th overall selection.
“We erupted off the couch,” said Joe. “We were so excited. To actually hear his name called, it was euphoria.”
As Brett began his minor league career in Arizona, Joe returned to his duties as the color commentator for the Toronto Blue Jays radio broadcasts, but he was always just a text away, passing on all the information that he can to his son.
“I’m not taking it for granted (having a former major leaguer as a father) but it’s something I haven’t really realized until college and now its hit me that my dad actually played in the big leauges. He has the experience. He tells me the stories that he had and it’s cool that I’m going down that same path. It’s cool to be able to relive his experiences through me.”
While Joe is there as a devoted father, he’s also behind his son in full, passing along any advice that he possible can.
“He lets me do my own thing, he doesn’t want to get in the way too much,” said Brett. “He’s there for me, phone call away, text away, so that’s been pretty cool for me to have someone who’s been here, who you can call after a game or a practice just to get a word of advice.”
The minor leagues is no glory road, and Joe knows that just as well as anybody. The long bus rides, the low pay checks, all are overlooked by baseball fans by the bright lights that shine in the majors. But, with all of Brett’s previous opportunities, Joe believes his son is prepared.
“I always joked, ‘be careful what you wish for.’ No one’s sure of what the minor leagues is, but I felt that he would be prepared. Playing college baseball was going to be a commitment. Playing for the Canadian Junior National team, playing in the World Championships.
“He would travel with the Junior National team, playing instructional league teams. It was a grind, and I think that prepared him. There’s excitement for the draft, but the minors is not glamorous.”
Its an exclusive club, the fraternity that is professional baseball. Just 0.5 percent of all high school baseball players go on to play in the major leagues, but within the Siddall household, there’s no reason there can’t be two names on the list.
“I would be thrilled for him (if he were to make it),” Joe said. “This means more than anything for him. He has a tremendous work ethic that has gotten him to this point. I would be thrilled for him to make it.”
As for Brett, this is just the beginning of a dream harbored on little league diamonds.
“(To make the major leagues) would just be unbelievable, a dream come true for both of us,” Brett said. “He jokes that one day he could be broadcasting about me if he’s still doing it. We’ll see what happens. This has been my dream since I was a little kid. For it to finally be coming true and to be playing on this professional field is pretty special for me.”