Mark Loretta thinks he was 11, maybe 12 years old, when he hit a home run in his hometown of Arcadia, Calif., that still sticks with him today. And what he remembers is not just the joy he felt as he ran around the bases, but the voice he heard in the background.
"My dad was the P.A. announcer at our Little League field, not every game, but he'd rotate," Loretta said. "We were in the playoffs and I hit a grand slam to put us ahead in the final game and there was a guy there who was a young guy out of college, he wanted to be a sportscaster, so he would come out to our Little League field and do the play-by-play and tape it and sell it to the families.
"I have that tape, and in the background, I can hear my dad over the P.A., announcing a 'grand slam for Mark Loretta.' That's one of my favorite moments, and he's a big part of it, just being there."
And those three words -- just being there -- sort of symbolize the way Loretta feels about his father, David.
Consider that when 34-year-old Mark Loretta hit his first home run as a member of the Red Sox -- a walk-off job with two outs in the bottom of the ninth against the Mariners on April 17 -- his dad was in the Fenway Park stands that day.
"I was so thankful that he was there for that. Gordon Edes wrote a story in the [Boston Globe], quoting my dad, so that's something we'll have in our scrapbook forever," said Loretta.
Whether Loretta was experiencing baseball thrills as a Little Leaguer, a collegian at Northwestern, a Minor Leaguer in the Brewers' system right down to his current job as second baseman of the Red Sox, his dad has been a soothing presence.
David Loretta was an international banker, so he traveled all over the world. But he was and is ever-present in Mark's life.
"What was nice looking back, is he kind of structured his travel based around my activities," said Mark Loretta. "He would postpone a trip for Little League games and that kind of thing. He didn't miss that many games.
"I played catch with my dad up until a few offseasons ago. I'd be at home and I'd need to throw and we'd play in the street. He was never an overbearing father that pushed me. He was never my coach. He was more supportive than anything else. He just kind of gave me some basic principles of giving it your all and acting appropriately, things like that. We don't really talk specific fundamentals of the game but we talk about just staying positive and things will turn around. He'll leave a message, always positive."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.