Book Excerpt: Sons of Baseball By Mark Braff
May 18, 2023
Mark Braff, who recently penned the impressive book Sons of Baseball: Growing Up With a Major League Dad, shared this wonderful excerpt from the book focusing on Ron Guidry's son Brandon.
Ron Guidry & Brandon Guidry
Handfuls of Bazooka and other stadium fun
Brandon Guidry was born in May 1980 in Lafayette but has chosen to make New York City his home.
“My whole family still lives in Louisiana on what we would like to call a compound. My parents have like 75 acres of land. And what you’d do in the south is, you give your children an acre here, an acre there. So, my older sister lives right next door [to my parents]. My younger sister is probably going to be building next door. I recently sold my piece of property because I don’t think I’m moving back.”
Brandon was only eight years old when his father retired as a player, but he has memories of going to the ballpark to see the Yankees play.
“Mom took us every time my dad pitched. And even if he wasn’t pitching, we would still go. I mean, we wouldn’t make every game. I’m sure Mom got annoyed and tired hauling us all over the place. But we would still go. We wouldn’t stay for the whole game or we wouldn’t show up right at the beginning, but we’d still go to support the teammates, the families.
“There was a family section, and so all the families sat there, and then the wives and mothers would take us downstairs to the family lounge whenever we started acting up, I guess. And what would happen is that the boys and sometimes the girls, we would all go downstairs and we would play games in the hallways underneath Yankee Stadium until the game ended. And then the boys would go to the locker rooms with their dads and the girls would go upstairs.
“Playing baseball in the basement of Yankee Stadium was always so much fun. Andre Randolph (Willie’s son) and me would go into the clubhouse and get handfuls and handfuls of Bazooka bubble gum. And we’d put it in our pockets and then we’d run outside and give them to our sisters and all the other kids.”
Sometimes, Brandon would travel to the games with Dad—but not too often, by choice.
“My dad used to like to get to the stadium early, like several hours early, ‘cause he had a whole routine that he would do if he was pitching. So, I wasn’t going to the stadium and staying there for like seven, eight hours, and then the game, you know?”
When Brandon traveled to the ballpark with his dad, the conversation was much like any other father-son talk during a quiet time in the car.
“We never really talked about what he was going to do in the game. And that’s just kind of who my dad is. He’s not going to be breaking down his strategy of everything. Now, he loves to talk about it, but at the time, it was more like father and son: ‘Are you behaving? Your mom said you weren’t.’”
In Franklin Lakes, NJ (where the Guidrys rented a house during the baseball season), life for Brandon was also much like the life of any young kid growing up in the suburbs.
“Most of our friends were the other ballplayers’ kids. That’s who becomes your family after a while. The majority of our time, we were hanging out with Willie Randolph (also a Franklin Lakes resident) and his kids because he’s got four and we were three, and we’re all basically like a year apart in age.
“We were just kids. We had a pool, so we would swim. We liked exploring, so we walked through the woods. Dad would hang out with us, jump in the pool with us. We weren’t asking, ‘Hey, throw me a ball,’ you know, if there were times that we would play baseball he would be the pitcher for both teams.”
Dad’s baseball friends often stopped by the New Jersey house.
“We’re Southern, so we always liked to have company over and barbecue and grill. Some of the teammates would come over and hang, and the kids would come over. We’d have sleepovers with the kids. Dave Righetti (Yankee pitcher) came over a lot. He was just starting out and my dad had kind of taken him under his wing. This was our life. That’s all we knew. Your dad plays baseball and some guys are going to come over.”
Another part of life was being out with dad in public, which didn’t bother Brandon much.
“I didn’t feel like I had to share him and I don’t ever remember being upset. I mean, at some points I’m sure that I got annoyed ‘cause you’re trying to have a conversation and somebody comes up and they’re like, ‘Hey, can I get an autograph? Can I get a picture?’ My dad was never one to turn someone away. The only rule was, if we were all eating as a family and somebody came to the table, he would just ask them to wait until we were done. It was part of my dad’s job. The older I got, that’s what I realized.
“At probably six or seven years old, you kind of start to figure out that my life wasn’t what my friends’ lives were. Like, I didn’t see my dad for four or five months here and there. But with my mom and my dad, it was never made a big deal. I think, if anything, we were kind of told not to really talk about it, like not really say anything or brag about it because that’s just not how my parents raised us. We were not raised to be like, ‘Oh, my dad’s better than yours because he’s a ballplayer.’ So, I guess as kids we were just kind of accepting of it. It was just kind of a normal thing for us because we were never told to act like it was a big deal. Other people… you have cousins and aunts and uncles that are like, ‘Hey, can you get this?’ And I’d be like, ‘I’m seven years old. What am I going to do?’ (laughs). People would ask me to get my dad’s autograph [for them] because they were scared of him. And I’m like, ‘Why? He’s not a scary person. Just go ask him.’”
Back in Lafayette during the winter, things were different.
“It’s almost funny because, during the off-season, you didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. You’re not hanging out with that baseball family anymore. I couldn’t always explain to my Lafayette friends, like, ‘Oh, I went up to Boston and I did this, I went down to Baltimore and I did this, or we hung out with so-and-so.’ First of all, they didn’t care. And second, they didn’t understand it. So, it was just weird.”
Wintertime was also a time for dad to spend with the family.
“It was a lot of catching up. It was always, like, ‘How’s school going? You guys behaving?’ It was a lot of one-on-one time, just seeing how we were doing and trying to reinsert himself back into our lives. So, it was always kind of nice when he came home, unless – and I was famous for doing this because I wasn’t the most well-behaved kid – mom would sometimes threaten that I would have to wait until my dad got home before he would give me my punishment. Now, my dad might not have been coming home for a month. So, she would be like, ‘I told him about it so he’s going to have a month to think of your punishment.’ My dad would come home and he’d be like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. Your mom never told me anything.’ My dad would never come home and want to discipline us because he had been gone for so long. So, when he would come home it was always like, ‘Okay, your mom told me that you got in trouble, so pretend I’m in here chewing you out.’ My dad was never the disciplinarian. He would never come home and be mad. He would put baseball aside and become dad and, you know, hang out, drop us off at school, which was always fun to him. It was always fun when he came home.”
Brandon didn’t particularly enjoy playing baseball, and that was okay with dad.
“I played Tee-ball and then a few leagues after that, but I wasn’t very good. I just wasn’t. And I didn’t enjoy it. I was a second baseman or an outfielder. But obviously, everybody was like, ‘Oh, you’re going to pitch. You got that Guidry arm. We’re gonna call you Gator Jr., Louisiana Lightning II.’ And I was like, ‘No.’
Brandon moved to New York when his dad was hired as pitching coach for the Yankees in 2006.
“I always loved the city. My sisters are the country mice and I’m the city mouse. When Dad found out he was going to be the pitching coach, I was like, ‘Hey, do you want a roommate?’
So, when he moved up here to coach, I moved with him and when he left, I just stayed.
These days, Ron Guidry’s primary role is that of grandfather. Brandon is single, but his two sisters have three children and a stepson between them.
“When my niece was born, we tried to get her to call my dad Gator. That’s what he wanted. But, for some reason, she got it in her head that it was Coco. So, now that’s his name. Everyone calls him Coco except my nephew. He calls him Gator.
“So, my father, the big, tough baseball player, Yankees retired number, captain and all that stuff, he goes by Coco (laughs). He refers to himself as Coco, too. Like if he’s talking to her on the phone, he’s like, ‘Well, yup, Coco’s going to be home.’ And it’s so funny to me.
“My nieces and nephew, they’ve got him wrapped around their fingers. Like, my dad bought one of those fun jumps. And it was too hot to play outside so he brought it in the house, in the living room, and moved the furniture. And I was like, ‘What’s happening to you guys?’ We never got to do that. I’m like, ‘They’re kids, they can be hot’ (laughs). He’s so protective and so loving of them. He loves being a grandfather ‘cause he gets to spoil them and gets to be with them full-time and watch them grow up. Maybe, in a way, because he didn’t get to spend that time with us.”
All in all, Brandon is happy with his childhood as the son of a baseball star.
“I’m perfectly content with the way it was, the positives and the negatives. We had a really nice life. We got to travel, we got to do things that other kids didn’t do. I was going to Broadway shows and museums and doing things that I know my friends didn’t do. It was fun and it was a learning experience. I never in my life regretted my dad playing baseball. It came with perks, but it came with negativity, too. There was one woman who may or may not have been trying to kidnap me and my sister. You just have weird, random things happen, but I wouldn’t trade it, wouldn’t change any of it.”