Special friendship with dad fuels Litsch

Special friendship with dad fuels Litsch

TORONTO -- The way Jesse Litsch has pitched this season, it's a wonder the Blue Jays haven't added his father to the coaching staff. After all, Rick Litsch has been his son's practice buddy for close to 20 years now.

Raising his son in Florida, Rick Litsch would be out on the baseball diamond practicing with Jesse from Little League right through high school. Even though the younger Litsch is now a successful Major League starter, that hasn't changed.

"Basically, we've been practicing since I was 5 until now," said the 23-year-old Litsch. "Even last offseason, I was throwing with him. He's still young at heart. He's old, but he's still young at heart."

The practice has obviously paid off for Litsch, who has emerged this year as somewhat of a secret weapon, throwing from the back of Toronto's starting rotation.

Litsch entered June leading all Blue Jays pitchers with seven wins. Through his first 11 games, 10 of which were starts, the right-hander was 7-1 with a 3.18 ERA.

Litsch credits his father as having "pretty much everything" to do with his baseball career.

"He was a single dad, so it was just me and him," Litsch said, noting that his mother left when he was 5 years old. "He was able to be there with me when I was young. Any time I wanted to go out to the field, I was able to go out there and practice [with him]."

Though Rick never played ball, he gained a keen knowledge of the game from constantly watching and reading about it. This knowledge was passed on to his son, as the two made an effort to play the game every day.

"We started out playing in the front yard, hitting Wiffle balls, hitting real balls and breaking windows next door," Litsch said with a laugh. "And then we had to go to the field."

Rick also made sure to attend all of his son's Little League and high school games. However, what mattered most to Jesse was the fact that his father was always ready with a glove and a bat.

"Whatever he could do to help out, he did," Litsch said. "But just being able to practice with me was a big thing. The ins and outs: throwing, hitting, whatever I needed to do. Little things that parents are good for."

In his Major League debut last season, Litsch was able to reward his father. On May 15, 2007, at Rogers Centre, Litsch took the mound against Baltimore on what was also his father's 57th birthday.

The Blue Jays starter allowed just one run on four hits in 8 2/3 innings, while collecting the win -- a fitting birthday present for his father, who made the trek from Florida to attend the game.

"It was awesome," said Litsch. "It was a long time coming, but he deserved to be here just as much as I did. He put up with me for all those years and just to see the smile on his face that day was a big thing."

David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.