One bizarre side effect of turning in one of the best postseason pitching runs in MLB history is that the New York Times will send a reporter out to North Carolina to interview your dad saying just the dad-est possible things. So meet Kevin Bumgarner, proud father of the reigning World Series MVP, whose opinion on his son's bonkers innings count is the only one you'll ever need:
"I didn't know if he had enough left tonight," Kevin said. "But I did know that boy would try to steal a steak off the devil's plate."
This guy is delightful. Hudson, N.C., where Madison lives in the offseason with his wife and eight Black Angus cattle, is apparently lousy with Bumgarners (Kevin: "It's not like we're inbred"), and the NYT gets a full tour. We visit South Caldwell High School, where Madison helped win a state championship (direct quote from his old coach: "Ssssss-pop! Ssssss-pop!"); we learn the MVP's favorite local restaurant (Pancho Villa's); and, most importantly, we get lots of quality time with Kevin, who is brimming with wit and wisdom when discussing, say, the log cabin he built with his bare hands.
"Here's the secret to living in a log house: You got to love the color brown," Kevin said. "But you can hang a picture anywhere."
Other topics include how he decided what to name his son (he read a story about a Madison County sheriff in the Charlotte Observer), how he learned that his son had gotten married (he'd called to ask Madison to lunch), and how he feels about the new Chevy pickup his son just somewhat infamously received ("I got hopes he might give that one to me"). The reporter apparently got to watch all of the Game 6 Royals blowout at Kevin's house, which allowed for a few teachable moments.
"I tell Madison, Sometimes you're the bug, and sometimes you're the windshield," he said. "Sometimes you're the pigeon, and sometimes you're the statue."
And while Dad was too keyed up to watch Game 7 live with a stranger present, the NYT got to stop by after, a framed photo of Madison in uniform beaming down from the fireplace mantle, and found the proud father "near vibrating, having chewed bubble gum with a light beer chaser during the game." Turns out he'd also sent along some encouragement:
Then Kevin pulled out his phone. He had texted Madison after the eighth inning, and he tried to read it to me. He began to choke up and just handed me the phone.
"OMG. You're so much more than awesome," Kevin had written to his son. "To see you work on the mound reminds me of watching you in high school. You are willing yourself to perfection and dragging the team along with you. I couldn't be more proud of your baseball accomplishments."
Kevin looked at me. "I knew he wouldn't read that text before the game was over," he said, "but I wanted him to know this was what his daddy thought of him."
OMG. Give your dad the truck, Madison. He earned it.
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty.