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Dad tries to stay stoic as Cozart hits Majors

Dad tries to stay stoic as Cozart hits Majors

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Dad tries to stay stoic as Cozart hits Majors
CINCINNATI -- When shortstop Zack Cozart notched his first Major League hit for the Reds last season in Milwaukee, his father, David, was there. The elder Cozart had his eyes fixed on the field and on his son, but looked like he was firmly cemented to his seat while his mother, Mary, was energetically high-fiving anyone close by with a working hand.

The Reds television broadcast of the July 7 game caught it all on camera. As his son hit a fourth-inning single off of Brewers pitcher Chris Narveson, David Cozart simply could not move, nor could he react. He was just too excited to do anything but sit still. In what is now a comical moment, he couldn't even return a high-five to Mary, leaving her hanging.

"I'll tell you what, the adrenaline in me was flowing so much," David explained with a laugh this week. "I don't know how to explain it. I was holding it in a lot. I was really nervous. There are people at work that saved it on their laptops and show it to me every now and then. I go, 'Oh my goodness.' I was just nervous and proud. I didn't want be an overdo-it type dad to jump and down. I kept my eyes on him the whole time because I wanted to see how he'd react also."

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Zack learned late the night before that he was getting his first big league promotion from Triple-A Louisville, and called his parents at 3:30 a.m. Though he had arranged for his wife to be in Milwaukee, he wasn't sure if his parents would be able to make the trip from their home near Memphis.

"They talked to their bosses and were told they could go," Zack said. "They surprised me when they got there. I didn't even know they were coming. To see their reaction when I got the first hit was pretty cool."

If David couldn't show his true feelings while in his seat, he certainly did when he found his son after his first game.

"It was such a proud moment," David said. "Everybody knows how tough it is to make it or get the opportunity to make it. After the game when we met, you kind of tear up a little bit. I got to hug him and tell him how proud I was."

"Obviously it was my dream to get here, but he coached me coming up," Zack said. "He was kind of living through me, had been with me the whole way, and when I got up there, he was nervous in the stands. The next night, I understand he was calm and relaxed in the stands. We were both pretty nervous and it was nice to have him there."

Like many Major Leaguers, Cozart's introduction to baseball came at an early age -- in this case when he was a five-year-old. His father coached him from the age of eight to 12 years old.

A competitive kid, Cozart wasn't always a good sport on the field.

"I was one of those kids that hated to get out and was throwing stuff in the dugout like a bunch of competitive kids," Cozart said. "[My dad] sat me on the bench when I did stuff like that to teach me a lesson that I can't do stuff like that. He set me straight at a young age, even if that's hard for a dad to do."

After the days of his coaching were over, David attended all of his son's games for Colliersville High School in Tennessee and most of them while he was at college for the Univ. of Mississippi. It was only about an hour between Memphis and Oxford, Miss.

"He's been there pretty much for me the whole way," Cozart said.

David Cozart has spent the past 35 years working for Cummins-Midsouth, a diesel engine company, where he is director of logistics. Zack once spent a summer there interning at the warehouse, and employees still ask David about his son's exploits on the field and let him know when something good has happened.

Almost always, David already knows. Like his son's high school and college days, he never misses a game. While he can't attend them all in person, he goes to as many as work will allow. He also follows on TV, radio, the Internet and by any means available. That will likely be the case on Father's Day weekend, as the Reds play the Mets in New York.

"He's texting me after games. He'd say, 'That guy's ball was moving a ton on TV, he's a tough pitcher,' and stuff like that," Zack said. "He's definitely paying attention every pitch and every at-bat."

"It's unbelievable," David said. "You kind of had an idea he might play college ball somewhere, that's what was on my mind. I wouldn't say I dreamed of him going to the Major League level but it's more than I can even fathom.

"It's just a thrill to be able to see him, watch him on TV. Almost every game I watch, I get butterflies. I'm really proud of him for working so hard to get there. When you go through something like that, there are ups and downs, but he seems to keep his composure and handle it."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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