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Wednesday November 25 2015
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Bad Dad

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My 4-year-old son, Walker, has become just that -- a walker -- whether he or his preschool teachers always like it or not. Regardless of the weather, Walker and I usually return home by foot from his preschool.

When it’s cold or rainy, I often seem to get that “bad dad” look from his teachers as we trek off to brave the elements as the other kids are being loaded into cars.

What his preschool teachers don’t seem to realize is that no American has won the Boston Marathon in nearly 30 years -- or that we really do only live a few blocks from the school.

No, Walker is not being trained to run the 2033 Boston Marathon or anything like that, at least not officially. But if the stories are true about so many of the great marathon champions from East Africa, who as children had to run several miles to and from school every day, then my kid can handle walking a few blocks.

My wife, Dani, and I are both longtime distance runners, and we have indeed run the prestigious Boston Marathon several times.

Friends sometimes joke that our kids (we also have a 6-year-old son in kindergarten) were born to be endurance athletes. While I do admit to liking the sound of that, I honestly just want my boys to be physically fit. We try to incorporate at least a little playful exercise into their daily routine, as well as fruits and veggies.

But as you know, healthy living doesn't come easily or, in this country, even naturally. One candy-filled holiday rolls right into the next one, Happy Meals do in fact make my kids happy and no one entertains them quite the way SpongeBob does.

A few weekends ago, Walker threw a royal fit as I dragged him out of the house to join me and his brother for a late-afternoon trip to the local park. Walker wanted to stay home with his mom, but the weather was gorgeous and he'd been inside all day. So I forced him to go out and play, even though I felt like a bad dad as I carried away a screaming, crying and kicking boy.

But Walker ended up having a great time with his brother and the other kids who were at the park, racing up and down the sliding boards and playing tag for more than an hour.

I guess sometimes you have to be a bad dad to be a good dad.

If it's cold and rainy at the 2033 Boston Marathon,  maybe Walker will thank me for having him prepared.

Andy Mason is the assistant sports editor at The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown, Md.

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason—likely to $10 million—and signing him to a long-term extension will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $12-$15 million annually.
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