He has traded the 'tools of ignorance' for the rewards of fatherhood. And former big league catcher Joe Siddall couldn't be happier.
The Windsor, Ont., native, who retired from professional baseball in 2000, now lives in his hometown with his wife, Tamara, and four children (Brooke, 13; Brett, 11; Mackenzie, 9; and Kevin, 7).
"When I retired, I left the Red Sox at the first of June (2000) and it was a very difficult thing . . . and when I came home by the end of June, the kids were out of school and it was the greatest decision I ever made in my life," he said.
Family has always been a priority for Siddall. As the youngest of nine (eight boys and a girl) children, the Canadian receiver remains close to his siblings.
The athletic Windsorite suited up for the same team as his brother Jim (two years older) during his childhood.
"He (Jim) would pitch the first half of the game and I would catch. Then I would pitch and he would catch," recalled Siddall.
While attending Assumption College High School, Siddall played football, basketball, and baseball. It was his skills on the gridiron, however, that would earn him a scholarship from Central Michigan University. The gifted youngster would serve as a freshman quarterback during his first year and would practice with the team, but he did not play in any regular-season games.
After his freshman year, he received a call from the Montreal Expos asking him to attend a local tryout camp.
"I thought nothing of it ... I thought I was just going out to play some baseball in the morning," said Siddall.
But after seeing him in action, the Expos were impressed enough to offer him a contract. Slated to return to school in a few weeks, Siddall had to decide between heading back to university or signing with the Expos. He chose the latter.
"That was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in professional baseball," he said.
The highly-touted defensive catcher would rise through the Expos' system and earn his first major-league callup in 1993. And talk about baptism by fire, on his first day with Montreal, he was asked to come in as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the ninth of a tie game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I remember the bullpen phone ringing and, of course, that's usually for a pitcher to go in the game, but it was for me to go in and catch the next inning," he recalled.
The Expos lost that contest, but the wide-eyed backstop would persevere to play 18 more games in the majors that season. One of the highlights of Siddall's inaugural stint was catching hometown hurler Denis Boucher in front of 40,000 fans at Olympic Stadium on September 6, 1993. With Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker in right field that day, the contest represented the first time in modern baseball history that three Canucks have been in the starting lineup for the same team.
"We all contributed too. I think Larry had a home run that day. Denis pitched six or seven innings (six actually) and I ended up not getting a sacrifice bunt down and the next pitch I got a game-tying double," recalled Siddall.
The Windsor native would find himself back in the minors for the bulk of the next two seasons, before being recalled by the Expos towards the end of the 1995 campaign.
Prior to the 1996 season, he inked a deal with the Florida Marlins. During that year, Siddall would catch Kevin Brown, who was one of the most dominating hurlers he would ever team with.
"He just throws a very heavy sinking ball," said Siddall of Brown.
The veteran receiver would rejoin the Expos organization the following year and play with their Triple-A affiliate in Ottawa, before signing with the Detroit Tigers - the team he grew up cheering for - prior to the 1998 campaign.
Often toiling in front of friends and family, the versatile backstop would enjoy his longest tenure in the majors that season, suiting up for 29 games.
"When we came home to play at Tiger Stadium, it was really something special ... The ticket requests were flying in," he said.
After his stop in Detroit, Siddall would don the catcher's gear for the Tigers' Triple-A affiliate in Toledo in 1999, before latching on with the Boston Red Sox organization in 2000. Part way through the 2000 campaign, he decided to hang up his spikes.
One event that Siddall wishes he could have participated in was the World Baseball Classic. After the Canadian team defeated the U.S. in this year's tournament, he admits he couldn't suppress the urge to gloat a little bit.
"I had to fire out the e-mails to all my American friends after that game, only to eat my words the next day (when Canada was beaten 9-1 by Mexico)," he said.
The former catcher stays involved in the game by helping the Tigers during batting practice at homestands. He also coaches his kids and is working on a degree in human kinetics at the University of Windsor.
Despite 13 years as a professional backstop, the former major leaguer is not yet interested in a coaching position with a big-league organization.
"That's something that's just not conducive to family life. We have a very close family, both with my wife and the four kids. Right now, being home and coaching them and being around a lot ... it's the best. I would not trade that in for a thing."