Father’s Day is on Sunday, and I want to wish all of the dads out there a Happy Father’s Day. I want to take some time today to talk about the man that got me into sports when I was a kid, my dad.

My father was never the father who forced anything on me. His only rule was whatever I started, I finished. At every single baseball and basketball season growing up, him and my mom would always ask if I wanted to play again. It was none of the whole “you’re playing lets go” stuff that so many parents these days do, and I am forever grateful to both of my parents for that because I truly believe my love of sports was genuine because they introduced me to them but never forced them on me.

My dad coached me from 5 years old up until I moved to Babe Ruth baseball. He also coached me in basketball up until the end of elementary school. He taught me how to play the game, and he taught me about respect, sportsmanship and so much more.

He also is responsible for my love of sports in general. If my memory is correct, the first live sports game he ever took me to was at the Robins Center in Richmond where the University of Richmond was playing Wake Forest. There was a young kid playing for the Demon Deacons by the name of Tim Duncan. From that day on, I was hooked.

We went to several Richmond Braves games each year and got to see future stars such as Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez and Ryan Klesko. It was always something I looked forward to when they told my brother and I that we were going to see the Braves.

Then came my love for the University of Virginia. Around Southside Virginia there are not many UVA fans. Those Hokies dominate this area and when I became a UVA fan I caught a lot of flack for that. The reason I became a UVA fan is because of my dad. As far as I know he didn’t have an allegiance to either school, but he worked with a guy that had connections at UVA and in 1997 for my 12th birthday my parents got me tickets to the UVA vs. Virginia Tech football game in Charlottesville.

Thomas Jones and Aaron Brooks led the Wahoos to the win, and I was instantly hooked as a UVA fan. The next year or two my dad and a couple of his buddies bought mini season ticket plans for UVA basketball. We would all ride together, and I felt like a part of their group as they laughed and joked on the way to watch the games.

One game in particular that I missed was the UVA vs. Duke basketball game one season. Duke was a perennial powerhouse as they still are now, but the game was in the middle of the week, and it was a late start. I think 9 p.m. Well mom was not having it; she refused to let me go with my dad because I had school the next day. Mom, I know you are reading this and I just want to let you know I still haven’t forgot about that!

My mom and dad also took me to my very first hockey game and helped me fall in love with the Carolina Hurricanes. It was 2002, and the Hurricanes made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals that season. We got tickets to see the Hurricanes play the Maple Leafs in the Eastern Conference Finals, and it was an insane atmosphere. I have been to countless hockey games since then and have started to take my son to them.

My dad didn’t have to do any of these things. He could have said it cost too much or that he didn’t have time, but he always made time to take me to these games, and he always made sure I had the best time.

My father had a subscription to the Richmond Times Dispatch when I was growing up, and he got so used to me coming downstairs every morning before school to read the sports section that eventually he already had the sports section pulled and waiting on me.

He never told me I was doing too much with sports, he never told me that I needed to do something else or focus my time elsewhere. He always supported me through my journey to becoming a sports writer and without his support and guidance growing up I would never be here.

Dad and I still sit and watch sports together from time to time, we will talk about things going on in the sports world as well. He follows everything I write for the paper and always wants to know what is going on with the teams in Halifax even though he lives in Mecklenburg. He always shows interest in what I am doing.

Thank you dad for introducing me to sports and for always pushing me to follow my passion. I am sure you didn’t think that what you did for me 30 years ago would propel me into a career with it, but it did and for that I am grateful.

Happy Father’s Day!

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV