For Two Fathers and Countless More, Watching Their Sons at Futures Means Everything

Sunday, June 16th marks the final day of the 2024 10U Futures Invitational. It's also Father's Day, and for some there's no better way to spend it than at the ballpark.

At Thomas Brooks Park on Sunday, a champion will be crowned from among the field of 16 teams who made the trip to Cary, N.C., to compete in the 2024 10U Futures Invitational.

For the young players who have been battling against each other since Thursday, competing at Futures is a variety of things. For some, it is one of the highlights of their budding baseball careers. For others, it may just be another high-level tournament to travel to in a schedule full of them.

But for the families who have invested immeasurable time and effort into helping their kids reach this very moment, being able to see them hit the field at 10U Futures has meant everything. Sunday happens to be Father’s Day, and for both Owen Dunford and Jorge Acosta, spending it watching their sons play baseball here means more than they can put into words.

Acosta, who is also the head coach of the Midwest Hitmen, gave a heartfelt answer when asked what it meant to be at Futures with his son, Keanon.

“It's so special. We're very fortunate. We come from a baseball family, so we're on the field a lot and he loves it so much. I can't think of anything better than to be able to sit and watch him play,” Acosta said, adding that “I’m kind of getting emotional just thinking about it. We’re just very blessed and to be in this setting, with these teams, at USA Baseball has been a great experience. It’s so special and it's hard to put into words because there's just a different bond there with your own kid versus other kids.”

Nearly brought to tears explaining how much the moment meant to him, Acosta laughed as he joked he had been trying to take a step back from being Keanon’s coach during the week to make sure he got pictures of his son playing the game he loves. There’s no doubt that the pictures of Keanon on the field at Thomas Brooks Park will end up next to the ones that the Acosta family already has, reminding Jorge of his son’s journey to this point.

“As a father, you still think about tee-ball. You see pictures at the house and Facebook of him when he first kind of got going, and you see him now with all of the growth, and it's cool. He loves the process so much. As long as he loves it, I'm here for him to help him, and if I can't do it, I know I have good resources around me to help him. He's grown leaps and bounds every year. It's very unique.”

The Acosta family are no strangers to the game of baseball, with Jorge having been a coach for over two decades now. So it wasn’t a surprise when Keanon followed in his father’s footsteps, after being at his father’s side from a very young age.

“He grew up on the field. He was always with me at practices, and always in the cages doing lessons or in the dugouts with my teams. He's always been around. He's kind of been a sponge,” the elder Acosta recalled. “I felt like, as a father and as a parent, you want to give him opportunities to pursue what he loves. For me, it's worked out nice, because baseball is what I love, and it's also what he loves and something that our family enjoys.”

While Keanon Acosta comes from a baseball background, Trae Dunford comes from a very different setting. Competing in Cary with the Scottsdale Dirtbags, Dunford is taking a very different path than that of both his parents. Originally, his father Owen explained, Trae began by playing football and basketball. Owen played both sports in college, while his wife played basketball. So how did Trae wind up on the path to leading the Dirtbags at the plate in 10U Futures?

“It was something Trae wanted to do,” Dunford says. “He picked it on his own. We were watching a baseball game one night, and he said, ‘Daddy, I want to do that.’ This journey has been so cool to watch him fall in love with the sport because it wasn't something Mom or Dad pushed. It was something he loved, and I think it's made it more fun for all of us.”

Owen has certainly been having fun watching Trae this past week, and similar to Jorge it means more than he could fully put into words for him to be able to cheer for his son during a game on Father’s Day in particular.

“To me, Father's Day is about getting a chance to be a father. It's something that brings me so much joy, the fact that he gets to follow something he loves to do. And as a Dad we’ve kind of had our time already, right? There's no greater love than getting to watch your child do something that they love. So for me there's no other place in the world I'd rather be.”

Dunford’s thoughts are undoubtedly shared by countless others who have made the trip to Cary this week and will be watching their kids play the last game of the tournament on Sunday. But the end of the 10U Futures Invitational means the beginning of more tournaments together, and perhaps a return down the road to either Thomas Brooks Park or the neighboring USA Baseball National Training Complex.

With tournaments like 10U Futures, there are countless memories to be made between Father and Son. While Acosta described what this week has meant to him, Dunford excitedly recalled one of his favorite memories from watching Trae play baseball, this one from just a few weeks prior.

“He hit his first home run at East Cobb, 250 feet dead center. Before the home run, he looked at me and he said, ‘Daddy, I'm gonna get one,’ and I was like, “What do you mean?’ He goes, ‘if there’s a fastball inside, I'm gonna get one.’ Sure enough, the first pitch he caught it on the inside. It was a cool moment for us.”

Asked what they try to get their sons to remember as they write their own stories in the game of baseball, both Jorge and Owen mentioned that they encourage Keanon and Trae to live in the moment and, most importantly, to have fun. Both parents know that the game isn’t always going to be easy, but that with every tough game there is a chance to emerge a better player.

“Enjoy it. Have fun with it. If it's not fun, it's not worth it. From my standpoint as a parent, I don't want to push him to do stuff he doesn't want to do,” Acosta underlined. “I encourage him to take it all in and learn from everything he does. You can always learn something, and you can walk away after being in that situation a better baseball player and a better person.”

Dunford is trying to instill that same mindset into Trae, to not lose his spark and his love for baseball through adversity.

“Enjoy the journey. Enjoy every minute and every failure. Failures are the things that we learn from. People try to often escape failure as if it's something that you're shielding your kid from. For us, we embrace it. I want him to have all those wonderful failures and learn those great lessons because that's what being in love with something is. It's finding the failure, fixing the failure, and then really getting to enjoy success because you earned it.’

For the players at 10U Futures during the week, competing for the title has meant everything to them. But for fathers such as Jorge Acosta and Owen Dunford, being able to watch their children play the sport they love, on Father’s Day in particular, is everything they could ask for. While only one team will experience winning the gold medal, the feeling of watching their child step up to the plate or make a diving catch in the outfield on Father’s Day is one that will be shared by many, many more at Thomas Brooks Park.