Jake Boss Sr., left, coached his son, Jake Jr., at Lansing Everett High. (Special to Detroit News)
Jake Boss Jr. has played baseball for his father, coached against him and had him work on his staff.
“How many people can say that?” the Michigan State baseball coach said.
His father, who spent four seasons on the Spartans staff as a volunteer coach, revels in the uniqueness of the relationship — much of it through baseball — the two have shared.
“I was in a position where I probably was the envy of a lot of dads throughout both of our careers,” said Boss Sr., the longtime Lansing Everett High coach and 1994 inductee into the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame. “I coached him, he coached against me, and we coached together at Eastern Michigan and Michigan State.
“Come on, how much better can it get?”
The most significant highlight the two have shared didn’t come when Boss Jr. coached Webberville High against his father’s Lansing Everett team.
“We lost 7-1,” Boss Jr. said. “My father took it easy on us.”
The highlight came in 2011 when the Spartans won the Big Ten regular-season title.
“That is one memory that we will, I don’t care if he wins the national championship some year, always remember, because it’s that first one,” Boss Sr. said. “We won that and the kids are in the dog pile celebrating and all the coaches are hugging each other in the dugout. Jake went out on the field with the other two (assistants), and I stayed in the dugout, and I just watched my son.”
His voiced choked with emotion as he described the moment.
“That is the pinnacle, it really was for me,” Boss Sr. said. “There wasn’t anything I had accomplished that could compare to that. Nothing.”
Boss Jr. said being able to work with his father for four seasons at Michigan State was “priceless.”
His father, however, stepped away from coaching after 2012 because of back and knee issues, but has remained connected to the program working radio broadcasts.
“Everybody’s got their moments and highlights in their lives,” Boss Jr. said, his voice filled with emotion. “Certainly, when I got married and had kids. But when we won the Big Ten championship, he was standing right next me, and that’s something I will never forget.”
Joanne and Jake Boss Sr. were vacationing in Greece to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in 2008, and had no idea that when they returned to Michigan, their son would have stunning career news.
Father and son chatted about recruiting while driving home from the airport, when Boss Jr., out of the blue, asked his parents if they wanted to attend a news conference the next day.
“I said, ‘For what?’ ” Jake Sr. said. “He hauls out his cell phone, and it says, ‘Boss named MSU baseball coach.’ I always get goosebumps when I talk about that. And then he says, ‘Do you want to come with me? I want you at Michigan State.’ I lost it.”
The two even roomed together during trips.
“Sometimes it was good, sometimes it wasn’t, depending on how the game was,” Boss Jr. said, laughing. “We were cut from the same cloth. There were times we got beat I probably didn’t handle it well, and he was probably the same.
“But you look back on it, and those were some special times and some great memories. How many sons have a chance to do this with their fathers?”
Boss Sr. admits it was a challenge not being the one in charge.
“I’ve been the head guy for 30 years and to step into that situation at Michigan State for my son, boy, it was hard because you just don’t have the same role, and I’m used to that role,” Boss Sr. said. “I’m a take-charge, fiery guy, and all of a sudden I’m in the back seat, and it was hard. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
His son wouldn’t trade it, either.
“My dad has been my hero my whole life,” Boss Jr. said. “Many sons would say that — I’m not different. To be able to grow up in the dugout, I feel like I’ve been part of the game for a long time. Everything I do is based on everything I learned in the dugout from my dad.
“To have him work for me and be around him in the office every day for those four years was just priceless. Not necessarily the baseball side of it, but just being around each other. It’s all been a dream come true.”