February 13, 2011 at 1:00 am

Tom Gage

Like father, like son: Jim, Patrick Leyland go to work -- together

Patrick was 14 when he first came to Lakeland, but this season will be different as he'll have follow all his dad's orders. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Lakeland, Fla.-- I've never done this, never will. My son is not, and won't be, a sportswriter.

But for all you dads with a hardware store that stays in the family, a bakery, roofing company or a farm -- or maybe you're a policeman and your son goes into law enforcement as well -- whatever the field, this is for you.

Jim Leyland went to work with his son Patrick on Saturday. They arrived at spring training.

It wasn't like going into the factory together or down into the mine with a lunchbox and thermos, no one is saying it was. It was the baseball equivalent, though.

Neither Leyland was effusive with emotion at doing so, but the pride was there. You could hear, see it, and feel it in their words.

They drove to the airport in Pittsburgh for an early flight and said goodbye, a) to wife and daughter, for Jim; b) to mother, sister and girlfriend, for Patrick.

Then they went through security and … ?

"He made me buy him breakfast," Patrick said. "We got to the airport early. That's all right. I was happy to. On the plane, I did some (online college) work; he did a crossword puzzle."

And now, kid, he is your manager as well as your dad.

If he tells you to go out and catch a bullpen, you do it -- just like he probably told you countless times to do your homework. Or was it your mom who told you?

If he tells you to go shag, you do it. If he eventually tells you, which he will, that you've been sent to the minors, rest assured, you've been sent.

Just like the others who'll be sent.

Patrick is a catcher who was drafted in the eighth round by the Tigers last year. Jim is headed into his sixth season as the Tigers' manager.

Patrick was 14 when he first came to Lakeland. He was a ballplayer even then, but you didn't know he'd ever be good enough to get drafted -- and if he were good enough, what were the chances he'd get drafted by the Tigers?

They aren't averse to keeping it all in the family, though -- are they, Alex Avila? So it was a day of great joy for Jim when Patrick was selected by the Tigers.

But that was June -- Jim was in the middle of a season and Patrick went off to the Gulf Coast League. There was a separation of church and state, so to speak.

The twain didn't meet.

On Saturday, though, the Leylands arrived together because 19-year-old Patrick has been invited to camp as a non-roster catcher.

So when they got to the clubhouse, Jim peeled off to the left, headed for his office, and Patrick turned to the right, aware that as No. 77 on the Tigers, his locker would be back where other invitees have theirs.

Know what, though? It wasn't a matter of office and locker, manager and player. It was the one special moment of its kind when you arrive for work -- for the first time -- together.

Patrick didn't say a whole lot. He shouldn't be expected to. Yes, he's the manager's son but through his eyes, looking at what he wants to accomplish, he's a catcher at his first spring training.

"He has his responsibilities," Patrick said about his dad, "and I have stuff I have to get done, too. What matters is doing your job.

"Coming to Lakeland feels normal, but having your own setup is different. It's cool, definitely a good feeling. I'm here to learn as much as I can"

Was there any last-minute fatherly advice imparted by Jim to Patrick?

"Yeah," said Patrick, "He told me I'd be way at the other end of the clubhouse and that he didn't want to hear me."

Or, as Jim said, "I told him he was down at the end where they usually (get sent out) fast.

"But it's exciting. It really is. Kind of neat."

Neat, cool, same thing.

"This one feels different," said Jim, "because I brought Pat with me."

It won't last all spring. Non-roster catchers often go in the first cuts -- and if that's the case, no big deal. It was walking through the front door that counted.

Going to work, father and son.

Priceless.

tom.gage@detnews.com

twitter.com/Tom_Gage

Jim Leyland shows his son Patrick, 15 at the time, his 2006 American ... (Associated Press)
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