HOUSTON -- There are times Astros pitcher Scott Feldman still wants to pick up the phone and call his father. It was a routine he kept for years, dialing up his dad after one of his starts to talk about what went right, what went wrong.
And it was the times when things didn't go quite so well on the baseball field that Feldman needed to hear his dad's voice the most.
"He would always find a positive thing or two to say," he said. "Hopefully he's watching from up above."
Feldman, signed by the Astros to a three-year, $30 million contract prior to this season, is pitching with a heavy heart this year following the death of his father two months ago. Sunday will be especially difficult -- Feldman's first Father's Day without his dad.
Marshall Feldman -- a former college baseball player, Army lieutenant and FBI special agent -- died on April 9 following a nearly eight-year battle with brain cancer.
"I still want to call him all the time to just talk about anything, really," Feldman said. "But it's been tough to not talk to him after I pitch, too. I'd call him after every start, and it was something we both really enjoyed. Even after all the brain surgeries, he was still a real sharp guy. He could do the crossword puzzle in the paper up until a few weeks before he passed."
Feldman, 31, pitched just two days following the death of his father, spinning seven scoreless innings in Arlington to beat the Rangers, the team for which he played the first eight years of his career. It was an emotion-filled few days where goodbyes were said, tears flowed and sadness set in.
There was, understandably, a sense of relief for Feldman that he wouldn't have to see his father suffer anymore. Feldman still has a difficult time talking about his father, who was a great influence in his life and career.
"I think he was a pretty solid guy to try to have as my role model," he said.
Feldman grew up in Burlingame, Calif., just south of San Francisco, as the oldest of two children. Marshall Feldman played baseball at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and joined the Army following graduation, serving as a first lieutenant.
Marshall attended graduate school at Florida State and served as a police officer in West Palm Beach, Fla., before beginning a 30-year career as a special agent with the FBI in 1969. He was assigned to offices in Detroit, San Francisco and Hawaii, where Scott was born in 1983.
"Over the course of 30 years [in the FBI], he did just about everything," Feldman said. "He did investigations, did some undercover stuff. I have some funny pictures of him when he was probably in his late 20s and just getting started. He was an undercover hippy. He had a big Fu Manchu and long hair, which was real funny to me, because he was always really clean cut and shaved. I didn't even recognize him when I saw the pictures."
The Feldman home in Burlingame was across the street from a park, which had two big baseball diamonds -- a perfect spot for father and son to play catch. Marshall Feldman was also an avid golfer, but baseball ruled the house.
"He loved baseball probably more than anybody I've ever known," Feldman said. "He'd get off work and we'd always go over there and play catch or just do something over there, whether it was basketball, football and baseball."
After Marshall Feldman retired from the FBI in 1999, he took on the post of security representative for the NFL for 10 years, assigned to the San Francisco 49ers. Candlestick Park, home of the 49ers and Giants, was a short drive from Burlingame, so father and son sat though many cold nights at Candlestick watching the Giants.
"As I got older, they moved up to Pac Bell or AT&T [Park] now, and I spent a lot of time going to both of those places," Feldman said. "He took me to a lot of Stanford games, too, when I was really little and they were really good."
How much did his dad love baseball? When Scott was called up to the Majors in 2005, his parents made the trip to Cleveland with hopes of watching him pitch. They were waiting for a game to start when Scott called his mother, Joyce, during the national anthem and told her he was being sent down without even appearing in a game.
"She told my dad, 'We're getting out of here, he got sent down,'" Feldman said. "My dad was like, 'What are you talking about? The game hasn't even started yet. We're going to sit here and watch the game.' He wanted to stay and watch the game, and my mom had to drag him out of there."
Marshall loved baseball, but he loved his wife of 37 years even more. Baseball would wait.
It was only a year after Scott's debut that his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. Marshall still managed to live a normal life for quite some time while doing through treatments, though it became tougher for him to play golf the last two years. He would always travel to watch Scott pitch as much as he could, but he couldn't make it out to games last year.
"When he was sick, focusing on baseball wasn't too difficult, because that was what he sort of used to take his mind off his sickness, I think," Feldman said. "No matter what was going on with him from a health standpoint, he was always watching and supporting me. Up until this Spring Training, when his illness just got to be too much."
Feldman could have used some wisdom from his father after he lasted 1 2/3 innings in his start against the Twins on Saturday in Minneapolis. He wished he could have picked up the phone and talked about baseball and life.
Scott wished he could have heard his dad's voice, and in some ways, he did.
"I wish he was still here, but since he's not, I just try to think of him as much as possible," Feldman said. "If I'm struggling with anything, whether it's baseball-related or just life in general, I try to think of what he would have told me. He was the best role model for me that I could imagine."