It's a rainy Friday night, and a large crowd files into the gymnasium at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville to watch the Crusaders play St. Mary's in basketball.
When John Unitas and Ken Singleton take their seats a few rows behind the St. Paul's bench, there are a few whispers in the stands. But the regulars just go about their business; they're used to seeing Unitas and Singleton at St. Paul's. It's a local version of the Great Western Forum near Los Angeles, where fans have grown accustomed to sharing Lakers games with celebrities.
Former Colts great Unitas and former Orioles star Singleton like it this way. They are in the stands to watch their sons, Chad Unitas and Justin Singleton, play basketball and have no desire to draw any attention to themselves.
The sons have given their dads plenty to cheer about. The two seniors have helped lead St. Paul's to a 17-6 overall record and a first-place, 10-2 record in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference Division II. Both have dreams of success in pro sports.
Justin Singleton, a standout shortstop and power hitter for St. Paul's, has had visions of playing major-league baseball "since I was about 2 feet tall and walking around in the Orioles' locker room."
"It would be great to make a living doing something I love. I've never thought about doing other things. I guess that's good because I've stayed focused on baseball."
Almost 100 college baseball programs contacted Justin, who accepted a full scholarship to Clemson, a perennial NCAA baseball power, last fall.
"I don't get to see Justin play baseball much because I'm always away in the summer," said Ken Singleton, a broadcaster for the Montreal Expos. "But I have people come up to me all the time and say, 'I saw your son hit a baseball farther than I ever believed a young kid could.' "
The former Orioles outfielder said he expects Justin to be selected in the amateur draft this June. "But he'll still go to college and three years later when he is ready to come out of college, he'll be a lot bigger and stronger and have a better chance of playing major-league baseball."
Justin Singleton is 6 feet 2 and runs the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds. "He might be quicker than me on the basketball court," said his father, a 6-4 outfielder never known for his speed. "I know he's a better ball-handler, but he can't jump higher. I could dunk, too. I've been fortunate with Justin because he's been a good and smart kid. Sure, I've had to sit down with him and have a few heart-to-heart talks, but you have to expect that."
Ken Singleton went to Hofstra on a basketball scholarship and averaged 18 points as a freshman, but also played baseball there for one season before signing with the New York Mets.
How does Justin handle his dad being in the stands for all the basketball games?
"I'm just out there playing basketball and having fun," he said. "The players on the team treat my dad just like any other person."
For Chad Unitas, whose dream is to play pro golf, having a Hall of Fame quarterback as his father can be a little tough sometimes. Chad, who is 6-2, also plays wide receiver for St. Paul's football team.
"I don't know if we have an advantage, as some people might think," Chad said of himself and Justin. "We do have something different over other kids because our fathers have been there on the playing field and they can help us out in tight situations with coaches or players."
Chad and his father share a close relationship. They "kid around" a lot, Chad said, about basketball and especially about dunking the ball.
"Dad always says, 'What's the point of dunking? It still only counts as two points,' and I say it's the intimidation factor," said Chad. "He always used to tell me I couldn't jump; now he calls me the Dunkster. He also always tells me to put some air under the ball when I shoot my jumpers. He doesn't like line-drive shots."
At one point during a recent St. Paul's basketball game, Chad walked along the sideline and playfully stuck out his tongue at his father.
When it comes to football and golf, however, the Unitases are much more serious.
"Chad got mad at me one time when I didn't call him the night before a football game," John Unitas said. "He always wants to talk to me the night before, no matter where I am. I think I was in Chicago the night I didn't call him."
But by football game time, the elder Unitas always finds a way to be in the stands for his son.
"He comes to every football game and once flew home from Las Vegas to make sure he didn't miss the Boys' Latin game," said Chad. "He tells me before every football game, 'Keep your head up and look everything into your hands.' When he tells me that, I always know everything is going to be OK."
But it is golf that Chad Unitas, who carries a 3-handicap, hopes to play professionally.
"I just love the sport," he said. "And if you have that kind of love for something, you better do it. I hope to go to either South Carolina or Florida State on a golf scholarship."
John Unitas said his son just needs an opportunity to make it in golf.
"Chad has the ability to take golf as far as he can go," said John. "He just needs to find a place that needs his talent and will give him a chance. He needs to get into a school that has a PGA program. I needed the same kind of opportunity when I got cut from Pittsburgh, and the Colts gave it to me."
Pub Date: 2/13/97