ELYSBURG — Father-and-son combinations participating at the same time have been rare in professional sports.
Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr., and Tim Raines Sr. and Jr. in baseball, Gordie and Mark Howe in hockey, and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jr. in NASCAR are some of the most well-known.
But three generations?
Well, maybe not in the more popular spectator sports.
However, three generations of the Missimer family, from the Reading area, are competing this week in the Pennsylvania State Shotgunning Association’s state trap shoot at the Valley Gun and Country Club.
Jerry, 72; his son, Jeremy, 48, and grandson, Zach, 13, are celebrating this Father’s Day together in the best way they know, firing at hundreds of clay targets and hoping to win a few trophies.
Much like the Griffeys and the Howes, and such other father-son stars like baseball’s Bobby and Barry Bonds, basketball’s Brent and Rick Barry, and Dell and Stephen Curry, it is the youngest of the clan who has shown the way in their respective sport.
Zach Missimer began shooting at age 10 and has already garnered a double-digit trophy collection, and is vying to become an All-American in only his third season.
Jerry said that neither he nor his son ever made All-American status, but Zach, in just his second full season of registered Amateur Trapshooting Association competition, entered this nine-day shoot in 12th place. The top 10, based on points from events won during the season, are named to the first team.
Zach won his first ATA trophy last year at the Pennsylvania Grand in Elysburg when he finished as the runner-up in the handicap.
“It gave me confidence, but it also motivated me, knowing that yeah, I can do it,” he said this week while waiting to be called to compete in a shoot-off in the Rio Ammunition Doubles event, in which he in which he finished as the resident sub-junior runner-up.
Heading into the weekend, Zach had claimed eight trophies this week, with three days left.
He said he set the goal of being All-American near the end of the 2018 target year, when he shot in the local club’s Westy Hogans event.
Coming into the 2019 season, he knew he could compete.
“Every target counts. You want to shoot your best all the time,” he said.
His grandfather, who worked in a gun shop and built miniature guns and made knives, winning awards all over the country, began competing in 1972. Jeremy shot with him a few times in 1990, but then both quit competing for 25 years.
They returned to the sport with Zach in tow.
“When (Jerry) started shooting again, I got the bug and I went with him,” said Jeremy, who works with adult probation for Berks County.
Jerry said he had never given any thought to having three generations competing, but after he and Jeremy returned, he told his son, “I think we need to get my grandson shooting.
We started him off shooting five targets at a time when he was 10 and he could barely hold a gun, and we left him progress into it. We didn’t push him, really, but he broke his first 25 (in a row) about eight months after he started shooting,” Jerry said.
Jerry said that when he started, it took him a while to catch on.
“It took me two years to hit my first 100 straight and then it sort of came to me like my grandson, at the Westy Hogans,” he said. “He finally put it all together and he broke his first 100 probably in the first half a year that he was shooting.”
In addition, he broke 99 in handicap (out of 100) and 90 in doubles, claiming more than five trophies.
Things continued to get better for the youngster. During a winter trap league in the Lehigh Valley, Zach became the youngest sub-junior ever to qualify for the top 10 “and that shoot’s been going on for 64 years.”
Earlier this year, Zach won five trophies at the Empire Grand in New York and last weekend at the Colonial Classic in Elysburg, he picked up three more.
Jeremy said that when he returned to the state shoot a few years ago with his dad, many of the shooters remembered him from when he was younger than Zach.
“I shot with a fellow today my dad’s age and he knew me when I was a 6-year-old,” he said.
He added, “I know that (Zach) and I wouldn’t have what we have without (Jeremy),”
He said there have been some grandfathers and grandsons shooting together, who probably have had much more time in the sport, but he enjoys all the time they are able to spend together doing what they love.
The grandfather said, “To see the way (Zach) has turned out, he’s doing stuff that (Jeremy) and I haven’t ever done yet.”
Jerry, who made an all-state team in 1977 and was in the high average book for doubles and handicap the last two years he shot (1976 and ‘77) before taking time off, was in the top 30 in the state the last year.
He also had to overcome another handicap.
“I was originally a right-handed shooter but when I came back (with Jeremy), I had a detached retina in my right eye, so I had to learn to shoot left-handed.
“That was five years ago, and it took me from January to April to break my first 25 left-handed,” he said.
“If I stand in front of the trap house, if I close my left eye, I can’t read the numbers on the trap house,” he said.
But he said the switch was not too difficult.
“I had been shooting a little left-handed rifle before that occasionally so that probably helped a little bit. The main thing was getting the gun mount, getting used to that,” he said, noting that he had laser surgery a few years ago and will get cataract surgery on his right eye this year.
Zach said that he learned a lot from his grandfather and father, but also from other shooters who have all been willing to help.
As for reaching his goal this season, Zach, who will enter eighth grade in the fall, said, “I don’t really know, but if I put my effort into it, I think I have a pretty good chance to do it this year.”
It takes a lot of practice, but luck also helps.
Jerry said, “He grew about a foot in the last year and a half so he could handle the gun a whole lot better.”
Zach, who doesn’t compete in other sports, but plays the guitar and the trumpet, said he began shooting singles, and then it took him some time to get competitive in doubles.
“I really had to get used to it and figure out how it was, and it wasn’t until maybe a month or two ago, I had someone help me and show me how to shoot doubles good,” he said.
He used to go with his grandfather and father to their shoots as a young kid and got the urge to compete while watching them shoot. Their home club is the South End Gun Club in Reading.
“I always wanted to shoot,” Zach said, adding that he plans to continue in the sport for a long time.
His father, who won two trophies of his own early in the week, added that, in addition to competing, the sport helps you make a lot of new friends.
“There are great people here. Up here you make a new friend every day, it seems like,” he said.