I wrote my novel The Ball Player in 2002 as my professional baseball career was coming to an end. I was playing one more season, but my age and skill set were making any chances at continuing to play the sport and making a living doing it very slim. I was pretty much homeless, as most minor league baseball players are for the four or five months worth of off-season each year. Instead of crashing with my parents (again), I decided to hang around Canton, Ohio, to find out a little more about a girl I’d met named Erin.
Because my bank accounts were anemic, I was forced to rent a $300/month apartment in an undesirable location and devoid of all amenities. When they made a visit, my parents brought pots and pans; a friend loaned me a bed, and I found a card-table and two fold-out director’s chairs to fill out the interior décor.
Trying to find time to spend with my dream girl was challenging. Erin was finishing her senior year of college, playing two sports for the school, student teaching, and picking up random shifts waiting tables to keep a little money in her pocket. So I had some time to myself. Time I used to write The Ball Player.
Writing the novel allowed me to relive my fondest memories of playing the game I had built my life around. I got to fantasize about hitting the ball a little further than I was ever able to (the perks of writing fiction), and I even imagined how different my career could have been if I had accepted the offers to juice up with the easily available Performance Enhancing Drugs so prevalent in the game at that time.
The process of composing The Ball Player tattooed on my soul the smells of the stadiums, clubhouses, and buses with ink so permanent that it will surely last decades. The sound of metal spikes crunching the sun baked brick-dust of infields in Florida or compressing the brilliantly rolled green bermuda in California returns to my ears whenever I crack the spine of one of the many copies of my book that are tucked into bookshelves around our house.
Having just recently released The Ball Player through Amazon’s digital publishing, I can now fire up Erin’s Ipad, touch the Kindle icon, and relive those treasured memories of playing ball and falling in love. Experiencing my own novel through this different medium is like dancing with my wife, fresh from the stylist sporting a different hair style or wearing a newly purchased dress. I become acutely aware that she and my story will move me regardless of time and place.
I am currently recruiting friends to share the news of my novel’s digital release. I priced it at $2.99 for the Kindle because I want people to champion the story knowing that at worst the friend or acquaintance they are pestering to buy my book are in essence only passing up on a latte when they ‘one-click-buy.’
So if it’s not about the money, than what? Sure, I selfishly would like to sell a couple thousand copies and take my wife to the Bahamas, business class of course, but really I JUST WANT IN THE GAME. I want to go head to head with John Grisham (Calico Joe) and Chad Harbach (The Art of Fielding). The editor that told my agent once upon a time that very few people wanted to read a baseball novel didn’t know the market. It took a best-selling titan and a heavily connected Ivy League grad to bring baseball fiction to the masses, but now that it is here, The Ball Player deserves a place at the table.
I will concede that my book, written long before my Master’s program at Converse College, might not be crafted with the literary precision of Harbach’s book. My voice, back then, might not be as easy as Grisham’s (One of my favorite writers btw). But when it comes to story, a BASEBALL story at that, I’m willing to say I am king. So for the dozen readers of this blog (note the self deprecation), I ask you to chime in. Invite your community of friends and family to offer their view.
Dipping my toe into the waters of digital publishing has been fun and educational, but I’ve decided I would rather make a splash. Grisham and Harbach, watch out!