Of Baseball and Books
Twenty years ago this year, I made my way down the two-lane highways of east-central Mississippi to a fledgling amateur sports festival to be held in Meridian. It was known as the State Games of Mississippi. I was one of the coaches of our district’s baseball team, and two of the players from one of our county schools rode with me. I had the privilege of introducing them to Ward’s frosted mug root beer, a south Mississippi staple, along the way. After two games we promptly returned home to DeSoto County. We were richer for the experience but without a win to show for our efforts.
The State Games festival has grown tremendously over the last 20 years. The baseball tournament has expanded from four teams to eight. It now involves around 170 players and coaches from throughout the state. Older Brother tried out for the team a few weeks ago and was chosen for our district’s team. This was both a great honor for him but also an opportunity to pitch in front of dozens of college coaches from our state.
Of Baseball and Books: Momentum Builds
For me, accompanying Big Brother to Meridian last week was to be a fun trip just watching him pitch to some of the state’s accomplished players. However, it was also a chance to make some new connections and maybe even sell a few copies of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales). A friend’s connection landed me a book signing on Saturday, and I had made some inquiries into some public relations through various media. So began the parallel between baseball and books last week.
I trust God as my family’s provider, not book signings and speaking engagements, so I had no expectations for the book signing or for media possibilities. That very much mirrored the expectations of the baseball team from our district. Our district has traditionally not done very well at the State Games. However, the two players who rode down with me had higher hopes. When I opened an email from a newspaper reporter wanting to interview me in advance of the book signing, my expectations began to grow, as well. When a cancellation opened up a spot for me on a local morning television show, I felt the momentum growing.
Expectations for our district’s baseball team quickly changed, too, as they pulled off a 3-2 win in their opening game. A fine pitching performance from a DeSoto County threesome was the difference in the game. Older Brother notched the save for the boys in black who were now just a win away from a medal.
Early the next morning, I did my first TV interview with Andrea Williams on WTOK-11′s “Good Morning Meridian” show. After a great breakfast conversation with a college baseball coach about baseball and books and our faith, I did a little work, took a look at Brandon Ward’s article about me and values storying in the Meridian Star, and headed over to the Meridian Community College baseball field for our team’s late afternoon match-up.
Of Baseball and Books: Reality Sets In
Friday afternoon, our team could not muster much of a fight in an uninspiring defeat. They would face an elimination game early Saturday afternoon with the winner assured of at least a bronze medal and the loser being assured of an early trip home. First, though, I had a book signing to do.
Reality set in quickly for both me and Older Brother.
Alas, I sold exactly zero books,; only three or four people even walked into the bookstore during my two hours there. And our team–after a promising start–failed to do any damage at the plate and were eliminated from the tournament. Older Brother pitched effectively in relief, but the die was already cast for a early drive home.
Of Baseball and Books: Better for the Experience
I told you already that I trust God as the provider of my family. A $400 trip with a return of no books sold, then, does not equal defeat. I would have gone anyway to watch my son enjoy the State Games experience as a player that I had enjoyed as a coach 20 years earlier. Along the way, though, I did my first TV interview, gained practice with another newspaper interview, and shared some of my faith stories with a number of others.
As for Older Brother, well, he played with and against many other talented players, enjoyed the camaraderie of his teammates, and (tongue planted firmly in cheek) was spoiled by all the plush accompaniments of residence hall life. He pitched in front of coaches from every junior college in Mississippi and from four-year schools in and out of state, as well as professional scouts. He contributed to the win that my team 20 years earlier couldn’t muster.
His team didn’t medal, and I didn’t sell a single book, but we are both better for our week of baseball and books.
A Little Extra
Here’s another in my series of values storying videos from my YouTube channel about baseball and my boys and me. If you are a baseball parent (though any other of our kids’ activities would also fit), I hope this gives you a healthy perspective. Enjoy.