Get out your old Kool & The Gang records, people, and let’s bust a move — it’s Fan Mail Wednesday!
But first, let’s just take a moment to be awed by the amazing fact that I receive any fan mail at all. And not so much that it’s me, James Preller, getting the mail (though that’s astonishing enough). But that a book can be written, and later read, and that somebody out there can be moved to reach out to that author, to say kind words. I’m humbled every time I get a letter. So thank you all. When I started this series with Fan Mail Wednesday #1, I wondered, What if the letters just stop? What if I don’t get enough to sustain it? But somehow, some way, that hasn’t happened . . . yet.
How lucky am I?
Dear Mr. Preller:
My name is Braden. I am a sixth grade student from McCants Middle School in Anderson, SC. We had an author project in class and I came across your book, Six Innngs. I couldn’t put it down until I was done reading it. I love that book!
I did some research and saw on your blog that you did not start out wanting to be an author. I read that you wanted to play baseball for the New York Mets. I like baseball too. I play on the USSSA baseball team called the Anderson Alley Cats. We play tournament ball and travel all over the state. We are fortunate to be number one in the state of South Carolina right now. We are hoping to finish out the season in the number one spot and go to the USSSA Little League World Series in Charleston, SC.
I like your style of writing. It is intense and moves fast from topic to topic. My favorite part of the book was the last pitch. It had me guess what was going to happen and thinking of all the outcomes. You can tell that you have a love of baseball in your stories. Do you have plans to write other baseball stories?
I also saw on your blog the suggestions for books. I can’t wait to read Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta. That looks like it would be a good one too. Is the style of the author similar to yours? If so, I know it will keep me wanting more.
I hope to read more of your books, and I also hope that you will write more about baseball. I will definitely buy them!
Thanks for writing. I loved getting positive feedback from a real ballplayer like yourself. Yes, you’re right, I do love baseball, and from many different perspectives — childhood memories, times shared with my mother, as a player, a coach, a father, a fan, a reader and a writer.
I once did a book signing for Six Innings, soon after it was published. I expected to see a lot of kids like you, boys who loved playing ball. So I was a little surprised to see many kids who were clearly not athletes. Of course, I quickly realized: They were readers. And also: These kids loved the game, but the game, alas, did not love them back. I always think of those kids, the ones who were never quite good enough, who struggled and failed and faced terrible disappointment, but who loved the game just as much (if not more) than any star on the field. You are fortunate that you are such a good player, that you have that gift. You give to the game through hours of hard work and effort, and to you the game gives back. It’s nice when that works out — and it’s how I feel, too. Blessed.
Since you asked, I have no immediate plans to write another baseball book. But . . . I do have an idea for another baseball story. It’s stuck with me for the past few years, and my mind wanders over it from time to time, almost absently, like a pitcher’s fingertips across the stitches of a ball as he bends in to look for the catcher’s sign. I’ve got a slim file, filled with bits of dialogue, phrases, small moments and false starts. I want to do something along the lines of Magic Realism, where the story is very realistic, down to earth, but then something utterly impossible happens and you go with it. W.P. Kinsella writes books like that (I recommend Shoeless Joe); and, of course, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the master of that genre, but he’s someone you might want to wait a few years before tackling.
Anyway, here’s a brief passage from my notebook, which I’ve never before shown to anyone. It’s about a boy’s first game at a real ballpark, and the magic of that event, a dream come true:
“There it is, the stadium,” my father pointed. I followed the line of his finger. Wow, there is was, huge and magnificient. My first real ballpark.
I was going to eat three hot dogs.
We parked the car. “H-12,” my father murmured, noting a sign on a nearby light pole. “Remember that, Slugger. We parked in area H-12.”
I promised to remember. And of course I would. I’d remember everything.
If you beat the crowds, and waited by the player’s entrance, you could sometimes get lucky, my brothers said. So we waited with a group of other die-hard fans, clutching Sharpies and baseballs, eager for autographs.
The team bus arrived, large and splendid, and one by one the players filed past. They weren’t in uniforms, but still you could tell by the way they walked, by a certain glint in their eyes, they had something special. An athlete’s swagger.
A few signed autographs. Most strode on by, bigger things on their minds. A short, squat man — older, grizzled with stubbled gray hair — grabbed the ball from my hand. He signed it, “Luke Standahl.”
“He’s the manager,” my father whispered into my ear. But I knew that already. Mr. Standahl walked a few steps, then turned and threw me the ball. I snatched it with one hand. His eyes narrowed. “Southpaw,” he murmured, then spit. “I’ve been around this game fifty years, and you look like a ballplayer to me.”
“I am,” I replied.
“We’ll see about that,” he muttered, and spat again.
Do you think anybody would want to read a story like that?
Listen, Braden, good luck with the Anderson Alley Cats. I hope you do well, make it all the way to the World Series. I’ll be rooting for you. And in the meantime, I agree, Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta sounds like a pretty cool book — with a little magic in it, too.
My best, and thanks again for writing,