Tag Archive for Deleted Scenes from Six Innings

Deleted Scenes 4: Six Innings

The Little League season has taken a turn. The regular season is gone. My team of 9-, 10- and 11-year olds finished with a strong record, 11-5, good enough for 2nd place. They were my cardiac kids; we lost five games by a total of seven runs. Now I’m coaching a team of 9-year-old All-Stars. We’re practicing every day. And at my local Little League at Magee Park in Delmar, New York, there’s the big championship game tomorrow. The 12-year-olds, the Majors. Two of my friends are the rival managers. I’ll know many of the kids on the field. It is the exact circumstance, recurring annually, that inspired my book, Six Innings.


During the revision process for Six Innings, I cut more than 10,000 words, much of it back story. When I first started writing it, even before I thought about the game itself, I wrote all sorts of stand-alone character pieces that had nothing (and everything!) to do with the championship game, the book’s six innings.

Sometimes when I speak with students, we’ll talk about the importance of character, as well as the maxim, “Show, don’t tell.” In this scene, I wanted to show readers something about Dylan Van Zant, his determination, his stick-to-it-iveness. But also: let them know that he choked under pressure once before, because we’re going to see him in a similar situation one hundred pages down the road. I could have told the reader, “Dylan tenses up sometimes, freezes, but he’s also a very determined guy.” Instead, I invented this little story about a foul-shot contest. Or actually, two contests: The first one, his response to losing it, and then the second contest.

I ended up cutting the whole shebang. But somehow  the book is better for it just the same, because by writing I learned everything I needed to know — and show — about this one character, Dylan Van Zant.

The sample below is taken from the middle section, which I labeled at the time, “Headlights.”


Dylan began practicing for next year’s foul-shooting contest on the very next morning.

He was the first in the house to awake. Dylan didn’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or eat breakfast. He just threw on some shorts, his sneakers, an Under Armour t-shirt, and stepped onto the driveway. The free throw line was already marked off. Dylan walked to it, head down. He bounced the ball rhythmically — boom, boom, bah-boom; boom, boom, bah-boom — alternating hands, remembering the agony of yesterday’s missed shots. Clang, the ball hitting the rim and bouncing away. The tightness in his arms, the dryness in his mouth. That taste of failure.

Dylan took one hundred foul shots. That was the bargain he struck with himself. Every morning, he would go outside and shoot free throws. Most mornings, he kept the promise. Sometimes, life intervened. So he’d shoot in the afternoon.

One particular day, Dylan overslept, raced to school, and worked on a science project late into the night. It was past his normal bedtime. Darkness had fallen, and with it rain; the court was cloaked in velvet. So Dylan asked his mother to please, please, please pull up the car and turn on the headlights. And there he stood at the line in the shimmering dark, knees bent, eyes on the rim, firing up free throw after free throw until he was satisfied, and soaked, and cold. The day’s bargain complete.

The contest would not be for another nine months.

This time, vowed Dylan, I’ll be ready.


For other deleted scenes from Six Innings, click here, and here, and here.

A little trivia: the name Dylan Van Zant brings together two of my favorite songwriters, Bob and Townes, who wrote one of my favorite songs ever, “To Live Is to Fly.”

Deleted Scenes 2: Six Innings

When revising Six Innings, I eliminated about 25% from the first draft (for more on that topic, click here). One of the plot lines that got axed involved Alex Lionni’s relationship with his father, a man utterly disinterested in sports who gets involved as an assistant coach after his divorce.

During this editorial stage, we generally minimized the role of adult characters. There was another scene when Mr. Lionni called Coach Jeff Reid and, despite his woeful lack of baseball knowledge, asked to help with the team. He was a man in pain, looking for some way to connect with his son. But, but, but.

As writers and editors, we often wrestle with the issue of balance, fiction’s inverse relationship of “pace” and “depth.” It’s a push-pull situation: pace/depth; plot/character. To move fast, you have to travel light; but if there’s not enough meat, nobody cares how quickly the story goes. So you are always making choices, bargaining. Slow it down, speed it up, linger here, hurry forward, skip the stone across the water, or let it sink below the surface.

The deleted scene below is backstory, character development, an exchange that took place about two years before the championship game of Six Innings.

“Here, Dad.”

Alex tossed a baseball to his father in the parking lot after the game.

Casper Lionni muffed it, at the same time fumbling the thick book (an epic poem, Homer’s The Iliad) that he’d tucked under his arm. The book fell with a thud. The ball bounced away and rolled under a Honda Odyssey.

“My bad, I’ll get it,” Alex said.

The boy stretched out on the pavement, reached under the minivan and recovered the ball.

This time, he handed it to his father.

Mr. Lionni wore a puzzled expression.

Alex explained, “If you hit a home run, they let you keep it. See,” he pointed to some writing on the ball, “Coach even wrote down the date.”

“Neat.” Mr. Lionni moved to return the ball to Alex.

“No, keep it,” Alex said.


“Yeah, Dad,” Alex said. “I think batting practice really helped last week. Not to mention the new goggles. So, um, thanks. I want you to have it.”

“But Alex,” Mr. Lionni protested. “This is your home run ball.”

“That’s okay,” Alex replied. “I’ll hit another.”

They did not speak of the problems at home. How Alex’s father was moving to an apartment, how everything was turning upside down. Sometimes it was better not to talk about these things. At this moment, in a parking lot beside a baseball diamond, Casper Lionni tucked a baseball into his jacket pocket. He ran his thumb over the seams. “Thank you, Alex,” he said. “I’ll treasure this.”

And so he would.

The ball would be displayed in a plastic cube on a mantel in the living room of his apartment. The place he called, awkwardly, his “new bachelor pad.” On silent nights, when Alex was away sleeping in the old house, Mr. Lionni would remove the ball from the clear plastic cube. He would hold the home run ball in his hands, thumb feeling the raised red seams, thinking about victories and loses, trying to understand how things had ever come to this, how a lifetime could have possibly led him here, alone in an apartment, filled with regret.

“How about we stop at Jim’s Tasty Freeze for some ice cream?” he suggested. “We’ve got a home run to celebrate.”

Alex Lionni thought that was a most excellent idea.

NOTE: I have to add that it tickled me when Mr. Lionni dropped The Iliad, and fumbled the “homer” ball, which rolled under a Honda Odyssey. Clever, huh? But not, I hope, “look at me” clever.

Or Elmore Leonard wouldn’t approve.

For the record, I’m fine with those cuts. It’s a matter of pulling back and trying to look at the whole, as opposed to becoming too attached to the specifics of a given scene. It also comes back to trust, and with Six Innings I had faith in my editors, Liz Szabla and Jean Feiwel. To keep the zip and zing of the thing, some decent background material winds up on the cutting room floor. It was more challenging with Six Innings, since I was interested in an ensemble piece, an Altmanesque approach that included many characters, many plates spinning at once. A strategy that works against a singular forward focus. Of course, the game itself became that focus, the engine that pulled everything else up the mountain and down the track.

Here’s a sixty-second example of a deleted scene from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” It’s a boring scene and, though it may have told us a tiny bit about Harry’s friendship with Ron, and coyly foreshadowed the chess game, it would have brought the movie to a crashing halt:

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