When asked by people to explain the inspiration behind the writing of my novel, I tell them that it was written for the millions of men who are past their prime but continue to live out their baseball fantasies vicariously through their favorite ball players. I am one of those men.
Often starting out in T-ball, little league, and pony league, millions of young men grow up dreaming of one day making it to “the show”. Some will continue to play ball in high school and college, and the more talented players may eventually be drafted by a big league club and assigned to a lower-class minor league team. However, while some will continue to develop and move up to the AA and AAA levels, many will suffer career-ending injuries and others will simply be cut by their parent clubs due to below-standard performances. In either case, the low-paying minor leagues is where it ends for the majority of these young men.
With their dreams shattered and their professional careers over, what’s next for these ballplayers? They obviously love the game and have been playing it since they were six. Well, most of them simply find another line of work and go about their lives. However, those who can afford to do so, keep their dream alive by signing on with one of the independent leagues or by becoming a weekend warrior in a local amateur league, such as the San Diego Adult Baseball League. By continuing to play in an organized environment, those players strive to improve their skills and hope to eventually get noticed by a scout or someone connected to a big league club. (In Pinch Hitter, the main character, David Robbins, is discovered by the manager of the local big league club while playing for a San Diego amateur league team. Albeit an unlikely scenario in the real world, it isn’t entirely impossible.)
The many adult baseball leagues around the country are full of very talented ball players who come from all walks of life and age groups; it isn’t uncommon to see men continue to play in these leagues until they are well into their fifties.
A few years ago, my wife and I were invited to attend an amateur league game at one of our local high schools, which is where they play their games on the weekends. The young man who invited us was a bartender at a popular San Diego sports bar. (He also bore a slight resemblance to Padre outfielder Scott Hairston.) Having never attended one of those games, I was surprised to find that the level of play was very good. It was almost like watching a Class A game. Although we never got the opportunity to speak with the players and inquire about their backgrounds, I got the impression that, at the very least, a few of those guys had played ball on the collegiate level.
It’s a known fact that only a small percentage of ballplayers ever make it to “the show”. And I’ve heard several players say that while it’s difficult to get to the big leagues, it’s even harder to stay there. I would think, however, that the ones who did make it there–even if only for a short time–would have a greater chance of finding some kind of employment within the vast minor league system…and thus remain connected to professional baseball.
Like many other men who grew up in America, I caught the baseball bug at an early age. And although circumstances prevented me from playing organized ball beyond little league and pony league, I’ve closely followed the sport throughout my entire life and continue to expand my knowledge. And you can count me amongst the millions of men who continue to fantasize about what it would be like to put on a uniform and walk out onto a big league field to the cheers of 40,000 fans.
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