Writing stories to pass values from one generation to the next

Answering A Loaded Baseball Question

Loaded Baseball Question

Earlier this year, I spoke to a children’s literature class at the University of Memphis. The class had read Coach Dave: Season One as part of their curriculum. They were to submit questions prior to my visit. The asked excellent questions, and I answered as many as time allowed on that day. I have divided the students’ questions into several topic groups, which I have discussed here on the blog for all of my readers.

Platform and Perspective

Dealing with Adults

Coach Dave’s Cast of Characters

On My Journey as an Author

Today: A Loaded Baseball Question

Questions from Students: A Loaded Baseball Question

Without any further fanfare, I present the last few questions from the students who read my book as part of their children’s literature class. The last one is the loaded baseball question. First, a very thoughtful but non-loaded baseball question or three that the students asked:

Why do you think it is important for children to experience sports novels as opposed to just being physically active in the sports world?

I’m not sure which student asked this question, but I thought it was one of the most well thought out queries of the bunch. Physical activity in the sports world involves fun, exercise, and community. Isn’t that enough?

Well, that’s a great start. However, a sports story–by its nature as a story–should involve conflict and resolution. Good stories guide readers to engage in conflict that they may or may not have experienced in real life. Through the Coach Dave series, my goal is to spark discussions of what could be when youth baseball players, parents, and coaches come together to grow as people as they engage in a game. The way the characters work through conflict may serve to reflect on conflicts in the readers’ lives or prepare them for conflicts to come.

If you could meet any athlete, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. Not because I’m such a big Cardinals fan, either, though I am. I read Matheny’s original manifesto years ago, before it was expanded into a book (appropriately called The Matheny Manifesto) written with renowned author Jerry Jenkins. Here’s an excerpt from the Amazon description:

Loaded Baseball QuestionThe tough-love philosophy Matheny expressed in the letter contained his throwback beliefs that authority should be respected, discipline and hard work rewarded, spiritual faith cultivated, family made a priority, and humility considered a virtue. In The Matheny Manifesto, he builds on his original letter by first diagnosing the problem at the heart of youth sports−hint: it starts with parents and coaches−and then by offering a hopeful path forward. Along the way, he uses stories from his small-town childhood as well as his career as a player, coach, and manager to explore eight keys to success: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility. 

If you have read much of my writing, you can appreciate how much I would enjoy a conversation with the Cardinals’ skipper.

Will you make a Coach Dave: Season 3? 

Yes, indeed I will; in fact, I am writing in during my summer break from school. And a Season 4 and a Season 5. Coach Dave’s core players will be back in Season 3 as seventh graders competing in their first year of middle school ball. By the time you read this post, I will be very close, if not finished with the first draft of Season 3. Look for its release around the World Series in late October. Also, a recent conversation with a friend gave me the scene that will serve as the final destination of the Coach Dave series.

Before I move on to the loaded baseball question that wraps up this series of posts, I’d like to share a piece of a recent review of Coach Dave Season Two: All-Stars:
Loaded Baseball QuestionCoach Dave: Season Two All-Stars is a good book for dads to read with their sons. Especially when there’s baseball in the family. Several times, strategy and sacrifice win the game, when aiming for the fences would end the game in a loss. Teamwork and sacrifice are emphasized over glory and favoritism, and these life lessons play well off the field as well.

The interaction of the boys, coaches, and Dads in this whimsical look at youth baseball make for an entertaining and thought-provoking read. The play-by-play action of the tournament gives the feel of being behind the chain links watching the game.

And now, the loaded baseball question…

Who’s going to win the World Series?

When I answered this question in the classroom, I correctly guessed that it came from a Cubs fan. Not that the world doesn’t need some of those. Being a Cardinal fan wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without Cubs fans. It’s even good for the rivalry that the Cubs have already been anointed by most–especially after they acquired All-World closer Aroldis Chapman this week–as this year’s World Series champs.

Why is this a loaded baseball question? Simple. As the author of a baseball series targeting young athletes, parents, and coaches, the last thing I want to do is isolate any team’s fan base. To simply answer the question with no rationale behind it would not have been wise.

However…I did not avoid the question, answering it (pre-Chapman trade) moments before class dismissed. I said that I thought the Cubs would win the World Series and very likely multiple World Series with their current core group of players…but not this year. They have all the trappings of a team that peaks too early. I mentioned that 2016 was an even year and that the San Francisco Giants have won the last three even-year Series (2010, 2012, 2014). They weren’t my choice, either.

I went with a team that has shown remarkable consistency. They have big-game experience. They have good players up and down the lineup but no superstars. And they never, ever give up.

I picked the Kansas City Royals to repeat as champions. As I write this post, the Royals are three games below .500. They are seven games back from even getting into the playoffs, needing to leapfrog six teams to get in. It’s safe to say that my prediction was a little off, so I’ll offer another, more in line with my intent as a writer:

I hope your team wins.

I hope you have gained a better insight of why I write  through these excellent questions from students. Check out more questions and answers about Coach Dave and values storying:

Platform and Perspective

Dealing with Adults

Coach Dave’s Cast of Characters

On My Journey as an Author

Get a copy of Coach Dave: Season One and Coach Dave Season Two: All-Stars and shoot me some questions of your own.

About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell.

Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel, Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and the Coach Dave series. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

What do you think?