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Writing stories to pass values from one generation to the next

Coach Dave’s Cast of Characters

Coach Dave's Cast of Characters

Earlier this year, I had the privilege of speaking to a children’s literature class at the University of Memphis. The class had been assigned a reading of Coach Dave: Season One and was to submit questions prior to my visit. The class’s questions were excellent, and I answered as many as time allowed on that day. I have divided the students’ questions into several topic groups, which I will address here on the blog for all of my readers.

Topic 1: Platform and Perspective

Topic 2: Dealing with Adults

Today’s topic: Coach Dave‘s Cast of Characters

Questions from Students: Coach Dave‘s Cast of Characters

1. Have you ever moved to a different city like the characters in the book?

I have probably moved fewer times than most, and I have lived my entire life in Mississippi. However, my transition from elementary to junior high school to high school involved major changes, a different location in one case and a brand new school in another. I moved from Star, my hometown, to Hattiesburg and then across the Leaf River to Petal while in college. After college I moved to Charleston for my first year of teaching and coaching (after learning that the Charleston High School that wanted me to drive up for an interview was not in South Carolina). I have lived in DeSoto County in several different locations ever since, starting new jobs a number of times in that twenty-six-year period.

One thing that I noticed through being new to the church I attended right after moving to Southaven was that nobody seemed to talk to new people like me. What I later discovered was that there were as many people my age who were new as there were those who had been in the church for years. We just didn’t know. Many of the characters in the book are new to Southburg and are still feeling out the baseball culture of their new town. The characters of Brad Baker and his son Rob, Charlie Jones and his son Hudson, and Wyatt Logan and his son Hunter–not to mention their new coach, Dave Rivers–connect with some long-time Southburgians like Dean Ford, Bruce Garrison, and everybody’s favorite grown-up, Gary “Rooster” Hamilton, to change the atmosphere around youth baseball in the town.

2. The children of the team all seem to represent a certain “type” of child living in America today. Is there a significance to this? 

Just reflecting the make-up of many of the baseball teams from all over the country that I have seen at tournaments in our area. One trait of Rob and his friends that was intentional is how active they are. Sure, they play video games, but they get outside and stay active, too. Tip of the cap to the Little Fella and his cast of characters from the neighborhood for that characteristic of the boys from Southburg. (This post gives you an idea of their escapades. I’m actually pretty sore as I write this post after driving down the stakes on which the guys will build their clubhouse with leftover wood from a roof replacement we had done last week.)

3. Why did you choose to make the characters of Hudson and his family? 

I posted an excerpt about Hudson and his family a while back. Hudson’s father, Charlie Jones, is a pastor and his older brother, Bobby, died of leukemia after his senior year of high school. Having been a pastor for eight years myself, I wanted to create a really normal man of faith whose character happened to be a big baseball fan. He doesn’t preach against sports as so many pastors do today, and his family makes church a priority on Sunday as so many baseball families do not. I created the Jones family to show that sports and faith can not only co-exist, but one can also greatly supplement the other. As far as Bobby is concerned…

4. Is there a significance behind Bobby having leukemia?

A great baseball player while in remission, Bobby’s character was based on Mark Vinson, a young man from a neighboring high school who graduated the same year I did. I knew him mostly by reputation, and his was as good as they come. The Mississippi high school baseball all-star game’s sportsmanship award is named after Mark. I often wonder if any of the recipients of that award have any idea what an incredibly brave and talented young man Mark was. I hope so. I included Bobby Jones in my cast of characters as a tribute to him.

5. Several of the young baseball players mentioned seem to carry a story or a heavy past on their shoulders that helps define and understand them. Is there a significance to this?

Absolutely. Fans of the game can get so caught up in the performance of (in the case of the Scarlet Knights) twelve-year-olds that they don’t see what else these young people are carrying to the plate besides their bats. Some are carrying broken homes. Others are “accompanied” by overbearing parents in the stands. If, as Coach Dave says in Season Two, we could “peel back the baseball” to see the whole of players’ lives, we would likely understand just how significant the games are that we often make too much of as parents.

When real-life Coach Daves and Brad Bakers and Dean Fords invest in young baseball players deeply enough to discover the burdens that their players carry, the players with those burdens often find help carrying them. Real-life Fletcher Brandts win a den full of trophies but never seem to make the same impact in their players’ lives outside of the sport.

I have fallen in love with Coach Dave’s cast of characters. I have spent well over a year with them and am now working on my third of five books in the series. I hope you find your favorites among my cast of characters, too.

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

Topic 1: Platform and Perspective

Topic 2: Dealing with Adults

 

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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 (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

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