The Lucky Baseball Bat
The Lucky Baseball Bat
I have many baseball memories, including a handful that actually included my using a baseball bat in a productive manner. I considered none of those a lucky baseball bat (not even the one that almost pulled out a game winner–even with Stacey Dilmore on the mound). No, the lucky baseball bat of which I write was something different altogether.
I have thought about that lucky baseball bat quite a bit over the past weeks after I released Coach Dave Season Two: All-Stars, the second in the Coach Dave series. I talked about Coach Dave with a college children’s literature class, signed books as part of a National Library Week Mississippi authors’ forum, and back in my hometown at the Star Spring Festival this past weekend. Monday morning, the subject of the lucky baseball bat came up again.
Our staff devotional at the Christian school where I teach had just ended. I had brought a couple of the new books to give to a colleague who had served as one of my beta readers. One of our coaches was sitting near me and asked about the book. He grew up in the Northeast, and reading was part of his upbringing. He said, “I used to read sports books all the time…Matt Christopher…”
My mouth dropped in recognition and he paused. Together, we said, “The Lucky Baseball Bat!” There were plenty of other Matt Christopher sports books (Catcher with a Glass Arm, The Kid Who Only Hit Homers, and dozens more), but The Lucky Baseball Bat–that was the kids’ sports book by which all the others were measured.
The Lucky Baseball Bat: My Go-To Book
You might think that growing up in tiny Star, Mississippi, meant growing up without a library. However, every Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours, the bookmobile (Remember bookmobiles?) would pull into the Star Baptist Church’s gravel parking lot under the shade of a giant oak tree. My mother, sisters, and brother would clamber aboard the bookmobile and make the selections that would feed our reading passions for the next seven days.
The library card (Remember those?) for The Lucky Baseball Bat was filled with my signature through the years. The librarian could have practically watched me grow up through my handwriting on the card. I read plenty of other sports books, too, and dozens of little orange biographies and various mystery series. It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the printed word.
The Lucky Baseball Bat for a New Generation
I eventually outgrew The Lucky Baseball Bat, but my boys read it during their young reader days. I noticed on Amazon that a 50th anniversary edition of the book was now available. Upon closer look, I saw that the copyright on that edition was 2004. Wow, I thought, is my favorite book from childhood really that old? I turn 50 next week, so it hasn’t outpaced my aging as much as I would like to think.
Matt Christopher passed away in the 1990’s, having published over 100 books. Others have stepped into the youth sports genre but none as prolific. I think about all the life principles I learned while joyfully flipping through the pages of a Matt Christopher book and how a man I never met had such an unseen influence on my philosophy of sports. The best way I can give back to him is not to give back at all…but to pay it forward.
Therefore, I write sports stories for the next generation. I can only hope that one of my books makes an impact on today’s young reader-athletes like The Lucky Baseball Bat did on me. This is my little friend Luke devouring the first in the Coach Dave series.
I wonder…what is the book that kicked off your love of reading?
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.