Baseball has always been in my blood. When I was born, the very first possession that was passed on to me by my father was a brand-new baseball glove that I wouldn’t be able to snap shut for another five years. I took my first swing off a tee when I was three-years-old, and only stopped playing at the ripe old age of thirty-eight because my knees couldn’t take the abuse of playing shortstop–and I refused to play any other position.
Bottom line, I’ve spent forty-two years of my life transfixed by a game that has been an indispensable part of our national bloodstream long before I was even a thought on this planet. And it’s a beautiful game. Much like another patently American classic–jazz–a game of baseball is a flourish of improvisational genius. It’s the crash of the cymbal as a base runner slides into second base and pops up in a cloud of orange dust. It’s the tinny squeal of the sax as the three-hole hitter cranks one into the gap. It’s that effervescent tinkle of ivory keys as the middle infielders flip the old 6-4-3 double play.
So it’s no wonder I decided to bring our national pastime into my upcoming young adult novel, ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND–a novel that happens to feature jazz music, John Coltrane, and the epitome of what it means to be an American. But what inspired me to include baseball in my novel to an even greater extent is a little place in my hometown called Truist Point.
You see, I’ve spent over four decades watching baseball. I’ve spent more hours than I can count at Veteran’s Stadium in Philadelphia, and at old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, and at Shea, and at Camden Yards–some of the classic venues of professional baseball. I’ve even spent a magical day at Wrigley Field. But it wasn’t until I moved south of the Mason Dixon Line that I learned about the glory of watching a minor league game in a minor league ballpark.
Fast forward to two years ago, when High Point Baseball Inc. raised the $36 million it would take to build Truist Point–one of the newest and most beautiful ballparks in the Atlantic League. Planted smack-dab in the middle of my hometown, I now drive about two miles from my doorstep to watch the kind of baseball that made this game into a pastime in the first place.
One hot, summer evening, as I sat behind home plate sipping on a locally brewed beer and eating a BBQ sandwich, I just knew I needed to bring the glory (and especially the sounds) of the minor league ballpark into my novel, and the result was that it helped me to draw parallels between all the things we’ve invented as Americans, and how they’ve made the culture of this nation so special and so unique…because sometimes it can be easy to forget what we’ve created together as fellows in this national bond, but baseball and jazz music and the legend, John Coltrane, will always help you remember.
Please make a stop at the VISIT HIGH POINT website to find all kinds of amazing, family-oriented fun to enjoy right here in my backyard. And, while you’re at it, follow the link below to order yourself a copy of On the Way to Birdland. Happy reading!
“On the Way to Birdland is a work of tremendous heart. It sings with the joys and pains of family, hope, and impossible dreams. A must read for everyone trying to find their way back to what matters most.”
—Adrienne Kisner, author of DEAR RACHEL MADDOW, THE CONFUSION OF LAUREL GRAHAM, and SIX ANGRY GIRLS