The book: “Baseball Is Back”
The author: Michael Turner
The vital statistics: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 28 pages, $12.99, released Feb. 10.
Find it: At Amazon.com, at Barnes and Noble
The pitch: Yup, this should have come at the very front of the collection of this year’s reviews.
The perfect title. The perfect tone.
The perfect backstory.
Turner, who grew up in Southern California and graduated from North Hollywood High, knows what it’s like to be away from baseball.
As a Naval officer from 1999-2004, then joining the foreign service, he has been in the international affairs field for more than 17 years, also living in Italy, Bahrain, Indonesia, Colombia and Vietnam. Washington, D.C., is his current home base, just 10 minutes from Nationals Park.
All those years sitting in the left-field bleachers when he could look over Dusty Baker’s shoulder at the games in the 1970s never left him. Now he watches Baker manage his home-town team, with former teammate Davey Lopes coaching first base.
Turner said he saw a need for a book like this for his two daughters, Ella (10) and Nora (9), with son Patrick (3) on the way up.
“My two daughters were the inspiration,” Turner said via email. “I couldn’t find any children’s picture books when they were younger that took the angle of dad introducing and teaching the game to girls. So it’s really a love letter for them.
“For me, the book is aimed at dads, granddads or uncles who want to teach baseball to girls and newborns to about 10 or so.
“That said, because I tried to invoke baseball’s rich vernacular and history, I’ve had adults tell me it’s been a conversation piece for them to learn more about the game.”
After contacting about 80 children’s book agents to pitch the book project, Turner eventually went the route of self publishing. He rough sketched it to “provide a vision for each page.” He then worked with an illustrator to “fill in the finer details.” He then retained the copyright.
Turner mailed copies of the book to every MLB general manager, and he says six actually wrote back.
“They say they’re reading it to their kids and grand kids,” Turner said. “I even sent one to George Will, who wrote me a nice note saying his granddaughter will ‘relish it.’
“It feels great that the book resonates with people who know baseball.”
Turner, who recalls playing Little League at North Hollywood Park on Tujunga Ave., when he was of age, isn’t sure if a book like this would have hooked him on baseball – because he, as a boy, already was going to play regardless.
“Sports can be very empowering and teaches a lot of life lessons,” he says. “Doing more to empower girls, including dads teaching them about our national pastime, is smart on so many levels. And this became more apparent to me when I became the dad of girls.”
We’re proud to have our own copy, with its references to Clayton Kershaw and Vin Scully, and several more about Jackie Robinson (including the cover photo with everyone wearing No. 42). Plus Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Branch Rickey and Chavez Ravine.
It’s all tied together with this book-ending verse:
“Girls, that’s some history and memories of mine,
rules and players from America’s Pasttime.
The game belongs to them, but also to you,
Baseball is Back, and there is nothing more true.”
That’s a wrap.
== A quick review on MLB.com Baseball Books blog