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Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Jake featured a haunting cover: a drawing of a young African American baseball player staring somberly ahead, a bat resting on his right shoulder, looking like he’s posing for a card in Topps’ special “Little League Players With Depressing Family Situations” series. The boy was named Jake Wrather, a brash Little League catcher who lived with his semi-negligent uncle Lenny, an aspiring musician who frequently left Jake to fend for himself. I loved Jake so much that, when I was in the fifth grade, I tried to adapt it into a play and wrote nearly a dozen scenes before giving up. What possessed a 10-year-old child to write a school play about a fictional Little League baseball player? I don’t know. Why did I quit before I finished? I couldn’t tell you. Maybe I wanted to see Jake come to life. Maybe I wanted to be friends with him. Maybe I realized it wasn’t working, and maybe I gave up.
And as it turned out, I totally underestimated Hock. Over the summer, he chased down an 85-year-old retired author in Ann Arbor, brought a camera crew and hoped something good would happen. A few weeks later, a rough cut of his next short film landed in my e-mail box without warning. I clicked on the link. There he was … the great Alfred Slote. Talking about Jake. Talking about writing. Talking about life. I can’t explain how much that 10 minutes meant to me, so I won’t even try. But watching one of my favorite writers bring his favorite book back to life while figuring out if his career ultimately meant anything — when it did, it did, it did — was practically an out-of-body experience.
Just want to say that “My Father, The Coach” (also a Slote book) was far and away my favorite baseball book as a kid. For a few years if my family went somewhere that book had to be packed because it would keep my quiet and content on the plane or in the car.
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