Reflections on Cal Ripken and 2131
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Twenty years ago this week Cal Ripken tied and broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record. Twenty years ago. It seems difficult to fathom, actually.
I was proud to have been a part of such a wonderful front office — people who cared about the game of baseball and wanted it represented well both on and off the field. If I could have picked any time in history to have been with the club — including that 1983 season when the Orioles took home the World Series trophy — I would not change a thing. I started out on the ground floor as public relations assistant (who actually had to go out into the stands and sing “Happy Birthday” to fans), worked side-by-side with my mentor Julie Wagner in community relations, and was promoted to Director of Publishing where I stayed until I ended my career with the ballclub in 1998. Honestly, I wouldn’t trade one moment of my time there, even for a World Series ring (though I won’t lie–that would have been a very nice heirloom).
Readers of my blog know my incredible affinity for the ballclub. Pictured above is Cal, on the night of 2131, with his arm around his mother, Vi, Julie Wagner, the Orioles Community Relations Director, and me there in the front (Cal’s dad can be seen off to the left, barely in the photograph). As members of the event team that planned, organized, and executed 2131, we are standing on the field while the tributes and celebrations were happening, and I’ll never forget how Cal’s parents’ faces beamed. I was fortunate to have been assigned as the escort for Cal’s parents for the evening, and I was responsible for getting them where they needed to be as events began to unfold. Our team photographer, Jerry Wachter, captured this moment, and I’ll be forever grateful. Although Julie is probably mid-sentence saying something to me about what was going to happen next because she was one of the lead planners of the ceremonial events, Jerry caught us at just the right moment, and as the Whitney Houston song “One Moment in Time” was played that night, I believe we all felt suspended, relishing Cal’s amazing accomplishment, and sensing Lou Gehrig winking from the Heavens. If only for a moment.
Incidentally, one of the reasons why I hold on so dearly to memories made either at Memorial Stadium or Camden Yards is because some of my dearest friends were made there, memories that I will keep. Whether they are funny stories that make up my collection of 13 years at the ballclub or friendships that continue to grow and flourish even after we’ve moved on, the spirit that was the Orioles will remain with me forever. Cal’s remarkable evening is just one of hundreds of things I’ll always keep in my lovely, baseball memory bank.
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Baseball Girl Takes Home An Honorable Mention in the Annual Readers’ Favorite Contest for Sports Fiction
Last night, my second novel, Baseball Girl, received an Honorable Mention Award in the Annual Readers’ Favorite Contest in the category of sports fiction. As the Readers’ Favorite Contest has become more popular over the years (its first contest year was only in 2009), the competition continues to grow. Having Baseball Girl acknowledged in the category of sports fiction is quite an honor (seeing as I haven’t ever written anything fictional that is sports-based, not even a short story). The recognition of this little story—that grew out of my overactive imagination, but is rooted in some of my own experiences working in baseball—means more to me than words can say, but I’ll try. When I set out to tell this story, all I wanted was for people to enjoy reading it. To take pleasure in it. To want to see what happens to the characters. When I receive a short note, text, or email from someone saying he or she enjoyed Baseball Girl, that’s what makes me happy. Additionally, when a little medallion of an award gets to be placed on the cover of the book in recognition for a job well done—though it may not have garnered first, second, or third place—I am so grateful for the positive feedback I have received and continue to receive. Honestly, it makes me want to be a better writer. Thank you, Jack Magnus and Readers’ Favorite for this lovely recognition. I hope your stamp of approval will encourage other folks who are on the fence about reading the book to give it a whirl and see what happens to Francesca, Archie, Joe, Jack and the rest of the crew.
Jack Magnus’ Review of Baseball Girl:
Baseball Girl: A Novel is a contemporary sports fiction novel written by Stephanie L. Verni. Francesca’s young world revolved around her dad and the baseball games they watched together, both in the stadium and at home. They loved the Bay City Blackbirds, and Francesca knew all the stats and even the team’s scoring system. From the time, she was seven until her dad’s illness and death at age 44 from leukemia, the two of them thrilled to the sounds of the bat hitting the ball and the cheers of the fans. When Francesca was a sophomore in college, a year after he died, she found a help wanted ad for a Public Relations Assistant with the Bay City Blackbirds. It seemed the perfect job for a communications major who just happened to live and breathe baseball.
Stephanie L. Verni’s contemporary fiction novel, Baseball Girl, is a marvelous novel that blends the coming of age, romance and sports fiction genres. The author’s long-term association with the Baltimore Orioles makes the novel feel like the real thing. Verni takes the reader into the inner workings of the front office of a baseball team, and it’s a fascinating look at the hard work, dedication, and stamina needed to be part of that world. While Francesca is no longer a young adult, the interwoven tales of her childhood through to her late twenties, combined with the ongoing trauma of her loss which keeps her locked up inside and unwilling to risk emotional attachments, make this story one of the more compelling coming of age tales I’ve read. Baseball Girl has a strong romantic thread, but the lack of any overtly sexual or erotic themes makes this novel eminently suitable for young adult readers as well as the target adult audience. Verni’s strong and competent Francesca is the perfect role model for young women, especially if they just happen to love sports. Baseball Girl is an awesome read, and it’s most highly recommended.
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Upcoming Book Events in the Baltimore | Annapolis Area
On Sunday, September 27, I’ll be in the Author’s Tent at the Baltimore Book Festival. Last year’s festival was held at the Inner Harbor, and this year it will also be held downtown. I’m scheduled to sell and sign books from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m., so if you’re planning on attending, I hope you will stop by and say hello.
On Monday, September 28, I’ll be talking about baseball, books, and maybe even a Mimosa Tree at the Broadneck Library in Annapolis at 7 p.m. I’ll be giving away some goodies, and I’ll have lots of bookmarks and copies of my books on hand.
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Severna Park Voice Article
My local, hometown paper ran a piece on local authors and what we’re up to recently. I’ve linked to it here, and was thrilled to see that they very kindly gave my daughter a photo credit. She’s also an aspiring author, and a pretty amazing photographer as well. Thanks for making me look good, Elle.
Moments in Time
Last week we began our fall semester at Stevenson University. I couldn’t be more fortunate to work at a place with the best bunch of faculty, staff, and students. I absolutely love my job, and every day I have the opportunity to be in the classroom is yet another one of my moments in time.
Thanks for popping in today, and I hope to see some of you soon.
P.S. If you want to take a stroll down memory lane and re-live Cal’s shining moment, I’ve provided the telecast below.