Thoughts on Missing Working in Baseball

Orioles friends from our reunion a few years ago.

It’s a question I get asked a lot.

“Do you miss working in baseball?”

Students ask me this often; then they ask what it was like to work in baseball, in sports, for a Major League baseball team.

I have often blogged about how working in baseball changed my life in so many ways. I became a serious student when I got my job with the Orioles as a sophomore in college. I learned how to budget my time and work long hours. I loved every minute of it. I even roped my best friend and college roommate into working there during my second year when I supervised a small staff and someone quit before Opening Day. She was supposed to be a fill-in and ended up staying the entire season…and then some. I grew up there and stayed for 13 total seasons. My best friends are from there. I met my husband there. I learned valuable skills that I now teach my students. I learned about the game, its history, and its pomp and circumstance—all of which I treasure.

Then I wrote a fictional novel about working in baseball entitled Baseball Girl, summoning my recollections and stories about working in the game.

On Friday night, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with my mentor and dear friend, Dr. Charles Steinberg, in Boston. Our students and faculty were in town for a communication convention, and Charles, who now works for the Red Sox and Pawtucket Paw Sox, took us out to dinner. It’s funny how things come around full circle—I learned so much of what I know from Charles and Julie Wagner, and both are still my dear friends and mentors. Both Charles and Julie also wrote a case study for a textbook my colleagues and I wrote about event planning. Sitting at that table with Charles made me realize a couple of things: (1) how thankful I am that I had the job I had for all those years and that it helps me in my current job today, and (2) that strong friendships sustain themselves even when you don’t see each other as often as you would like.

Charles and me from Saturday night in Boston at Pico Niccolo.

Today is Opening Day, and I will not be there at Camden Yards to celebrate its 25th season at the ballpark. I have to teach my classes.

I was there on Opening Day 1992 when Camden Yards took center stage, and I helped coordinate the opening ceremonies. I value all of my time there—first as assistant director of community relations and then as director of publishing. For fun, and at Charles’s request, I even spent time as the ballpark deejay for a while, spinning tunes and getting the crowd fired up.

So the question remains: “Do you miss working in baseball?”

On days like today, with a fresh season upon us, a new team, and a clean slate with 162 games to go and a chance to win a World Series ring as a member of the front office, the answer is simply…

Yes.

Sometimes I do.

Good friends…

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly releasedInn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.  To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

Back at Camden Yards, Pangs of Nostalgia and Thankfulness

Camden Yards*

This morning I took a ride to Camden Yards. It was surreal—like going back in time to the commute I did for many years from 1992 through 1998 when I was a full-time employee of the ballclub. (Prior to that, beginning in 1985, I commuted to old Memorial Stadium). I had to pick up something from our friend Mark at the Orioles offices for my son’s birthday. On my drive in, as I am often capable of doing, I became nostalgic remembering old times. I also got to thinking about how that job of working for the Orioles completely transformed my life. And I don’t write that lightly. It seriously did transform my life as I’ve written about several times before here on the blog.

What it also did was to inform my current job—that of professor of business communication at Stevenson University. Being able to talk about my experiences working in several different departments, including public relations, community relations, publishing, and Orioles productions gave me such a foundation of knowledge, that today, when I am in the classroom, I still use work experiences to illustrate points we learn in the textbooks we read. That added working knowledge I bring to the table helps me be a better teacher. Additionally, since I love to tell stories, it also gives me a lot of fodder; and trust me, I don’t hold back. Sharing the good experiences along with the bad helps my students understand concepts and theories they are studying. And finally, that job working in baseball also helped inform my writing of Baseball Girl, the fictional novel I published last year about life working in professional baseball, which of course, was loosely based on my own life and experiences working in the sport.

My year working for The Baltimore Sun was not an easy one, but I certainly learned a lot from it. The two years following that when I owned and operated my own consulting business taught me even more about responsibility and ownership and making the client happy. And many of those clients I worked with because I had connections to them from my days at the Orioles.

I don’t know if it’s because there’s been a lot of turmoil in the world and country lately or because I see a lot of vitriolic hate and vehement opinions on world and political events on Facebook (of which I will take no part in; you will never see me talk politics either here on the blog or on my Facebook page, because, truthfully, no one wants my opinion, and likewise, I don’t care to hear anyone else’s either), but I woke up feeling nothing but thankful this morning. I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I’ve worked hard to make a difference in each career in which I’ve had the opportunity to engage. My work experiences have helped inform my teaching, and I’ll forever be grateful for those teachable moments that help me provide my own teachable moments to our wonderful students.

And that’s today’s bit of Monday Morning Nostalgia, brought to you by a sentimental, sappy fool. 🙂

xx |

signatureStephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.

Save

Endorsements for Baseball Girl

Thank you Banner

Today, I’d like to thank Dr. Charles Steinberg of the Boston Red Sox and Jack Magnus of Readers Favorite for their kind commentary about Baseball Girl. Dr. Steinberg endorsed the book, which you can see showcased on the new cover, and Jack Magnus gave it a 5-Star Review.

As for sales of this independent novel, they are steady, and I’m pleased with its progress without having executed a full-blown marketing campaign. Word of mouth seems to be helping it along, so if you’ve enjoyed reading it, please consider recommending it to someone or writing a review for it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I can tell you only that it was a labor of love. Having spent 13 years working for the Baltimore Orioles, I decided that I wanted to write a fictional story grounded in love and loss that was only made possible by my experiences working in the front office of a professional baseball team. While the story is fictionalized, many of the situations and feelings that the main character experiences and shares are similar to those I experienced myself. Working in baseball was magical for me–I met all of my best friends during my time at the club, and I even met my spouse working in baseball.

While Francesca certainly has to overcome the loss of her father, she also has other interpersonal relationships to navigate. It was fun to write, and I hope you enjoy the novel as much as I enjoyed crafting each of the characters, writing the introductory quotes to each chapter, and imagining what Bay City must look like (though many readers have already told me they know it’s Baltimore)!

Thanks for your support!

BaseballGirlFinalCoverRevisedCSRF

Stories I Left Out of Baseball Girl

facts:fiction

* * *

The book’s been out for over two months now. The typical questions I get are as follows:

1) How true is this story?

2) Did you marry a reporter?

3) Did you date a ballplayer?

4) Did all these things happen to you?

People are always fascinated by writers and where they get their ideas. Even friends with whom I’m close are probably wondering if aspects of the book are true and what I’ve held back from them. (Nothing…well, maybe…)

What is more interesting, as the person who wrote the story, is how many stories I left out of the book (of course to protect the innocent). Seriously, I could tell some tales, but the beauty of Baseball Girl is that it is actually fiction, loosely based on real occurrences that took place while I worked in the sport. There were more stories that I could have told, but some of those stories are treasured ones that I didn’t want to morph into fiction. Some of those need to remain standing as nonfiction.

The driving force behind Francesca’s need to secure the job with a baseball team is that she is getting over the loss of her father; he dies at a very young age, and she is left as a 19-year-old who cannot seem to let him go. Francesca’s story is quite different from my own. My father and I just hung out with my mother on Friday. In fact, when I was about to release the book, my father asked me jokingly why the dad had to die. “Someone had to go,” I told him. I needed a starting point for the story, and didn’t want it to mimic my life too closely. I didn’t want people wondering if it was a memoir. It’s not. I started my career at the Orioles when I, too, was 19, but it was because I wanted to try working in public relations while I was in college. I happened to luck into working for a Major League baseball team. Francesca secures the job as a form of therapy.baseball-backgrounds_89141-1600x1200.jpg

When we read stories, we are always looking for the truth on the pages. But the fact is, there is truth in everything we write, or we wouldn’t write it. Even when we write fiction, there are still stories to be told and lessons to be learned, even if it happens in a fictitious place like Bay City with a team called the Blackbirds.

As for what I left out of the book, I admit, I did leave some juicy things out. Perhaps I’ll save them for the sequel.

It’s Not Bragging. It’s Marketing.

BaseballGirlFinalCover50StarIt’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and if you don’t toot your own horn now and then, you will get buried in the monstrous pile of authors who are all doing the same thing you are doing. The life of an independent author is not a glamorous one, unless of course, you are Amanda Hocking. The world of the independent author who participates in this craft is one of resilience, determination, boundless creativity, and an unwillingness to stop promoting a product you think is decent work (at least good enough to share with the public).

Therefore, when you get a 5-Star Review from a reputable organization such as Readers’ Favorite, you want to tell everyone that your reviewer thinks you did pretty well. Jack Magnus’s review of Baseball Girl captures the notion that you did a 5-Star job at telling your story to your intended audience.

Don’t be fooled. This does not mean that receiving this nod causes book sales go through the roof when you are recognized. However, what comes from it is personal satisfaction. Your story is well-written enough to garner a 5-Star award. Think of the recreational athletes who participates in 5K, 10K or half-marathon or marathon runs. They are not doing it for fame or fortune; they become involved in the races because of personal growth and satisfaction. Sometimes, that’s all they are looking to accomplish. The same is true for writers, even independent ones. Receiving this type of positive commentary is something that makes you proud.

Furthermore, it’s another opportunity to share some good news on your blog and tell people a few additional things about the nature of your novel. You want readers to understand the following:

1-You don’t have to like or have an interest in baseball to read the book. Baseball is merely the backdrop for which this story of love, loss, and passion are rolled into the plot.

2-It’s a contemporary romance, and a man liked it. That’s promising!

3-Don’t let the title fool you. It’s not about a girl who plays baseball. It’s about a woman who works in the professional sport and who dabbles in love while simultaneously navigating her career and the loss of her father.Support Independ Authors Button.indd

Additionally, Charles Steinberg of the Boston Red Sox had this to say about Baseball Girl:It’s a vivid, accurate portrait of life in baseball—as authentic a description as you’ll find of the lifestyle in the public relations and community relations departments of a ballclub. ”

Authors do write for themselves, but it’s pointless if you can’t get others to read your work. I hope if you have not picked up your copy of Baseball Girl today, you will consider doing so in the near future. I would love to hear if you think Jack Magnus got it right.

Baseball Girl Receives Some Hometown Press in Annapolis

TheCapitalThanks to my friend Tim Thomas, writer Sarah Hainesworth, and photographer Paul Gillespie at The Annapolis Capital for running this great feature story on Baseball Girl in Sunday’s Life section. I’m so happy they were willing to get the word out about my second novel.

Thanks for the support!

Click here to read the article in The Capital.

Snow, Spring and The Dad in Baseball Girl

March 20, 2015. My backyard in Maryland.
March 20, 2015. My backyard in Maryland.

* * *

This picture above was taken minutes ago in my backyard in Maryland. It’s the first day of spring, and Maryland is “supposedly” in the South. Sometimes you wouldn’t know it. Like today, when the birds should be chirping and tulips should be starting to come to life.

This weather is for the birds. And by “the birds,” I mean the Bay City Blackbirds in Baseball Girl. Won’t you consider hunkering down with a book written by a struggling independent author and see what happens in the love triangle among a ballplayer, a sports writer, and a woman who works in baseball before the official start of this season? I promise that you don’t have to love baseball to like the story…perhaps just have a dad you love(d) a lot. It’s the most important relationship in Baseball Girl, and the driving force in Francesca’s ability to grow.

JessicaThis pretty photo was sent to me by a former student who also happened to work in baseball.

Have a great weekend, all. Think Spring.

And baseball.

Women Writing Women & A Quick Update

Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane
Anne Hathaway as Jane Austen in Becoming Jane

* * *

Yesterday, in a tribute to Women’s History Month, I sat on a panel along with other female writers at the Aberdeen Library. Our moderator, Laura Fox, associate professor of humanities at Harford Community College, asked insightful questions in order to get all of us panelists talking about the female characters we write.

Our panel consisted of published authors Karin Harrison, Jen Vido, Lynn Reynolds, Terrie McClay, Diane Wylie, and yours truly. All of us have written more than one book, and all of us write because we love it. For some, it’s a hobby; for others, it’s a vocation. Nevertheless, we all write because we feel compelled to tell a story, and our female characters keep us coming back.

MaughamThere was a good crowd in attendance, most of them wanting to hear from authors about our process, what got us writing, and then, what got us to publish our writing. After the session, I talked with a woman who said she never reads fiction—all nonfiction—and I tried to explain to her what an escape reading fiction is; it allows us to go to places we might never have gone before. I hope she takes my advice and picks up a piece of fiction just for fun.

Ultimately, all on the panel expressed their drive to write characters that come from the heart. You have to write about something that interests you. This doesn’t mean that you should only write what you know; several on the panel write after conducting extensive research or because they want to understand how they would handle a certain situation (such as dealing with breast cancer or having someone try to steal your farm away). Others write to unveil how women can often be unsupportive of other women, as Jen Vido scribes in her Piper O’Donnell series.

At the forefront of all of our thinking, I believe it was apparent that we all have a common goal: to entertain with our stories. Our fiction does not have to be good vs. evil; in fact, many of us said that we do not write an “evil” antagonist, such as Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Often, it’s an inner struggle that our main female characters are tackling or a notion that has them perplexed, such as whether or not she is capable of great forgiveness. In the end, these female characters have to come to a realization or an understanding of who they are and who they can become.

Flowers:BaseballIn Baseball Girl, my latest release, it was a conscious choice not to make one of the men in the love triangle “evil.” That would be too easy. Instead, making them both good men who have different life experiences makes each of them unique, though perhaps not a good fit for the main female character, Francesca. Likewise, she is coping with the death of her father—a loss greater than she can imagine—and must learn to grow despite his absence.

The best part of meeting other female writers and hearing their stories is the sense of belonging it provided. To know we are not alone in our writing and publishing struggles and successes is comforting. In that room yesterday, I sensed all of us silently rooting for one another to produce the best novels we can; to entertain our readers in the best ways we can; and to never lose sight of why we write…because we know we can.

***

On another note…

I’m feeling very proud today. Baseball Girl has hit #82 in Hot New Releases in Contemporary Fiction and #96 in Sports Romance. Thank you for all the love and support.

Screen shot 2015-03-16 at 3.59.50 PM

 

Readers Share Baseball Girl on Social Media

I said this earlier in the week, and I mean every bit of it: I am touched by my friends and supporters.

Thank you so much for helping a little independent author like me get the word out there. It’s word of mouth, sharing on social media, pinning, and talking it up that are seriously the best promotional tools for any indie author. Please know how much I value your support, encouragement, and kind words.

As a quick tribute to those who have helped promote the news of Baseball Girl, I thought I would share some of the photos they have been sharing on social media.

I’m truly tickled by your efforts.

If you ever take the novel on vacation with you, and you want to snap a photo in some cool, exotic location, or if you’re just reading it somewhere cozy, feel free to Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram it to me. I’d love to share your photo.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone, and thanks for reading.

signature

From Mary
From Mary
From Amy
From Amy
From Mariana
From Mariana
From Chrissie
From Chrissie
Chrysti
From Chrysti

“Baseball Girl” Is Now Available

BaseballGirlFinalCover

* * *

After almost three years in the making, my new novel entitled Baseball Girl, is now available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The follow-up novel to Beneath the Mimosa Tree is another contemporary romance that uses baseball as a backdrop. The story revolves around Francesca Milli, whose father passes away when she’s a freshman in college and nineteen years old; she is devastated and copes with his death by securing a job working for the Bay City Blackbirds, a big-league team, as she attempts to carry on their traditions and mutual love for the game of baseball. The residual effect of loving and losing her dad has made her cautious, until two men enter her life: a ballplayer and a sports writer. With the support of her mother and two friends, she begins to work through her grief. A dedicated employee, she successfully navigates her career, and becomes a director in the team’s organization. However, Francesca realizes that she can’t partition herself off from the world, and in time, understands that sometimes love does involve taking a risk.

I’ve immersed myself in the world of these characters for many, many months now, drawing on my own experiences working in baseball to set the scene for this story.

Publishing again as an independent author by my own choice, I have been responsible for all of what this book entails, from the cover design and concept to the writing of the story to editing the story, and then to applying technology to get it in your hands.

Now it is exactly where I want it to be. Ready for you to hold it in your hands and read it.

Thanks in advance for your support, and I look forward to hearing from you if you choose to read Baseball Girl.

* * *

To those who helped me along the way, you have been properly thanked inside the pages. Thank you, again, for all the support and time you gave me.

* * *

Below is the PROLOGUE for the book…to entice you to take the journey with Francesca, Joe, and Jack.

P R O L O G U E

My father was forty-four years old when we saw our last game together in person. He was weak and pale, and yet there we were at the ballpark. Despite his rapidly declining condition, he somehow managed to wear a sheepish grin as I wheeled him up the handicapped ramp and he saw the field, the white lights. There was mist in the air. I was afraid something might happen to him that night, and that I’d have to explain to my mother that God waved him home during a baseball game. My father would have joked, saying it was divine providence, that God knew—and seemed to respect—his affinity for the game; he would kneel to what he believed was a great cathedral—its patterned grass in the outfield, bleached white bases, and perfectly rounded pitcher’s mound. He often told me, especially when I was very young, that he could hear the angels sing every time he entered a ballpark.

It was tradition that the two of us would attend every home game on Sundays. Right after church, we’d sprint home, change out of our dress clothes, jump into shorts, jerseys, and sneakers, and zoom off in the car. Like children excited to see the circus for the first time, both my father and I felt its uniqueness, knowing that every time we went to the ballpark, it would be a new game, a different memory, and an experience we would share forever. The car radio dial was always set to the pregame show as we both listened to player interviews and anxiously awaited the announcement of that day’s starting lineup.

My mother rarely ventured to the ballpark with us. She didn’t care for the game too much, which I never understood. Not liking America’s pastime was a sin to me, and she never understood why I preferred to wear a numbered jersey as opposed to a tutu. She was appalled at times by my father’s insistence that his little girl must learn and like the game. Sometimes I’d hear them arguing after I went to bed at night, my mother imploring him to allow me to do other things in my spare time, like sing in the choir, join the gymnastics team, or dance ballet.

I didn’t particularly love gymnastics or ballet. My singing voice was not one that warranted an audience. I was much more in tune to watching the pros turn double plays and hit game-winning RBIs. I was vested in the team because my father was vested in the team. I was enthralled with baseball because my father was enthralled with baseball. I loved the game because my father loved the game. If people ever try to tell you that you can’t learn to love something, they’re wrong. I learned to love baseball—every fair and foul ball, every interminable rain delay, and every hot dog with mustard I could buy. I loved the way the sun would set behind the arched, brick walls, the way the grounds crew unfurled the tarp in inclement weather, and the way the music vibrated my seat when the team tied the game in the ninth inning.

Love. Pure and simple.

It’s difficult to describe love sometimes, and even more difficult to put into words a love you have for someone or something, either while you have it, or later, when it’s gone.

My father passed away on a Sunday. On that eerie late morning, as I woke to a sense of gloom and understood the inevitable was about to happen, I turned on the radio and sat with my dad as we listened to the pregame show. Yet, on that day, not even baseball could lessen the pain that would consume me as I watched that demon Leukemia suck every ounce of energy out of his still young, but tired body.

I was eighteen that afternoon in early May when he passed and was just completing my first year of college. My sister, four years older than I, had come home for the weekend, leaving her infant and husband behind to be with my mom, dad, and me. All three of my father’s girls were in the room—my mother held one hand on one side of him, and my sister and I were on the other side—as he peacefully left this world, just as the rookie Clarkson hit a lead-off homer to start the game.

After he passed, I never stopped going to those Sunday games that year. I was determined to continue with the tradition, even if it meant I had to go by myself. I wasn’t a groupie, a collector, or an autograph seeker; in fact, at that time, I cared little about the pomp and circumstance that revolved around the sport of baseball and the players. That’s not what it was about for me.

For me, baseball was about my father. About sharing the day with him. About getting to know him little by little during our chats at the ballpark when he’d tell me stories about his own father and his father’s father. I gained precious insight into my family and our traditions by spending time with him, and I wouldn’t trade one minute of those cherished moments to sing in a choir, join the gymnastics team, or perform ballet for a visiting queen.

I’d never trade it. Not for one—not one—minute.

But what I didn’t expect were the lessons the great game of baseball would teach me, and how it would affect me for all my years to come.

10 Things That Baseball Idioms Have Taught Me

GloveMy second novel, Baseball Girl, has been prepped and is almost ready to make its appearance on Amazon. The main character, Francesca Milli, learns a few things from her love of baseball in the novel, as you will see if you decide to read it. And although I wrote the main character and modeled some of her experiences after my own life working in professional baseball, she is not me. Therefore, what I’ve learned from baseball may be slightly different than what Francesca learns. I thought I’d share the Top 10 things baseball idioms have taught me.

  1. Coming home means the world to me.
  2. It’s important to touch base with people you care about, and often.
  3. Being on the ball helps make you successful.
  4. If you’re going to throw someone a curve ball, be prepared for what comes afterwards.
  5. Playing hardball works sometimes, but it’s not a guarantee for success.
  6. In life, don’t expect to always bat a thousand. No one is perfect. There’s plenty of room for making mistakes.
  7. If you’re going to strike out at something, make sure it’s something you love. And then, try again.
  8. If you’ve got two strikes against you, swing anyway. You never know how far that next ball might travel.
  9. When you do hit a homerun, don’t boast, make everyone feel a part of your success, and share the joy with those you love. Those who truly love you will be happy for you.
  10. If you’re going to go to bat for someone, make sure it’s someone who is worthy, and who would likely do the same for you.
BaseballGirlFinalCover
Coming Soon!