By Jeff Potter
A baseball book
When I announced to the world that I was going to write a book about my baseball experiences, the reception was a bit less enthusiastic than I hoped. I expected congratulations, and oodles and oodles of encouragement. What I received instead, in most part, were a lot of patronizing pats on the back and lots of doubt. How could someone who had never written a book all of a sudden become an author? No schooling, no experience, no real knowledge. Do you know how many people start out thinking they can write a book and never finish the project, or worse yet, finish but never have it published?
Fast forward a few years and, yes, there is a book that is now available to the public that I wrote. After many months of deciding on a title, one finally came to mind. It was extremely basic but hit home: "Whatever Happened to Baseball?" In a few short words, it speaks volumes about how the game of baseball has changed in the last 30-40 years, and, unfortunately, not for the better.
Baseball is not the only thing that has changed; there have been changes in the lives of most of us which have paralleled baseball, most notably a decline in teamwork, discipline, work ethic, and passion. The writing of the book became like therapy; a way for me to deal with what life, and baseball, had become.
The book has become a success, not so much in the quantity sold but in the manner in which the reader has related to the subject matter. I am thrilled with how many conversations the book has sparked; how people will literally spend hours with me sharing their own memories of baseball and life.
A baseball tour
As with most people who find their passion in life, they are always driven to do more. This is what brought me to put together and run what I simply called a "baseball tour."
Like the book, the tour started as a "cutesy" idea of wanting to go to different towns to play baseball against area teams. Once I wrote the book, however, the idea of the tour took on new meaning. Not only would we play baseball, we would CELEBRATE baseball, and bring back the game of baseball as it was in many, many communities - even if it was just for one day. We would play games, and run clinics for kids, do community service, give to charities, conduct baseball panel discussions and put a team out on the field that exemplified what was so important to me: my four tenets of passion, hard work, respect, and selflessness.
Unlike the usual travel baseball team, which is usually a collection of all-stars, the team we took on tour consisted of players selected not solely on the basis of athletic ability (although we wanted at least average players), but because of their love of the game of baseball, their passion, and their desire to give something back. Players came from all over Pennsylvania and Maryland and represented their communities, and themselves, in a very positive manner.
Appropriately, we kicked off the tour on the evening of July 2, 2010 back where I grew up, in the small town of Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Before the tour game, I took part in an "old timers" game. Forty-five players from my youth came together, and became kids again. I saw guys I hadn't seen for over 35 years laugh and joke and reminisce, and they were all there because of the tour.
Over the next twenty-four days we took the baseball tour on the road through the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania, with a stop in Ohio, playing games in 18 towns. On Sunday, July 25, the tour ended with a final game at PNC Park, following a regular season game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres.
Among the many highlights:
- making breakfast for senior citizens in Kent Island, Maryland
- playing ball against a 60-and-over baseball team
- doing a fundraiser for the University of Maryland baseball team (on which my son is currently a pitcher)
- helping physically-challenged kids around the bases during a Little League "Challenger" game
- watching a performance of the famous "Abbott and Costello" baseball comedy routine, "Who's On First"
- playing in several minor league stadiums
- devouring a two-pound hamburger in Clearfield, Pennsylvania
visiting a wooden bat factory (all of our games were played with wooden bats, like the ones I used as a kid); and
- spending nights with so many wonderful host families.
Needless to say, we basically had the time of our lives.
With our initial tour such a huge success, plans are already well underway for the summer of 2011, when we will expand to two tours with two teams on each tour, traveling to 40 towns.
The plan for 2012 is expand to 120 towns across the eastern part of the United States.
We will be accommodating players in the 13-u, 14-u, 15-u, and 16-u age groups (perhaps even more), and looking for coaches, players, interns, bat boys, tour directors, host families, vendors, businesses, organizations, charities, parents, schools, umpires, and yes, all of you fans, to get involved.
Together, we can all help restore the great sport of baseball to what it once was.
Editor's Note: For a video on the Potter Baseball that ran on the Pittsburgh Fox Sports Network, go to pittsburgh.fsninsider.com, click on "Video" at the top, and then scoll down and click on the video on the Potter Pirates.
Jeff Potter is the author of Whatever Happened To Baseball? (BookSurge Publishing 2008) and is currently writing his second book, to be called "Saving Baseball." A long-time youth baseball coach, Jeff runs summer baseball camps for kids age 8 to 16, as well as an 8-week winter program, in addition to coordinating baseball clinics, coordinating the bat boy program at the University of Maryland (where his son, Eric, is a pitcher; his daughter, Tracey, is a nurse in Baltimore) and public speaking. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeff is married and lives in Odenten, Maryland.