On Tuesday July 7, two of my favorite San Francisco Giants players returned to the lineup. Matt Cain made his first start at home in about a year and Hunter Pence was activated off the DL for the second time this season. Both players contributed to the victory in admirable fashion.
I also released my third book, titled Making A Comeback.
Here’s where it gets interesting if you believe in baseball magic.
I finished writing the first draft of Better Than Perfect six weeks before Matt Cain threw his perfect game. Now I kind of sort of had Cain in mind when I created my pitcher hero, Johnny Scottsdale. I also threw in a little Christy Mathewson, who was known as much for his gentlemanly behavior off the field as his sheer dominance on the mound. Johnny Scottsdale had come to San Francisco looking for the elusive World Series ring. He’d won awards and pitched a perfect game, but hadn’t had the personal success in losing the only woman he’d ever loved at the beginning of his baseball career.
Perfect games are pretty rare. Only 23 have been recorded dating back to 1880. Washington’s Max Scherzer was one batter away from a perfect game on June 20 when pinch hitter Jose Tabata leaned over the plate and was hit by a pitch. Earlier that month, Giants rookie Chris Heston hit three batters in his no-hitter.
The premise for my second book, Worth The Trade, was inspired by the real life trade of Hunter Pence from the Phillies to the Giants. He showed up at AT&T Park in a limo straight from the airport. He walked into the ballpark and immediately found a place in the hearts of Giants fans.
My writer brain couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if he hadn’t been alone in that limo. What if it was a woman who had orchestrated the trade and she was in that limo with the ballplayer? The story just took off from there. And the character of Marco Santiago was a combination of Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez, and Marco Scutaro–all players the Giants had traded for who made a huge impact in one or more of their World Series runs. At the end of the book, Marco Santiago was rewarded with a new contract. The following offseason, Hunter Pence and Javier Lopez were rewarded with contract extensions. Marco Scutaro was injured and recently re-signed a deal so that he can retire as a Giant.
The hero of my new release, Making A Comeback, was not really modeled after any current player. Oh, there was a picture of Barry Zito with his guitar leaning against a backstop that made me make the character of Nathan Cooper a musician as well as pitcher, but I am in no way implying that Zito did steroids. But he is hoping to make a comeback of his own, after taking a year off from baseball he’s pitching for the Nashville Sounds, the A’s AAA club. I wish him all the best and hope he makes it back to the majors- but after the Giants play the A’s.
I’m not trying to write fan fiction based on the Giants players. I sort of combine traits and situations and then add details that make for an interesting story. Beside, most of the real players are married, many to their high school or college sweethearts. I did hear that pitcher Hunter Strickland met his wife in kindergarten. Awww. (Story seed planted for future books?) So I might take Brandon Crawford’s skill–and his hair–as inspiration for the short stop Bryce Baxter, but he’s hardly a bad boy. He has the most adorable wife and two precious daughters who seem to be enjoying his first All-Star appearance at his side.
Ideas for stories come in many different ways. And baseball is a game rich with stories. One of the things that hooked me on baseball was listening to the games on the radio. In between pitches, the announcers would have to fill that space, so they would tell stories. Of the batter, the pitcher, the history of the two teams. There are so many little details, little nuances to the game that you would miss if you aren’t paying attention.
Each season is like a new book, with adversity along the way. There are some exciting chapters, and moments when you think this isn’t going to work out. But it would be boring if each season went exactly as planned, if a team won two out of every three games by a three run margin. As I continue my series, it is sometimes challenging to come up with fresh conflict. There’s the player searching for his first championship, a guy hoping to sign a long-term contract after bouncing around from team to team, a pitcher returning from injury with the cloud of steroids hanging over him, and after winning it all, there’s the man who seems to have everything, and is just trying to live up to his own legend.
So what’s next? A rookie trying to earn a spot on the every day roster? A veteran pitcher facing the disabled list for the first time? There’s still half the season left to inspire me.