Jim is a professional baseball scout with the Colorado Rockies and recently had his sixth book published, “Coaching Crisis.” Jim’s newest book can be found on the Tate Publishing website or by contacting Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mickey Baker Series
When some of my friends heard I was going to give writing/publishing a try, they naturally thought I was going to write about my 24 years in professional baseball.
Maybe someday I will. But I just could not stop thinking about the two fictional sports series, “Chip Hilton” and “Bronc Burnett” I read, well, I think I started when I was in grade school in Eldred, Pennsylvania.
Chip and Bronc were based on the same concept. They were star high school athletes and together with their lifelong friends played baseball, football, etc. and basically did almost everything together. The characters stayed almost the same in each book and each series must have numbered over twenty books in all.
The characters remained the same, but in each new book the conflicts changed. They ranged from injuries, parental discord, tragedies, rival opponents, jealousies, etc.
In each circumstance, both Bronc and Chip were able to lead their teammates and find a way to overcome each challenge.
I loved those books (still do). I couldn’t forget the enjoyment I received from reading those books. I finally decided my maiden voyage in to the world of writing would be creating my own fictional sports series. My goal was to build a series that could be read by youngsters in school libraries and classrooms, yet also would be of interest to adults.
The central character in my four part series (at this juncture)is Mickey Baker. Mickey lives in a small, rural area in northwest Pennsylvania. Like Bronc and Chip, he is a skilled athlete who is surrounded by a group of young men he has been teammates with since their little league days.
I enjoy writing fiction because of the imagination you are free to use. But, I also found that you can’t help drawing upon your own childhood-what you experienced personally, what you saw or the stories you heard.
My friends from back home will be able to identify some of the locations, venues and maybe even the descriptions of some of the characters. Most of the characters are composites, but I’m sure some hometown readers will have thoughts about a person(s)who they believe bears a strong resemblance to someone they know or remember.
I am not Mickey Baker. Mickey is probably the young man I wanted to be, but Mickey is my Chip and Bronc. He joins them in being an excellent athlete and even a better person.
Mickey and his teammates are very successful on the field and court, but they don’t always win. The rare loss reveals the true makeup and nature of each young man. I believe that athletes, parents and coaches will identify with many of the events and challenges that are faced in each book.
Finally, thanks to all those who have read one or all of my books. I am proud the books are in numerous school libraries and classrooms. I hope the students will enjoy them as much as I enjoyed reading about Chip and Bronc when I was a youngster
MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYERS’BIOGRAPHIES
My second writing genre is the biographies of selected past and current Major League players.
The impetus behind this was my many trips to bookstores and looking through the baseball sections. You will find books about Jeter, A-Rod, Kershaw, LaRussa and many stars of the past like Aaron, Mays and Clemente.
These are all giants in the game and their books are usually bbest sellers. Every fan can appreciate their superlative skills and their long term success.
But they are more the exception than the rule. It’s not that they don’t have interesting stories, but I believe the average fan can relate more closely to those players who fought the odds of becoming a big leaguer from the start. Yet, somehow they made it to the majors.
You’d have to be an avid fan to identify many of these players, but many of their stories are inspirational and a tribute to hard work and a never-give-up attitude. They weren’t supposed to make it and yet they did. The path the “non-prospect” has to take and the people who provided help along the way is a testimony to “nobody does it by himself.”
My criteria for choosing my subjects were:
1. They were all players that I knew well and could attest to their on and off the field character.
2. They all were the longest of long shots to play major league baseball.
3. I didn’t think anyone else would ever write about them and their quest and eventual success.
Currently, I’ve written about three players; Josh Rabe and Josh Kinney “Josh and Josh: Small Towns, Big Leagues” and John Flaherty, “John “Flash” Flaherty: Behind the Scenes, Behind the Mask.”
I asked each player to provide me with a list of individuals they wanted me to interview as I was putting their book together. They all chose their parents, youth league and high school coaches, high school and college teammate, college coaches, some minor league coaches and to my surprise, only a few ML teammates. It proved to me how each player never forgot his roots and recognized all the people who played instrumental roles in their early years.
The next biography is outlined and ready to go. I’m going to continue this format because they all have excellent motivational stories to tell, just like so many of us do.
Here are some recent thoughts from young readers who have just finished ‘Championship Expectations:
“I thought “Championship Expectations” was really cool. Especially because it was about our town. I liked the part when Mickey hit the home run to end the game. The book was worded well and I felt like I could be there with them. I could also recognize different towns. Go Eagles!!
“I think “Championship Expectations” was great. I want to know who the people are. I want the next book; this one was so good. I think Mr. Pransky did a great job; he should keep going!!!! Morgan Dalton
I think the book is great for fifth grade. I really loved this book. I hope to read the second book sometime soon. Mr. Pransky, you did a great job!! Haley Cousins
………NEW BOOK ON THE WAY………. Jim has written another biography about a major league player. This time it’s about 14 year big league veteran John Flaherty entitled, “John “Flash” Flaherty: Behind the Scenes, Behind the Mask.” The book is on schedule for a late summer/early fall release.
Current: Professional Baseball Scout
Education: B.S. Education, Clarion University, Clarion, Pa.
Professional Baseball Career:
Head Baseball Coach at Saint Bonaventure University from 1982-1984 (three seasons).
Assistant coach at George Washington University from 1985-1986. Players on that GWU team included Gregg Ritchie, who was recently the big league hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates and is now the head coach at GWU and John Flaherty, who played 14 years in the big leagues and is now a broadcaster on the YES network.
Head coach at Quincy University (Il.) from 1989-1991 before starting my career in professional baseball.
Jim would like to proudly recommend a new book, written by a life-long friend. Steve Jackson’s, “N1FX Is Going Down.” This is the exciting story of Steve piloting a small plane that crashed in the hills of Pennsylvania. This book can be found on Steve’s websites, “N1XF.com and N1XFIsGoing Down.com. The book is being published by Tate Publishing.
GLORY DAYS: SPRING TRAINING 2013
It’s February so it is time to get back to work. In fact, because of the World Baseball Classic, spring training games are beginning about a week earlier than usual.
I kicked off my scouting season on February 18th with a trip to Port Charlotte, Florida for three days of pro scouting meetings. We have several new scouts on the Rays’ staff this year and it is the only time during the year that we are all together in the same place.
Along with topical discussions like, “what makes a good scout?,” what determines good “makeup” in a player?” and listening to our coaches talk about specific areas of the game like base running or hitting, we get a rare opportunity to spend some time watching our own players work out daily.
Sitting in a dugout or standing behind the batting cage gives you a close perspective of what it takes to play professional baseball at a ML level.
We also spent time getting updated to the latest advances and capabilities of computer and video technology. Scouts now have access to game footage of every professional player. It’s a long way from when I started in 1992, writing reports on three-page carbon paper, mailing one to the office, another to your supervisor (the scout who manages all the scouts in a 10-12 state section of the country) and keeping the other copy for your own files. Now you just push a button on your lap top and your evaluation is circulated to as many as 15-20 people in the organization, including the general manager.
I flew out of the Fort Myers airport late Thursday afternoon and despite having to sprint (well, maybe it’s called jogging when you are 57} I made my connection to Charlotte, North Carolina. I arrived at my Phoenix destination about 10:30 p.m., picked up my month’s worth of luggage and checked in to my new home (Springhill Suites) at midnight.
Seattle and San Diego opened the Cactus League season the next day with an annual charity game. Hopefully, the first inning wasn’t a harbinger of what lies ahead this baseball year. Seattle starter Hector Noesi threw a total of 42 pitches in the first inning, getting only two outs before being removed.
Spring training games despite not having long breaks between innings for national television advertisements that occur during the regular season, notoriously are three hours or more in length. The opening third of the spring training campaign finds clubs using between five and seven pitchers during a game. There are always a couple of hurlers in each game who struggle with control problems making some innings feel like an eternity.
The next two days were my initial visits to The Ballpark at Camelback Ranch , home of both the Dodgers and the White Sox. Sunday’s pre-game activities were highlighted by the appearance of several Dodger stars of the past. Wearing L.A. jerseys, these fan favorites were introduced to the crowd although true Dodgers’ supporters would have no trouble recognizing Steve Yeager, Ron Cey, Maury Wills, Fernando Valenzuela and one of my all-time favorites, Sandy Koufax.
My wife was excited when I called her later that evening and told her I had seen the great Dodger lefthander, Koufax. We just adopted two four-month old kittens and named them Ted (Williams) and Sandy (Koufax).
For the folks in the Northeast or Midwest, the “cool” weather would be a welcome treat. Most of the spring days in Arizona find themselves identical to the day before or the day after, temperature in the 70’s and 80’s and no rain. I’ve had only one rainout in all my years of scouting in the Phoenix area.
Los Angeles’ current star southpaw, Clayton Kershaw, pitched the opening two inning on Sunday and even a month away from Opening Day displayed the form that made him one of 2012’s top ML pitchers. He threw mostly 93-94 mph and displayed a plus (better than ML average) curveball.
My next two days were at the home of the Milwaukee Brewers’,Maryvale Park. I have been going to Maryvale for the last four or five years and have become quite accustomed to some of their traditions on display each spring.
In the second inning they always announce the local temperature and then the temperature in Milwaukee currently. There have been times when there have been a forty degree distinction, but on Monday it was only 57 in Phoenix and 37 in Milwaukee. There’s always the famous sausage race in the fifth inning with fans yelling for their pick (bratwurst, Polish, Italian, etc.)
The bottom of the seventh is always time for “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”and the Brewers always follow that up with a rousing version of “Roll Out the Barrel.”
This year’s early season games are not sellouts, a casualty of the games moving up a week, some unseasonable cool weather for a few days and college spring breaks still some days away. The announced crowds at Maryvale were around 1,200 fans and some of those fans may have been disguised as blue box seats. They were the smallest crowds I’ve seen at an Arizona spring training site, but that will most likely change in the next couple of weeks.
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