Making It to the Show
I’m writing this from Minneapolis, the day after Game 2 of the 2023 MLB Wild Card Series between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Minnesota Twins.
Growing up, I was never a sports fan. In high school I learned to like the New York Knicks, but that was a hormone-fueled “OMG John Starks is so cute!” situation more than it was a study of – or a true appreciation for – the sport of basketball. It was really only when I met my husband, Chris, that I began to learn about the art, skill, talent and hard work that is involved in practicing a sport seriously. Chris’ baseball career ended abruptly with a shoulder injury when he was 18 years old, but his appreciation of the game remained a huge part of his constitution. I discovered early on in our relationship that baseball was ingrained in him; so (as an interested girlfriend) I began to learn about it. Mechanics, mostly. The rules, how to read a stat sheet, keep the book, that sort of thing.
Years later, after getting married and having two little girls, Chris and I were in the market for a summer home. We live in New York, and had traveled a number of times to Cape Cod, where we fell in love with the “three Bs” it had to offer: beaches, biking, and of course, baseball. The Cape Cod Baseball League is an MLB scout’s dream come true. Top prospects from all over the country congregate in America’s picture-perfect Norman Rockwell painting-by-the-sea for seven weeks of hometown baseball. Their tag line, “Where the stars of tomorrow shine tonight,” could not be more accurate. So, in 2017, we bought a condo there. We’ve been huge fans of our summer-hometown team, the Brewster Whitecaps, ever since.
After winning the Cape League championship in 2017, our daughters wanted to learn more about baseball, which incited nothing short of sheer delight in my husband. So the following summer, we enrolled them in Brewster Whitecaps Baseball Camp, a half-day, week long clinic where they could learn about the game and practice drills and skills with actual Whitecaps players. Haley was 6 and Julie was 4. I, meanwhile, had just turned 40 and made the mid-life decision (fine – crisis – potato, potahto) that I wanted to become an author. That summer, I was attempting to pen the beginning of my first-ever manuscript with the goal of using an excerpt of it as application material for an MFA program. The manuscript was aptly titled Seven Weeks. It told the story of a college ball player who came to the Cape League with the hope of escaping the fallout of his parents’ complicated divorce back home, and his host family in Brewster – a young family of four who were struggling with their own personal challenges. I wrote a lot that summer, trying to figure out the components of storytelling, including the process of researching the lived experience of my fictional characters. After all, I was not a baseball player, but if I was going to write a story about one, I would need to do my homework.
My writing journey began that summer. If someone had told me back then that writing and baseball were anything alike, I would have called them crazy.
Which just goes to show how much I’ve learned in the past five years.
So, okay – back to the first day of baseball camp. Chris and I dropped the girls off in the Whitecaps’ dugout, as directed, and then we hung back to see how the morning would go. Haley didn’t want to be left alone with the intimidating, rambunctious boys who were seemingly everywhere, swinging their bats, chock full of youth and adrenaline, psyched to learn how to play ball like the college superstar Whitecaps players. So, she sat quietly in the dugout while chaos erupted around her, fighting back tears with all her might. Julie sat beside her, holding her hand, attempting to reassure her that everything would be okay. Our poor child was terrified, and once the coach began to explain how the morning would go, tears fell from her eyes and streamed down her cheeks.
The kids were then split up into groups by age. My two daughters were the youngest campers – not to mention, the only girls. Once the ball players were assigned to their groups, they headed out to a section of the field to warm up and begin practicing skills together.
Except Haley was frozen in place, crying, with her sister beside her.
Chris and I looked at each other, figuring this was a big mistake. The girls were too young for this, and we didn’t want to put Haley through anything that would upset her or create this level of anxiety. It was camp; it was supposed to be fun. So we made moves to head down to the dugout, retrieve our children, and just go home.
But then, a relaxed, friendly college kid with a warm smile entered the dugout and approached the girls. He crouched down and introduced himself.
“I’m Cam,” he said. “What’s your name?”
Haley wiped her tears and let her carefree, eager sister answer for her. “She’s Haley,” Julie shared enthusiastically. “And I’m Julie.”
“Wanna come play baseball with me?” he asked.
Haley sniffled. “Yeah!” Julie exclaimed. “But she’s scared.”
“Of what?” Cam asked.
“The boys,” Julie explained.
Cam nodded thoughtfully. “Don’t worry about the boys. We can hang out together. Just us three.”
Haley looked up at him, unsure of whether or not he was trustworthy. Chris and I entered the dugout and encouraged Haley to go. With Julie chomping at the bit, ready to go play, Haley relented, nodding her head. Cam took her by the hand, looked down at her and said, “Don’t worry. It’s going to be fun.” Chris and I followed behind them to the outfield and remained there for the rest of the morning.
That summer, Cam became a fan favorite in our house. He worked at the camp in the morning and played shortstop for the Whitecaps in the late afternoons, and we’d go to the games and sit in our spot behind center field. We could always count on a wave from Cam, and after the games, the girls would run off to find him and give him high fives. When he was selected to be on the All-Star team, the girls made him a bracelet. When the kids were allowed to go on the field for the Star Spangled banner, Julie was right there beside him at shortstop. He was a good guy with a big heart, and we were grateful to have connected with him.
I asked Cam if I could interview him for the story I was writing. I remember the day; we went to Eat Cake 4 Breakfast and sat at a picnic table and he let me ask him questions about the minutiae of Cape League life for almost a whole hour. His family was in town visiting and I got to meet his dad. Cam was helpful and found it interesting that I wanted to be an author. Talking to him that day, I realized that big dreams look and feel the same: they take patience, diligence, talent, a hint of luck and a lot of time, whether you’re trying to publish a novel or make it to the pros as a ball player.
Here's what happened next:
In 2019, Cam was the 177th pick in the MLB draft, and he left his college team (the Cal Bears) to go to the Toronto Blue Jays. He was assigned to the Vancouver Canadians and then the Dunedin Blue Jays over the next 2 years, with a necessary pause for Covid in 2020.
In 2019, I completed Seven Weeks during my first semester of my MFA program. In 2020, I submitted it to a wide variety of literary agents, but it did not get picked up by anyone. I continued writing, which led to a second manuscript called Sound Hollow, which I completed that spring. I submitted Sound Hollow to my dream agent, Elizabeth Copps, but due to a timing issue (another quite famous author at the agency where she worked had just submitted a manuscript with “similar themes”), Elizabeth was unable to sign me as a client. I wrote two more novel-length manuscripts over the next year, and in September of 2021, just after graduating from my MFA program, Elizabeth Copps finally offered me representation. We sold the fourth manuscript, then titled The Yearbook, to Sourcebooks in a three-book deal that November.
In 2022, Cam moved up to AA, playing centerfield for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and we visited him as often as possible from our home in the Cape. I spent that year editing The Yearbook, which was renamed The Book Proposal, and wrote what would become my follow-up novel, A Storybook Wedding.
In the summer of 2023, Cam moved up to AAA, playing for the Buffalo Bisons, and we saw him whenever his team came within a reasonable driving distance of us. I published The Book Proposal in May and went on my first book tour.
We saw Cam on September 17, 2023 in Scranton, PA – less than three weeks ago. Afterwards, we went to dinner and he talked about the AAA World Series in Las Vegas, and how cool it would be if the Bisons made it there.
Four days later, he was pinch running against the New York Yankees in his major league debut.
And that is what brought us to Minnesota.
Baseball, like publishing, is a grind. There are some guys who have so much talent that they skyrocket to the pros right away. Sometimes, that’s a “right place, right time” kind of scenario and sometimes it’s just a hot rookie who was blessed with the stuff to make it big right out of the gate. (In publishing, we’re talking about the Ali Hazelwoods of the world, authors with immense talent whose debuts release at the exact right time.) Most of us, though, have to go through the same grind as Cam, showing up every day, battling to finish the next manuscript, doing the leg work to market ourselves, patiently waiting for that right place, right time moment that could potentially launch us into the major leagues. It’s a long road and nothing is certain. The only thing you can do is show up every day and try your best.
But sometimes, lightning strikes.
Cam Eden (#31 on the Toronto Blue Jays), spent the last two weeks in the show. The team didn’t advance to the next round of the playoffs, so the season is over now. But the journey has only just begun. Nothing is certain – he could go back to AAA and start next season with the Bisons, or he could stay in the pros. A spot might open up for him in the outfield in Toronto. We don’t know. Nobody can predict exactly where the road will take him or when.
My next book comes out in May 2024. That one was a grind, for sure, but I’m a better author for it. I think people will enjoy it and it will help build more of my readership. Will it launch me into stardom? I doubt it, but who’s to say? The point is, it doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters are the days where you get up in the morning and show up – whether it’s for baseball or to write – and you just make a little bit of progress. You strike out, maybe miss a play, or you hit a home run – but you do your best, learn from your mistakes, and keep on trying.
These past two weeks have been an exhilarating ride for our family – cheering from the sidelines as our friend did his thing in the show. It happened out of nowhere, but not really. It was the culmination of a million regular get up and show up days. Cam is living proof of the value of hard work – a reminder to me that Rome was, indeed, not built in a day.
Maybe one day, I’ll be in the show, too.
But for now, I’ll just keep grinding.