Mark Donahue is the author of Last At Bat, a novel about a baseball player named Dylan Michael who plays for the Cincinnati Reds. Mark was kind enough to answer a few questions. If any of you have further questions for Mark, please write them in the comments section. To buy Last At Bat, click here.
RN: Mark, why did you choose to make Dylan Michael/Matt Wolf a Cincinnati Reds player?
MD: As a Reds fan for more years than I care to remember, I naturally defaulted to have a Red be the main character in the book when I developed the the original plot line.
But the city of Cincinnati, specifically Reds fans, also fit into the secondary characters I wanted to develop. Having lived all over the country including Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Los Angeles, the fans in Cincinnati are genuinely different than most. The biggest difference I see in Reds fans compared to fans in other cities is their knowledge of the game. They understand the finer points of the game and the game behind just statistics. Reds fans are also far, far more patient than most fans.
Believe me Phillies and Cubs fans are significantly different Reds fans in how they treat the players and as a result how the players respond to the fans. Even the press is different in Cincinnati, although in Last at Bat a member of the Cincinnati Press Corp is a bit a a bad guy.
RN: You seem to write with an expert voice about the sport of baseball. What is in your past and current experience that accounts for it?
MD: Over my career, I’ve played in over 2400 baseball games from Little League to the Men’s Senior Baseball League where I was fortunate to play on 5 World Series Championship teams.
In high school and college I was scouted by the Reds (I still have Christmas cards and letters from Gene Bennent long time Reds scout, and from Robin Roberts when he was bird dog for the Phillies). I was one of those guys who was a pretty good player all through high school and college and but developed late physically. I was six-two and weighed just 165 when I entered college on a basketball scholarship and never put on the weight I needed for baseball until was in my late 20’s.
It was important to me in the book for the action and the relationship between and among players to accurately reflect what happens on the field, in the dugout and clubhouse. I wanted guys who have played the game at whatever level to read it and say, “yeah, that’s how it is.”
RN: Any ambition to be a Major League player?
MD: I realized I was never going to be a star in Major League Baseball after playing years of amateur baseball against guys like Mike Schmidt, Steve Yeager, Rich McKinney and others all of whom came out of Dayton to become stars in the majors. I just wasn’t good enough. That is a tough thing to admit for a kid when your whole life you dreamed of playing in the big leagues. But at some point you have to be honest with yourself and make the decision in my case, to either sign a professional baseball contract and spend 10 years in the minor leagues as I probably would have, or pursue a business career.
Grudgingly, I pursued the latter. Ironically, when I moved to Philadelphia from Dayton in the late-70’s, I began playing in what was called the Penn-Del league which was made up of former major league, minor league and college players. At that point I had been lifting weights for awhile and was then around 215 pounds. I led the league in batting average and home runs that year.
It turned out, my manager was Robin Roberts the Hall of Famer who managed our Chestnut Hill Phillies team. Robin remembered me from my high school and college days and arranged for me to go to a tryout at Vet Stadium in front of several Phils scouts who said they were interested but that I would have to start in the low minors and for someone in their late twenties it was alas, too late, given my career in commercial real estate.
It was hard to sleep for several nights after saying no to the Phils even at my advance age of 27.
MD: In addition to playing and managing at several levels, I follow the game closely mainly because of my radio program heard on Ultimate Sports Talk.com every Monday evening from 9-10 PM. My partner Dave Mitchell and I have covered the Reds and Indians for the last 5 years and as a result, we try to stay as up to date as possible for our listeners.
RN: We read there are possibly plans for a movie. What can you tell us about that?
MD: A script has been written and a marketing trailer has been produced and can be seen at drw2media group.com (caution: spoilers). A local law firm has produced our offering circulars and we are now in the process of talking to local investors and considering establishing a Kickstarter campaign so we can make the film here in the Cincinnati/Dayton area.
Given the wonderful response the book received as a result it being test marketed in the Dayton area and selling over 1300 copies, we are excited about the prospect of a national release of the book and the feature film which could possibly be released sometime in 2015 … if the Hollywood Stars align. Wish us luck.
RN: So Cincinnati could be used as the background for the baseball scenes?
MD: Obviously, in today’s world of CGI you could make a film about the a Reds player in Beijing China if you wanted to. But I want to make the film here. It belongs here and I think all Reds fans would love to see a baseball film that focuses on our Reds and uses the cities of Cincinnati and Dayton as the backdrops for the story.