Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Interview: John A. Hoda, author of "Phantasy Baseball"

I had the pleasure of talking to John Hoda about his debut book "Phantasy Baseball" and his other writing projects.   It is always a pleasure to listen to authors describe their research and adventures while creating their stories or books.

What inspired you to write “Phantasy Baseball”?

I was kicking around the idea for the book for at least 20 years.  I just couldn’t figure out how to overcome the barriers to get a Little League coach to pitch in the Major Leagues.   Then when I attended a Phillies game at Citizen’s Bank Par, I saw an ad for the Phillies Fantasy Camp and I thought “That’s it!  That’s the connection!”  At the camp, the Little League coach has a magical pitch and shows it off for the coaches and former Major League players.    This was such a great inspiration that six weeks after I saw the ad, I started the prologue.

Your knowledge of the inner workings of the game is impressive. How did you obtain this knowledge?
I spent a lot of time reading baseball books and sucked up much of the way they portrayed the players and the mannerisms.   I am also a fervent listener of baseball on the radio for thirty years.  I listened to ex-players talk and tucked away the knowledge.  

I also decided to go to the Phillies fantasy camp in 2012 as part of the research for the book.  I went as more of an observer than to be a great player as I was just a weak hitting guy in his mid 50’s.   I did play center field every inning of every game.  By this time I had written the back story and the flashbacks, and these games were the basis for the scenes from the fantasy camp in the book.  My teammates from the camp are like my fervent readers as they see themselves in the characters. 
Do you have any writing projects or books that are currently in progress?
Yes.  The veteran beat writer from “Phantasy Baseball”, Stew, is now a crime reporter and is investigating the Russian mob presence in Philadelphia in “Odessa on the Delaware.”  I would also like to follow this up with a creative non-fiction book about the scary experiences of an Associated Press correspondent and a Marine corpsman.  There would be themes of homelessness, substance abuse and veteran’s issues.  

Is there anything else you wish to add?

The stories from the camp were real and an important part of that section of the book.   The legends at the camp interacted with us as fellow players, not like they were more important than us.  That was a wonderful experience. 

I also had a father-son trip in August 2012 that included a trip to Cooperstown, a game of the Phillies’ AAA affiliate in Lehigh Valley, Dorney Park, and the Little League museum in Williamsport, another amusement park, a game at the Phillies’ AA in Reading, another amusement park and a game at Citizen’s Bank Park.  That last stop was doubly special because not only were the fantasy campers reunited at this game but so was my entire family.  It was a great feeling.

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