Sammy’s Grand Slam Journey (Author Interview)

What inspired you to write "Sammy's Grand Slam Journey"?

About 2 years ago I had a horrible accident playing baseball. The accident took my eyesight in my left eye and left me kind of depressed. Wondering what life had in store for me in the home stretch of life.  It took the inspiration of helping children and the love of family and friends to get me out of the state I had fallen into.

Sammy's wheelchair is a powerful symbol in the book. How did you come up with the idea to incorporate it in such a significant way?

The wheelchair is a symbol of assistance. No matter who and where you are at some point you will need it. So its ok to receive help sometimes. Society will have you thinking if you receive help you’re not worthy or something is wrong but in essence you’re going to need and want help sometimes in life. Use it just don’t rely on it forever if all possible.  

How did you approach the topic of disability, and why did you choose baseball as the backdrop for this narrative?

As a former D1 player, current high school Coach, and past weekend warrior, it has had a big influence on my life. It is truly Gods game.

The theme of resilience and never giving up is evident throughout the book. Were there any personal experiences that influenced this theme?

Yes from my injury in the sport to my coaching philosophy. Its not over until its over…

Can you discuss the importance of the supportive characters in Sammy's life? How did they evolve as you were writing the story?

Children often thrive off other children. Getting a supportive group around is not only important as adults but extremely important as children and teens

The town of Playville plays a significant role in Sammy's journey. Was it inspired by any real-life places?

Lol, in my experience with children, the things they enjoy doing the most is eating junk and playing with friends, so Playville was only right for a character like Sammy

Why did you decide to make the coach a believer in magic? What does magic represent in the story?

Because Coach Clay is just a representation of myself, and I believe anything is possible as long as you believe.

How did you ensure that Sammy's character was portrayed in an empowering way, emphasizing his abilities rather than his disability?

I wanted you guys to see Sammys struggle first and then the work he had to put into training for the sport. He had to train twice as hard because he had to learn how to play with and without the prosthetic leg.

The teamwork and unity among Sammy's teammates are commendable. Why was it essential to depict such a supportive community?

I wanted to give readers and especially children the idea that no matter the differences in the community, if we all bond and work together, special things happen.

Baseball is a game filled with metaphors for life. How do you feel the sport lends itself to the themes you wanted to explore?

Baseball is a team sport yet an individual sport. In order to compete you must practice becoming the best version of you. Even when you don’t want too.

What message do you hope young readers and their parents will take away from the story?

That this story shows the never give up mentality of all humans and that you

Can you discuss your research or the people you consulted to depict wheelchair sports authentically?

I personally have umpired in the miracle league in my area for many years. You should see the sparkle in the kids eye when playing baseball

Were there any challenges you faced while writing the book, and how did you overcome them?

There were no challenges besides sitting down and starting. Once I began it flowed. It flowed so well that I already have the 2nd book in the series completed.

The book beautifully portrays the joy of never giving up. How do you hope this story will inspire children facing their own challenges?

I want Sammy and every character in this series which I have named Paying Beyond Boundaries to be inspirations to everyone. We all have something that is different from the next person. My characters are here to inspire everyone that with a little hard work and determination, nothing is impossible.

Do you have plans to write a sequel or another book exploring similar themes?

Yes the next book stars a little girl that suffers from a chronic disease that millions of children have to deal with.

How has the response been from readers, especially from those in the differently abled community?

I have been receiving rave reviews and plenty of support from around the world. Its truly an honor and a blessing.

Are there any moments or scenes in the book that hold special meaning for you?

The moment in the book when Coach Clay walks over and invites Sammy to join the team. It takes a special person to do that.

Sammy's story is incredibly uplifting. Do you have any real-life role models or stories that influenced this character's journey?

Man I have so many but my role models would range from my wife Dr. Slay, my parents, In-law, family, and friends who all have had some type of inspiration towards the character

How do you think the world of children's literature is evolving when it comes to addressing topics of inclusivity and representation?

I think there needs to be more and hopefully my series will be able to shine a bigger light on it.

Finally, if Sammy could share one piece of advice with the world, what do you think it would be?

Sammy would tell the world plain and simple, “If you can breathe, you can achieve. The game is not over until the clock hits 0.”