LIANE HANSEN, host:
As a former NFL player for the Atlanta Falcons, Tim Green knows football. As the author of adult thrillers, Tim Green knows mystery. As a dad and coach, Tim Green knows kids, too. So the last time we spoke with Green, it was for his juvenile fiction, "Football Genius." His new book is a thriller for adolescent audiences called "Baseball Great." And he's in the studio of member station WAER in Syracuse, New York. Welcome back to the program, Tim.
Mr. TIM GREEN (Author): It's always great to be back, Liane.
HANSEN: So what do you know about baseball anyway?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. GREEN: Well, I've learned more as a coach, as a dad coach, then I ever knew as a kid, as an athlete, growing up. And Liane, you know, I always say this about myself: I'm smart enough to know I'm not that smart. So whenever I would coach a team, I would always hook up with a father who had played baseball at a much higher level than I had, and learned a lot about the game through that, through my own coaching experiences.
And there are a lot of common denominators between football and baseball, and any sports.
HANSEN: Making the team, being a good athlete, and with luck and determination and hard work and sometimes enhancement, you can make it to the pros.
Mr. GREEN: Yeah, and it's the sometimes enhancement. And all the pressures, I think, are common in, you know, football, basketball, baseball - any sport where there's a big prize at the end, and I think that the pressure that players are under, even at a very early age, was kind of the nexus for this story.
HANSEN: The dad in this book was a first-draft pick out of high school, but he never made it to the major leagues. And before we get too into your own characters and plot and theme, since spring training is under way, what's at stake for these young ball players who are in Florida and Arizona?
Mr. GREEN: It's really their lives that are at stake. Because these guys have devoted so much time, so much energy, and their whole persona has been built around being a baseball player. And so if they make it, they actualize, they realize the dream and all the different possibilities and the excitement and the money and everything that comes with it. If they fail, it affects them for the rest of their lives. I think they look at themselves very differently throughout the rest of their adult life.
HANSEN: So the dad in this case, in your book "Baseball Great," he sees himself as a failure.
Mr. GREEN: Not a complete failure because of course, he has a 13-year professional career. And this isn't uncommon, for players to knock around the minor leagues - Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A - and never quite make it to the majors. And to be on the cusp for that long, and to hang on that many years and then ultimately fail, is brutal. It's shocking and it's horrifying for the father in this story.
HANSEN: Let's talk about how that affects his son, Josh, your protagonist. He's 12 years old, and he is a baseball great. He has an amazing talent. He can see the ball the minute that the pitcher releases it; he knows how to bat, he knows how to field. What mistakes does his dad make in encouraging his son's gifts?
Mr. GREEN: Well, Josh, he's a very precocious player. So he's advanced physically, he's advanced mentally, he's gifted physically; he's a bigger kid than his peers - big enough as a 12-year-old to play with 14-year-olds. And baseball fans will know that the field changes. The field gets much bigger from Little League into that U-14 range.
And the issue here - and all I've really done is magnify the issue, and I think a lot of parents and a lot of kids have right now in baseball season, and that's dads wanting their sons to do the things that they never did and be the baseball player that they never were. And in this it's amplified because the father came so close and had such high aspirations for himself and failed.
And now Josh is really on the cusp of his career, and the father puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Josh. He takes him out of his school teams so that he can play with this all-star travel team and get the best coaching and get the best opportunities.
And so what happens is, the natural progression is for Josh to think that, I have to do anything to achieve greatness in baseball.
HANSEN: As a player yourself in Little League and a coach of Little League teams, have you seen this similar passion, and this passion that could be destructive, at the games that you've been in?
Mr. GREEN: Sure. You see it with parents all the time, parents who forget that the best things about sports are the lessons of teamwork and hard work and perseverance. And they lose all that in the quest for success and the quest for victory. And believe me, you never want to stop striving to win and stop striving to have success, but you have to be very careful that it stays in its place, and that integrity and tolerance and all these other elements that are so important never are superseded by the quest for victory and greatness.
HANSEN: Tim Green is the author of "Baseball Great," published by Harper Collins. He joined us from WAER in Syracuse, New York. It's always good to talk to you, Tim.
Mr. GREEN: You too, Liane. Enjoy baseball.