It is Jim Pransky's off season, that pesky three-month bridge between postseason work and spring training.|
A class act and first-rate judge of baseball talent, Mr. Pransky is a scout covering the professional side of the game for the Tampa Bay Rays. In a business that treats scouts like cold mashed potatoes, Mr. Pransky's opinion is considered 24-karat gold by his employers.He is excellent at what he does.
Hidden beneath Mr. Pransky's talents as a scout and a college baseball coach is another talent: a keen ability to write. Over the years he has penned a variety of short stories, many used by online publications. The most notable was a story for Major League Baseball's Inside Baseball about receiving his 2008 World Series ring.
"I gave mine to Mom, who still lives in Eldred, (Pa.)," Mr. Pransky said in a recent chat. "I figure she's probably showed it to more people back home than I ever would have.''
Now Mr. Pransky's dabblings in writing have taken on a life of their own, and he has become a published -- and rather accomplished -- author. His work earned him a book contract with Tate Publishing.
As a youngster, Mr. Pransky was a fan of books by Clair Bee and Wilfred McCormick, and his first two books follow a similar path. He hopes youngsters will enjoy reading about the exploits of fictional character Mickey Baker, just as he enjoyed Bee's Bronc Burnett and McCormick's Chip Hilton of the 1950s and 1960s.
His first book, "Championship Expectations," will be released this month. The second, "Payoff Run," is set for release next spring.
"In writing the books, I would think back to my days growing up in northwestern Pennsylvania," said Mr. Pransky, who now lives in Davenport with his wife, Grace Johnson. "I remember how much I enjoyed reading Clair Bee and Wilfred McCormick. I tried to focus my energies in that direction, with a modern twist.''
His third book is a true-to-life tale about two teammates from Quincy (Illinois) College, where Pransky once was the head coach. Both overcome "no-chance'' labels to make it to the big leagues.
"Josh Kinney and Josh Rabe beat the odds,'' Mr. Pransky said. "I wanted to write about real guys, who were not high draft picks, who played at a (NCAA) Division II school. Two guys who made it because they never backed down, never quit, and succeeded because of ability and hard work.''
Rabe reached the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins. He has since returned to Quincy College as its head coach.
Kinney signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals and became an integral part of the Cardinals' run to the 2006 World Series championship. Injuries stalled his career, but he made it back to the major leagues in 2012 with the Seattle Mariners,
"That's what makes their stories so interesting," Mr. Pransky said. "There's nothing superstar about either -- just two great guys. There's a lot of stuff on the shelves, stories about Derek Jeter or Tony LaRussa, but I wanted a different approach, something about the common guy. I'm really happy with how it turned out.''
Mr. Pransky, modest to a fault, said the next step is the distribution of his first book and maybe a book-signing or two.
"This book stuff is all about stages,'' he said. "I'm learning that now. I hope people get as much enjoyment out of reading my books as I did writing them.''
Here's betting they will.
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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