This is My Springfield Book Launch

TIMS

My fifth grade teacher, the same teacher who dressed up as Viola Swamp on “bad days” as a warning to us students, the remarkable and inimitable Sandy Rhodes, quoted my own poetry back to me. It made my whole head blush a ridiculously bright red.

In high school, on multiple occasions, teachers asked for personal copies of pieces I’d written. I scrawled them out on notebook paper and never gave it a second thought as to why they wanted to keep the poems.

I grew up in Springfield.

I played soccer and baseball on fields across town and have memories of traipsing the fairways of every golf course with Dad. I broke windows chasing baseball dreams and broke teeth running away from a bully. I rode bikes with my best friends through Delaware Elementary neighborhoods and loved playing video games at Aladdin’s Castle. After moving to Texas for my Master’s degree and spending a decade working in Kansas City, my wife and daughters and I moved back to Springfield to be closer to family.

My daughters started pursuing their dreams of music and art, my wife went to Drury for her Master’s degree, and I started a “career” as a freelance writer. Blogs and articles and books. The more I wrote, the more I remembered my own dreams from my growing up days. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write about Springfield. It became the setting for my first novel, Dreamfield, and the home base for stories of my catch-playing year.

Jeff Houghton, of Instagram Husband and The Mystery Hour fame, challenged dreamers to “make something where you are.” In 2017, I started working on This is My Springfield, a book of poetry, photos, and illustrations about life in the Queen City. Poems celebrate Fun Acre and Andy’s, the “French Fries” and Brad Pitt and ridiculous weather.

Brad Zweerink is a local freelance and documentary photographer and friend from our days in Mrs. Rhodes’ class. He donated significant time and energy bringing the poems to life in beautiful black and white photos.

Sophie, my youngest daughter, is incredibly artistic. Her art displays wisdom and talent beyond her years. Artists of any medium and age need opportunities to give and ship, as Seth Godin would say. I gave her a timeline and asked if she would create simple illustrations for some of my poems as well. I was amazed by both the quantity and quality of her submissions.

This is My Springfield is not only Springfield made, but Springfield-based and gives back to the community as well. For 50 years, Ozarks Literacy Council has provided free, one-on-one tutoring to anyone who needs help improving their reading skills. All proceeds from This is My Springfield will benefit OLC, helping grow new readers so they can also turn their dreams into a reality.

On April 3, from 6 – 8 pm, The Creamery Arts Center (411 N. Sherman Parkway) will be hosting a come-and-go book launch celebrating the long-awaited publication. Books will be for sale ($20) — so, so many thanks to Brent Gilstrap Realty and Rick Grayson Golf for sponsoring the evening.

I love Springfield and hope that feeling is discovered and conveyed in these poems and stories. I’m already thinking about Volume 2.

Keep dreamin’, Queen City friends.

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Go Shout Love

 

Josh GSL

Go Shout Love shares stories of real-life superheroes.

Like Hadley, Nathan, and Hollyn who enjoy the magic of being alive.

Like Beckett and his bucket list.

Like Ellie who knows how to live life to the fullest.

Several years ago, my sister first told me about Go Shout Love while researching Mighty Henry’s Schizencephaly. Thanks to her, I connected with the Macan family and was able to help share the story of Super Bo and his family in both a picture book and America at the Seams.

“We raise awareness, funds, and create community through social media for families who have children on rare medical journeys,” said Josh, the co-director of Go Shout Love.

Each month, Go Shout Love shares the story of a different family, celebrating that family and raising funds through sales of beautifully designed graphic t-shirts and other marvelous products.

“The best part of working with Go Shout Love is the fulfillment of seeing these families supported and encouraged by complete strangers. We have an incredible team that works hard each month for our families and it’s an honor to work with them. For each one of them, the work they do for Go Shout Love is not just work, they truly believe in the mission and live it out. The hardest part is not being able to feature every nomination we receive, and to do even more financially for each of the families.”

I thought of several of my catch-playing friends living their own courageous rare medical stories who could be nominated as a feature family.

Skylar, the dream-chasing, world-record attempting, spokeswoman for Schizencephaly.

Addi, the Nixa-based multi-sport athlete who was diagnosed with Traf7 Syndrome — only 20 cases worldwide.

Nic, the Royals-loving jokester diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease.

Last week I learned Go Shout Love is now based in Springfield, so I contacted Josh and asked if he had time to grab his glove and celebrate the not-too-distant coming of Opening Day.

“I’m a Cardinals fan,” he said. “I grew up north of St. Louis. But I went to college in KC. I’ve been to plenty of Royals games, too.”

Go Shout Love is diligently working toward becoming a better known brand in both the “do-good” business space and in the apparel industry. With more recognition and awareness comes more Shouters, helping more families, spreading love and light from coast to coast.

One of the new directions the team is taking is sharing the stories of multiple children from the same city. Springfield will be the featured city for the month of July.

“Buy a shirt. Buy merchandise. Be supportive of families on rare medical journeys, even if it’s not through us. Choose love, choose to shout love, choose to consider what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes. And then act on those urges to make a difference in their journeys.”

On the day after the Bryan Family Millennium Falcon surpassed the 200,000 mile mark, on the day Pi and pie are both celebrated, Josh and I played catch at Nathaniel Greene Park. In ridiculous mid-March wind (and accompanying wind advisory), not one single throw was straight. In exchange for borrowing a glove, Josh gave me my own Go Shout Love t-shirt which perfectly encapsulates the joy of playing catch, making new friends, and chasing ridiculous dreams, “Enjoy the magic of being alive.”

Thank you Hadley, Nathan, and Hollyn for your inspiration.

To nominate a family to be featured and for a community to rally behind, go here.

Super Cool Side Note #1: All of GSL’s shirts are responsibly manufactured. 100% Organic Cotton grown and processed in the US. The polyester in each tri-blend tee is created from six recycled plastic water bottles that would otherwise end up in landfills. Through the shirt supplier and their partnership with the Global Orphan Project, every month’s support of Go Shout Love is creating jobs in Haiti that pay 3-4 times the average wage, an amount carefully calculated to meet the basic needs of a Haitian household.

Ordinary Side Note #2: Opening Day is two weeks away.

enjoy-the-magic-of-being-alive-tee

The Rebound Foundation

REbound Found.jpg

On February 10, the MSU Bears played the Illinois State Redbirds and John Q. Hammons Arena hosted MSU’s first Rebound Challenge game. Tickets were sold for $5 and spectators could sit anywhere. Announced attendance was 6,507, which is the largest crowd of the season to date. But, with less than two minutes in the game, Missouri State trailed by 6 and fans started leaving.

At a baseball game, you don’t leave until after the third out in the bottom of the 9th inning.

At a basketball game, you don’t leave until after the final buzzer.

“My mom turned to me and said, ‘Miracles still happen,” Christina Ford said. “We were standing watching the game from the concourse. I had to leave the table.”

Christina is the president of the Rebound Foundation. She had watched most of the game while distributing information about the organization which started because of a God-given, dream-story similar to that of Joseph in the Bible.

“I never pictured this is what I would be doing. After the dream and confirmation with my mom, I started thinking about it in 2015. It became an official non-profit in 2016 with the first rebound game in 2017. For so long, I didn’t know what I was doing, I was just taking baby steps, I was trying to be prepared for when the time was right.”

The Rebound Foundation raises money and awareness to give women who have suffered from domestic abuse a fresh start by providing transitional housing.

“When we finally opened the first house, I knew I wasn’t crazy.”

Almost three years passed between the dreaming and coming true. At the end of those three years, Christina and her family moved to Springfield because her husband got a position as the new head coach for the MSU Bears men’s basketball team. Five weeks after moving, Christina gave birth to their fourth child, a baby boy.

Even through the unsettled stress of transitions, Christina kept moving forward with the work of the foundation.

“It took a lot of small steps and a strong faith. I couldn’t give up. What would happen to the women who needed a safe space? To keep going doing this kind of mission work, you must have passion, you must have faith. And Springfield is a community that really wants to improve. They have embraced us and our mission.”

There are now two Rebound Foundation homes in Springfield. Over the course of six months to a year, the women who live in these homes receive the gift of time to start the healing process without having the burdens of trying to figure out how to live.

“We want to give them that time to heal from the trauma and focus on answering the question, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’”

All money donated to the foundation goes into the homes, helping the women get a fresh start at life.

With 7 seconds left on the clock, the Bears tipped the ball on the inbounds play which led to a frenetic scramble and ended with a last-second, half-court, buzzer-beater for the win that I’ve since watched about 50 or 100 times.

“As soon as the ball went in, my mom fell over. It was pure madness,” Christina said. “Days later, I was still watching the highlight and reading other people’s reactions. I finally had to make myself stop watching it.”

The miracles-still-happen game raised almost $12,000 which will be used to bring miracles in the lives of women who have suffered from domestic violence.

**********

In the cold and wind and drizzly gross and highly unpredictable Missouri winter weather, Christina and I postponed today’s game of catch.

The good news about not playing catch every day is the joyful freedom of taking a rain check.

 

FlatGround

pitching.jpg

I have a new Twitter addiction.

FlatGround.

Created by Rob Friedman, FlatGround uses social media to prevent pitchers from falling through the cracks, giving them the best chance to be seen by someone and keep playing this great game. Every day, dozens of pitchers post videos of bullpen sessions and the appropriate statistics of age, height, weight, and how hard they throw various pitches. And every day, I scroll through the bullpens, studying the mechanics of young pitchers from coast to coast.

Not only are these pitchers getting offers from colleges and independent baseball teams and affiliated baseball teams, major league pitchers are also keeping tabs with the account and passing along wisdom and advice to the next generation.

How cool is that?

Tip of the hat to Lance McCullers and others.

I wish FlatGround would have been an option when I was 16. I might have kept playing for just a little longer, long enough to let my body begin to catch up with my heart and dreams.

There’s a part of me that thinks it would be fun to post a FlatGround video. Maybe I could ramp up my fastball to 60 or 62 mph and then break off a nice 48 mph slider.

I think my best submission, though, might be this simple video of playing catch with Jim “The Rookie” Morris at the K.

44 RHP with master’s degree.

Author.

5’11”

185

Sits low 60s. Working on secondary pitches.

Played catch every day of 2018.

Catch-partner is Jim “The Rookie” Morris at Kauffman Stadium.

Looking for opportunities to tell stories and encourage baseball dreamers and throw out a first pitch for the Royals.

Kurt and the Giant Fork

Kurt T.jpg

There is a giant fork in Springfield just outside the offices of Classy Llama in Chesterfield Village. I wrote a poem about it in This is My Springfield; Brad took a photo of it and Sophie also illustrated it. There is a plaque at the base of the fork that reads:

Fork Etiquette

Welcome to the world’s largest fork,

standing 35 feet, made of polished stainless steel

and signifying the home of The Food Channel.

Please enjoy it and be safe, but stay on the concrete.

Hashtag your photos #worldslargestfork

Giant Fork - 1.jpg Kurt is the CEO of Classy Llama and Nucleus Commerce and invited me inside. I couldn’t find any accompanying knife or spoon.

“I make lots of messes that other people have to clean up.”

He’s excited about launching a leadership training course publicly later this year as well as taking the education of his children to the next level.

“They are home-schooled and will be coming to the office a couple days a week.”

Kurt’s a teacher at heart and loves the opportunities to share his knowledge with others. He’s not necessarily a baseball fan, it’s been decades since he last played catch, but he understands and appreciates the strategy behind the game. I played catch with the southpaw behind the brick walls which helped shield us from the steady west breeze. We discovered a common love of Lord of the Rings and I told him the story behind the wedding ring I now wear on a necklace.

“You don’t get to choose who you are. You get to discover who you are and do your best to live accordingly,” Kurt said, which reminded me of something Elrond said to Aragorn, “Put aside the Ranger…become who you were born to be.”

I think last year was a year of discovery. Playing shapes imaginations and souls and encourages cooperation and conversation. I’ll be figuring out the best way to live accordingly in response for quite some time.

********************

Many thanks to Don West, Corey Riggs, and Mediacom for sharing the story of Catch 365!

Dear Shoeless Joe

joe

Dear Shoeless Joe (The Movie),

I love baseball.

From the major leagues to the movies, I am absolutely convinced baseball tells some of the best stories about what it means to be human.

Field of Dreams reminds us of the importance of relationships and that it’s okay to chase ridiculous dreams, even if no one else understands them at the time.

The Sandlot instills the importance of always playing this game with the joy and passion of a kid.

A League of Their Own and 42 teach us that baseball is a sport for all people.

Ever since I was introduced to Shoeless Joe via Field of Dreams, I have hoped for his innocence. A player of his caliber deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

I am writing because, at this time, I cannot contribute financially to this project. But if you need extra ballplayers for the filming, I have experience.

I was an extra in the documentary First Boys of Spring, quietly acting as third baseman for the Red Sox. I’ve been on camera a couple of times over the last year as I just concluded 366 days of playing catch. My arm’s in great shape and I have my own antique glove. Maybe this video can serve as an audition.

If you have no need for me, I understand. But, if filming brings you anywhere near Missouri, please let me know. I’d love to connect with you for a game of catch.

I cannot wait to see your movie in December!

For love of the game,

Ethan Bryan

To support or help spread word of the movie project, click here:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/shoeless-joe-the-true-story-movie#/.

Windy Queen City

Even in this wind, a wind that blew down multiple sections of the fence in my backyard, my hat stayed on. That’s the sign of a good hat.

I was back at the field where, in the middle of an interview with Daniel, the daily catch-playing resolution finally stuck. Daniel has since moved on to a new job, leaving for DC last fall. The storyteller in me wanted the resolution of one more game of catch with him, to end the year like it started.

Hannah, graciously, agreed to play catch.

She’s on Day #5 with the Daybreak team at KOLR, recently moving to Springfield from Chicago after graduating from Illinois State University. She asked questions about the catch-playing year, lessons learned, and even asked if I still had a flip phone.

I was quite proud to show off my new flip phone.

The roaring wind must have felt like home. It reminded me of the two days my family spent in the Windy City last summer. I told Hannah the stories of meeting and playing catch with Shaun and Shane at Millennium Park. And then Hannah told me her baseball story.

Last summer, she went to DC.

To cover MLB’s All-Star Game.

And interview all the Cubs.

And Bryce Harper.

“When it was Bryce against Schwarber in the finals of the home run derby, I was pulling for Schwarber, but I was pretty happy when Bryce won it, too.”

I only asked one question about the Chicago Bears and then the topic was dropped.

Much, much too soon.

As a Chiefs fan, I know the horrors of playoff football. I’m already nervous for the game against the Colts on Saturday.

So, Hannah and I played catch as the wind blew the ball here and there, exaggerating any natural movement we had on underhand tosses.

As we parted ways, I promised her a copy of This is My Springfield as a gift welcoming her to the Queen City.

Looking forward to the stories you’ll tell, Hannah!

Long Ball City

lbc ben 2

One swing

changed everything.

The home run that sticks out most clearly in my mind is Alex Gordon’s bottom of the 9th inning blast in Game 1 of the 2015 World Series. My whole family was already in bed when he hit the bomb to straightaway centerfield. I jumped up and down and pumped my fist and the dog went crazy. I quietly tiptoed to the bedroom and whispered the news to my wife who had no recollection of it the next morning. The next day, I wrote a poem as tribute to Gordon’s baseball heroics.

Ben is convinced that the home run is the most exciting play in sports. He’s started a new side hustle celebrating famous moon shots, big flies, and taters.

“Because hitting a spherical baseball with a cylindrical bat is the most difficult thing to do in sports, the collective excitement generated by the longest of such hits should be celebrated in distinctive ways,” he wrote on the website for Long Ball City.

I’ve been following Ben’s journey on Twitter and Facebook where he updates new designs as well as the stories behind them. I already have one Long Ball City t-shirt, the one commemorating George Brett’s Pine Tar Incident at Yankees Stadium off of Goose Gossage. The next one on my wish-list is the Route 66 Rocket, a design honoring the baseball program at Missouri State University.

lbc msu.jpg

Ben is gearing up for the second semester at MSU where he’ll be teaching three courses including one that will end with the Create-A-Wrestler Contest. I cannot wait to see the winners. He’s also preparing to get back in the booth with Art Hains, calling the baseball games for MSU, and making plans to head to Omaha for the College World Series.

Ben showed me the design work for future t-shirts featuring the Texas Rangers, Oakland A’s, Detroit Tigers, Atlanta Braves, and North Carolina Tar Heels.

At Fassnight Field, in front of an audience of handball players and others enjoying this incredibly sunny day, Ben and I played catch and dreamed audacious dreams for 2019.

One Swing

One swing

changed everything.

Self-narrated scenario of

countless backyard wiffle ball games,

sandlot games, video games,

baseball dreamers from

coast to coast.

World Series.

Ninth inning.

One out.

Fearless, nigh-unhittable

Reliever.

The weight of the hometown crowd

on your shoulders —

the same crowd who desperately tried

to

will

you

90 more feet

one year prior.

One swing

changed everything.

You touched first base

one finger

pointed to heaven.