Monday, July 21, 2008

Other Notes from Virginia Living's Austin Gisriel

Fresh off his wonderful feature story on the VBL that appeared this month in Virginia Living- Austin brings us more from his work: Thank You!

Leftover Literary Tidbits from “Fantasy Baseball”

When you dry-stack a stone wall, it is important to assemble twice as many stones as you will actually end up using. You need this many because you never know how they will all fit together. The same is true when writing a story. You need twice as many facts and quotes than you can actually fit in a story. This was certainly true in writing “Fantasy Baseball,” which appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Virginia Living. I thought readers of ATV-60 would enjoy some of the leftover literary stones that didn’t make the final editorial cut.

No doubt the player with one of the most interesting backgrounds is Winchester’s Mike Dufek. Dufek comes from a long line of—football players. His grandfather, Don Dufek, Sr., was the Most Valuable Player of the 1949 Rose Bowl for Michigan, and his father and two uncles played in the NFL. “My whole family is banged up now; they’re all paying the cost from playing football earlier in life,” says Mike with a chuckle. “They were all nudging me toward baseball instead of football—a less violent sport. . . They love me no matter what I do . . . I guess baseball is just my calling.”

Dufek’s home is in Arizona, but there was no doubt he would attend the University of Michigan, given his legacy. He certainly does some traveling in a year, and he noted that Virginia, like Michigan, is much greener than his home state.

Local residents will find this hard to believe, but Dufek’s teammate, lefthander Andrew White, enjoys playing in the Valley because of, among other reasons, the “cooler” summer weather here, compared to his home of Charleston, South Carolina. Of course, if you’ve ever walked along The Battery on Charleston’s waterfront on a late July afternoon, White does have a point.

Interviewing Salem Avalanche manager, and former Harrisonburg Turk, Jim Pankovits was a treat for me, and as it turned out, the editor of Virginia Living Richard Ernsberger as well. Jim was gracious enough to meet with me in his office before an Avalanche game in April and fondly recalled his days in Harrisonburg. Pankovits could easily be described as “Mr. Virginia Baseball.” Born in Pennington’s Gap in southwest Virginia, he grew up in Richmond and played on a Little League World Series team and on an American Legion World Series team. Jim played third base on that Richmond Legion team and who played next to him at shortstop? Richard Ernsberger.

Last year’s VBL MVP Luke Greinke and I had a wonderful conversation on one of his few days off during Auburn’s baseball season. Perhaps my favorite quote from anyone I talked to—and certainly my wife Martha’s favorite quote—was his response to a question about his relationship with his brother Zach, who pitches for Kansas City. “He calls and gives me advice. He wants the best for me. We’re not like those usual brothers who beat up on each other and throw stuff at each other. We’ve been close and best friends all the way from growing up.” The older my own daughters get, the stronger my paternal instinct becomes!

I met photographer David Deal on Opening Night in Winchester, where he informed me that he had been asked to take black-and-white photos. I was disappointed with this idea at first. Valley League parks are very colorful, but this is why I’m the writer and not the photographer. His photos are outstanding, which is no surprise, considering David’s credits and talents (for more examples, go to http://www.daviddeal.com/), and the black-and-white shots really capture the old-time spirit of the league. David had never been to Rebel Park in New Market and was so taken with it that he returned a second time. In fact, David shot a book entitled Prospects: A Portrait of Minor League Baseball and has had his work appear in Fortune, New York Times Magazine, Forbes, and other notable publications. I feel quite privileged that Virginia Living would assign such an esteemed photographer to the article.

Working on this story is a misnomer, because it certainly did not seem like work. I actually began the first draft in February and submitted it on June 6th. It’s been a wonderful experience talking to players and coaches, all of whom proved to be polite and who were happy to help. I am most grateful for the reception that the article has received so far, and I hope all those folks out there enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

3 comments:

From the Sponsors said...

Austin,
I can't thank you enough for taking the time to share some more thoughts from your work. I had to smile about the Battery because we moved up here from that part of South Carolina. I am so glad I didn't get discouraged during my search for the July edition of Virginia Living- it was worth the wait. Our door is always open and we would love to hear from you again!

Anonymous said...

Austin,
I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of VL because everywhere I turn I've heard rave reviews about it. As a host parent for the Rebels I am also very excited about your upcoming project and look forward to chronicling and sharing our experiences. You'll be hearing from--count on it!
Melissa Dodge

From the Sponsors said...

Melissa,
I picked up an extra copy of the Virginia Living just in case there was another ATV-60 reader looking for one.I will have it with me on Wednesday if I don't see you sooner.