STAY AT 17 INCHES..a note on Our Nation

I just came across this post by Chris Sperry. I don’t know where it was first published, but the message is powerful and right for our nation today! Enjoy!
STAY AT 17 INCHES

In Nashville, Tennessee, during the first week of January, 1996, more than 4,000 baseball coaches descended upon the Opryland Hotel for the 52nd annual ABCA convention.

While I waited in line to register with the hotel staff, I heard other more veteran coaches rumbling about the lineup of speakers scheduled to present during the weekend. One name, in particular, kept resurfacing, always with the same sentiment – “John Scolinos is here? Oh man, worth every penny of my airfare.”

Who the hell is John Scolinos, I wondered. No matter, I was just happy to be there.

In 1996, Coach Scolinos was 78 years old and five years retired from a college coaching career that began in 1948. He shuffled to the stage to an impressive standing ovation, wearing dark polyester pants, a light blue shirt, and a string around his neck from which home plate hung – a full-sized, stark-white home plate.

Seriously, I wondered, who in the hell is this guy?

After speaking for twenty five minutes, not once mentioning the prop hanging around his neck, Coach Scolinos appeared to notice the snickering among some of the coaches. Even those who knew Coach Scolinos had to wonder exactly where he was going with this, or if he had simply forgotten about home plate since he’d gotten on stage.

Then, finally…

“You’re probably all wondering why I’m wearing home plate around my neck. Or maybe you think I escaped from Camarillo State Hospital,” he said, his voice growing irascible. I laughed along with the others, acknowledging the possibility. “No,” he continued, “I may be old, but I’m not crazy. The reason I stand before you today is to share with you baseball people what I’ve learned in my life, what I’ve learned about home plate in my 78 years.”

Several hands went up when Scolinos asked how many Little League coaches were in the room. “Do you know how wide home plate is in Little League?”

After a pause, someone offered, “Seventeen inches?” more of a question than answer.

“That’s right,” he said. “How about in Babe Ruth’s day? Any Babe Ruth coaches in the house?”

Another long pause.

“Seventeen inches?” came a guess from another reluctant coach.

“That’s right,” said Scolinos. “Now, how many high school coaches do we have in the room?” Hundreds of hands shot up, as the pattern began to appear.

“How wide is home plate in high school baseball?”

“Seventeen inches,” they said, sounding more confident.

“You’re right!” Scolinos barked. “And you college coaches, how wide is home plate in college?”

“Seventeen inches!” we said, in unison.

“Any Minor League coaches here? How wide is home plate in pro ball?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“RIGHT! And in the Major Leagues, how wide is home plate in the Major Leagues?”

“Seventeen inches!”

“SEV-EN-TEEN INCHES!” he confirmed, his voice bellowing off the walls. “And what do they do with a Big League pitcher who can’t throw the ball over seventeen inches?” Pause. “They send him to Pocatello !” he hollered, drawing raucous laughter.

“What they don’t do is this: they don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s okay, Jimmy. You can’t hit a seventeen-inch target? We’ll make it eighteen inches, or nineteen inches. We’ll make it twenty inches so you have a better chance of hitting it. If you can’t hit that, let us know so we can make it wider still, say twenty-five inches.'”

Pause.

“Coaches…”

Pause.

” … what do we do when our best player shows up late to practice? When our team rules forbid facial hair and a guy shows up unshaven? What if he gets caught drinking? Do we hold him accountable? Or do we change the rules to fit him. Do we widen home plate?

The chuckles gradually faded as four thousand coaches grew quiet, the fog lifting as the old coach’s message began to unfold. He turned the plate toward himself and, using a Sharpie, began to draw something. When he turned it toward the crowd, point up, a house was revealed, complete with a freshly drawn door and two windows. “This is the problem in our homes today. With our marriages, with the way we parent our kids. With our discipline. We don’t teach accountability to our kids, and there is no consequence for failing to meet standards. We simply, widen the plate!”

Pause.

Then, to the point at the top of the house he added a small American flag.

“This is the problem in our schools today. The quality of our education is going downhill fast and teachers have been stripped of the tools they need to be successful, and to educate and discipline our young people. We are allowing others to widen home plate! Where is that getting us?”

Silence.

He replaced the flag with a Cross.

“And this is the problem in the Church, where powerful people in positions of authority have taken advantage of young children, only to have such an atrocity swept under the rug for years. Our church leaders are widening home plate for themselves! And we allow it.”

“And the same is true with our government. Our so called representatives make rules for us that don’t apply to themselves. They take bribes from lobbyists and foreign countries. They no longer serve us. And we allow them to widen home plate and we see our country falling into a dark abyss while we watch.”

I was amazed. At a baseball convention where I expected to learn something about curveballs and bunting and how to run better practices, I had learned something far more valuable. From an old man with home plate strung around his neck, I had learned something about life, about myself, about my own weaknesses and about my responsibilities as a leader. I had to hold myself and others accountable to that, which I knew to be right, lest our families, our faith, and our society continue down an undesirable path.

“If I am lucky,” Coach Scolinos concluded, “you will remember one thing from this old coach today. It is this: if we fail to hold ourselves to a higher standard, a standard of what we know to be right; if we fail to hold our spouses and our children to the same standards, if we are unwilling or unable to provide a consequence when they do not meet the standard; and if our schools and churches and our government fail to hold themselves accountable to those they serve, there is but one thing to look forward to…”

With that, he held home plate in front of his chest, turned it around, and revealed its dark black backside.”… dark days ahead.”

Coach Scolinos died in 2009 at the age of 91, but not before touching the lives of hundreds of players and coaches, including mine. Meeting him at my first ABCA convention kept me returning year after year, looking for similar wisdom and inspiration from other coaches. He is the best clinic speaker the ABCA has ever known because he was so much more than a baseball coach.

His message was clear: “Coaches, keep your players-no matter how good they are-your own children, your churches, your government, and most of all, keep yourself, ALL, at seventeen inches.

Written by Chris Sperry
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Things Like This Are Happening…

A short excerpt from my new manuscript..The Bequest.

The engine of the 767 roared as the departing plane raced down the runway. Juicer Alexis’ white shirt was drenched in sweat, half-hidden beneath the wrinkled linen jacket. Surrounded by sick Syrian refugees, he pushed his hand through his rumpled hair and tried to steady his shaking limbs before blowing a sigh of relief. He’d remained hidden for several weeks in the house of an art lover in Dumayr before the invitation from Tyler College arrived via the sporadic email system inviting him to review and appraise a large collection of donated artifacts looking strikingly like others Jucar once housed in his museum.

He stared out the window of the humanitarian plane, one of the few allowed to enter and exit, and surveyed the beautiful city. A vast arid plateau lay below him, fingers of streams spidering into the Barada, the river responsible for the creating the fertile Al Gutah Oasis, site of his beloved city, Damascus. Just an hour earlier, he’d barely escaped detection at a terrorist roadblock on the way to the airport.

“Don’t even breathe when they stop me,” his friend whispered from the front seat. Jucar hoped the hidden compartment beneath the back seat of the man’s car could contain his fear. The opening was small as Jucar tried to endure the cramps rising in his extremities. He clutched his computer to his chest, praying the reputation for hating the West his friend was known for, would be the decoy they needed to get Jucar out of the country. He felt the vehicle slow and then slam to a stop. The tires slid on the gravel, sending dust seeping into the hiding place, nearly choking him. He closed his eyes and felt the sweat trail down his face and drop onto the laptop encased in his balled form.

Voices outside rose and fell. He heard the slap of a man’s hand across someone’s face before gunshots ripped through the trunk just behind him. He jerked suddenly, stilled himself and held his breath. A moment later he heard a gun bang on the trunk and an unfamiliar voice screaming at his friend to open it. Finding a pair of jumper cables and three gallons of water, the trunk slammed shut.

“Search what you will!” his friend’s voice was calm and certain. “If there is anyone to be found in my car, I shall kill them for you!”

The door behind the passenger seat creaked open. A man kneeled on the seat above him, crushing his full weight onto the hidden man, forcing a wheeze of air from Jucar’s mouth. He could see the fingers of someone brushing inside the seat inches from his face. He hoped they could not smell his fear or the stench of the sweat rising from his body.

Shortly after the door closed, the car started and pulled away, the gravel again spitting behind them. He remained quiet for several minutes before he heard a voice.

“We did it, Jucar!” His friend whispered, as though someone might still hear. “They took my old computer and my wallet, as we suspected, but they knew of me, which is why I am not dead at this time.” He laughed, but Jucar was well aware of the attack his friend had just been spared. He’d witnessed the brutality boldly broadcast on the networks of the television stations now controlled by terrorist groups across Syria. “We must hurry, as they said the refugee plane will be gone by nightfall.”

Jucar’s lungs expanded and then deflated in gratitude. Outside the airport terminal entrance, Jucar said a bittersweet goodbye. He held his friend closely, knowing he might never see him again should one of them be discovered before his return. If he returned.

Are Book Giveaways Worth It?

When a writer has a “giveaway” program, it seems as though it defeats the purpose of “selling” our work. We are actually giving away the product we slaved over for months or even years. Yet, I’ve learned a thing or two about todays’ new world of marketing that makes me understand the value of a giveaway. Giveaways promote sales.

This is how it works. You download a book for free. You read it and like it. You tweet about it. You Facebook it. You Instagram and Pinterest your thoughts. You post a review and tell your friends about it. By then, the giveaway is over. They buy it! The author becomes a best-seller! Wow! All of that from a free giveaway!

A promotional “giveaway” is a way to get readers to notice your work in the overcrowded world of published books. Overcrowding is a reality. Traditionally published books vie for attention alongside self-published books. Any writer, whether they have learned the craft of writing or not, can self-publish. Most, not all, self-published books are rarely well-written, nor do they display elements of understanding the craft of writing. When they are placed side-by-side with those who understand the elements of craft, they stand like lonely soldiers in a long gone war.

The sadness to this is that well-crafted books are often lost in the noise. The competition to be published is fierce. So what is a writer to do? Mark Twain says it well. “Write without pay until somebody offers to pay.” My addition to Twain’s quote would be…”and scream until someone notices you!”

So, I’m screaming! The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance is free for today and tomorrow in the first of two giveaways. Download it and if you like it, write a review, and use all social media avenues to tell your friends!

The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance is a simple story and a good family read for those who seek heartwarming tales. It centers around the surprise arrival of an old tin button box to the home of Emily Evans, a box of buttons that unlock memories of Emily’s youth. The read is quick and takes the reader on a wonderful journey where one man’s legacy to his granddaughter is passed on through the stories he told through buttons. Each button holds a memory and will take even the most cynical reader back to a time where actions mattered. Here’s the Book Trailer.

Enjoy the read. Share it with your friends. On this end, I’ll keep shamelessly promoting and watching the Amazon charts to see where you will take me.

In the end, I’m still going to write. I’m going to continue to hone my skills and learn how to enhance what I know about the craft of writing. Every manuscript I create will be better than the last and every story I tell will be more powerful than the one that preceded it. After all, the next “giveaway” might be my bestseller!

One More Time, Folks!

I just got notice that The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance WILL be available as a free download on Amazon on January 20,21 and 22, 2015. After the December issue of not being available when it was expected, I am certain that this time it will be a go!

So, tell your friends once more that the book WILL be available for a free download! Thank you all for your patience! Enjoy!

The “Free Book Download” Glitch

Seems that all things don’t go as planned. We thought the Amazon free download was to go live December 25-29, 2014 only to find out it had not been scheduled as planned…..SOOOOOOO….there will now be TWO chances to download The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance for FREE!

 

Tell your friends that The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance can be downloaded for free on…

*January 20, 21 & 22

AND

*February 9 & 10

 

Take advantage of sharing this with your friends and family! When you are done reading it, please take a moment to write a short review, as it so helps the author! Thank you!

REJECTIONS

Sometimes as writers, we expect that everyone will like everything we write. We have such a strong desire to be published that we are angered when the plain white post card with a stamped, “We can’t use your work at this time. Thank you.” drops into our mailbox, (email or post), and announces that yes, you are a crappy writer and this rejection note proves it.

Then we might pout, or call a fellow writer to try and suck some sympathy from them. We just know that there is a cad on the other end of that rejection letter, some jerk who probably didn’t even read the wonderful piece of prose we wrote!

But what I’ve found, already, in my short career is that as a writer, we must listen, absord and understand what the rejection letter really means. It’s not a personal attack. It is a rejection of the work. Maybe it was not aptly suited for the place to which it was sent. Maybe it was not written in a format that best displays the work. Maybe it’s been done. Maybe the poor publisher is so overwhelmed that they just can’t read one more work!

I had such was a rejection just a couple of weeks ago. At first, my disappointment was palpable. I say that, because I was alone and I swear I could feel the blood thumping through my veins as I read it. I was hurt, as a rejection of any writer’s work cuts to the bone, (even though we won’t admit it). Then I read the rejection again. I was the lucky writer who had an editor tell me what they didn’t like about my story. They gave me helpful insights of what was expected for their publication. They were brutally honest! But they gave me something more. They gave me a second chance to write it!

Guess what? I did. I rewote the article. I received a reply that it was accepted! So, I guess the moral to this story is, save all the rejection postcards as you’ll need them to remind you that as a writer, you will be disappointed. Not everyone will like everything you write, but write anyway, or maybe it’s better said, rewrite anyway!

Have a good week!Family Buttons

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference

What a joy to be a part of the ACFW family! The conference here in St. Louis is filled with aspiring writers and encouraging editors, agents and publishers all here to glorify God! I’m finding myself encouraging others more than anything else, which makes for a great time! Happening at the same time is the Joyce Meyers Convention, so the entire downtown area is filled with people who love the Lord! I even had the chance to give one of her staff a copy of Run, River Currents, as Joyce ministers about her abusive life.

From the moment I arrived it was as though God had a plan for everything. I have been a part of a giving attitude in every restaurant, every store and every coffee shop within a 10 block radius. I hear workers saying to each other that they have never been treated so kindly, tipped so graciously or listened to so intently as these few days. My own maid cried when I handed her a few extra dollars and a book of faith I picked up here. I hadn’t seen her need until then. I was just reacting to the gratefulness I was feeling.

Writers do make a difference, but more than that, people of faith make a difference when we allow God to shine through our actions. I know I am learning techniques and craft here, but the real lessons are coming from the heart.

Go on out today and be a blessing to someone in any little way you can. You never know where God will take your kindness.

P.S. Don’t forget you have until October 12 to sign up for my Goodreads Giveaway of The Button Legacy: Emily’s Inheritance! A “button” bracelet will be included for one lucky winner!