The summer baseball season has ended, and soon it is going to be very, very cold for a very long time. When the weather is too cold for kids to go out and play, some of my favorite baseball books to read are from the Ballpark Mysteries series written by David A. Kelly. I like them so much I put them on last year’s gift guide for kids.
The books are about two kids that travel around the country for baseball, and help solve problems in the parks. The most recent one is called The Philly Fake. The 10th and 11th books in the series, The Rookie Blue Jay and The Tiger Troubles, will be released next year.
I recently had the chance to do a Matt’s Bats Chat with the author of the Ballpark Mysteries books, David A. Kelly:
Matt’s Bats: What inspired you to be an author?
David A. Kelly: I became inspired to write a children’s book back in 2005 when I was spending a lot of time reading early chapter books to my sons, who were in elementary school. It certainly helped that I’d always loved reading and was looking for an alternative to the business, technology, and travel writing that I did for my job. I spent a lot of time analyzing successful children’s books—looking at how the chapters were put together, how the sentences were written, and the mechanics of the chapters. Overall, it’s been a fair amount of work, but it’s really fun to be working on something creative. In one sense, writing a children’s book turned out to be the easy part. Getting a children’s book published is harder. It takes dedication, good writing, and lots of patience and persistence. It’s not something that happened quickly for me, but with luck and hard work, it did.
MB: When did you get interested in sports?
DK: I played baseball when I was younger, but didn’t follow on to play it high school or college. When I was younger, my friends and I spent more time playing pickup games of baseball, basketball, hockey, kickball and more. Not many of my friends played organized sports, the way that many kids do today.
MB: What is your favorite sport? Do you have a favorite team or player?
DK: I’d have to say my favorite sport is baseball, because I like watching it as well as writing about it and sharing it with other people.
My favorite athlete is probably David Ortiz, since I live near Boston. But watching Mo’ne Davis pitch in the Little League World Series definitely impressed me.
MB: Why did you decide to write the Ballpark Mysteries series?
DK: When my two sons were younger, I was spending a lot of time reading to them. I was also looking for something creative to do. They were hooked baseball books and mystery books, but when I went to look for baseball mystery books, I didn’t find any, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to write one! I worked pretty hard on developing the first book, and although it took a lot of rewrites, it was finally published by Random House as The Fenway Foul-Up.
MB: Which book was the most fun to write?
DK: It’s hard to say. I really have enjoyed writing them all. Some of the books were harder than the others. For example, I struggled with book number 3, The L.A. Dodger, because I couldn’t figure out the right mystery. As for which one was most fun to write, I think that The San Francisco Splash might be it. I had a really great time working in all the sights around San Francisco, and getting Mike and Kate to Alcatraz to capture a criminal.
[The San Francisco Splash is also my favorite one!]
MB: How many ballparks have you visited? What is your favorite ballpark?
DK: I haven’t visited all the 30 ballparks yet, but I hope to. I visited around 14 of them so far. My favorite ballpark is always the one I’m currently writing about, which in this case is the Detroit Tigers’ stadium (that will be Ballpark Mysteries #11). It’s a great stadium and setting for a story because there are tigers all over the ballpark—from tiger heads on the walls outside, to massive tiger sculptures on the scoreboard.
MB: So you are planing more Ballpark Mysteries books?
DK: Yes, definitely. There will be at least 4 more Ballpark Mysteries after book #9, The Philly Fake. Two more are coming out next year, and two more in 2016. Hopefully we’ll have more after that. The next two (in 2015) will be mysteries set in the Toronto Blue Jays stadium and the Detroit Tigers stadium.
MB: How do you come up with the ideas for the books? How long does it take to write one?
DK: This is a great question. I come up with the mysteries for each book by visiting each stadium that I write about. I take a lot of notes and pictures on my phone, and then I go home and do some research on the team. To create the mystery, I try to come up with something that’s related to the ballparks or the team’s history (for example in the The L.A. Dodger, I have the mystery be related to the team’s move from New York City to Los Angeles in the 1950s).
I usually takes about 3 months to write a Ballpark Mysteries book (but during that time I’m also usually working on other projects as well). It takes me about a week to do the research, and then about 3 weeks to create an outline and plot out the book. Another month to write the book, once I have the outline worked out, and then another few weeks to do revisions. They’re usually written about 18-24 months in advance of the publication date, so that the artist has time to create the artwork.
MB: Do you plan on writing any other books about other sports?
DK: Yes! I have a possible set of Football Mysteries in development and I’m also already working on a series of books about a group of elementary school children who form a club and play all different types of sports.
MB: Last question. Since you write all about different baseball stadiums, what’s your favorite thing to eat at a baseball game?
DK: I always start off the standard—a basic hot dog with relish and mustard. Then, I’ll look around for other interesting foods that might be on sale at the stadium. Although I didn’t try it, the Texas Rangers park had the biggest hot dog (or maybe it was a sausage) that I’ve ever seen. I usually try a pretzel, too, and perhaps some ice cream.
Thanks to David A. Kelly for taking the time to talk about his Ballpark Mysteries series of baseball books for kids. You can order all of them from Amazon.com or buy them at any bookstore. They are really fun books for kids from age 6 to about 13. Most of them only cost about $5.00 or less on Amazon, so they are definitely a good deal too!