Baseball nut

Jeffrey Kirst

Photo By David Robert

Screwballs, Curves and Knuckleheads was written as a guide for parents on how to get the most out of a child’s baseball experience, but it’s also a look at human nature and the fitness of things. Renoite Jeffrey Kirst wrote it after going through baseball with four children. It is illustrated by one of those boys, Reed Kirst, and by prominent local cartoonist Calder Chism.

What made you write the book?

I had lots of fun with baseball. Our family had lots of fun with baseball. And some of the things that you go through as a family with youth baseball, I felt if I could pass on my experience to people, they would benefit. I had four sons who went through baseball, and the way families are these days, someone might only have one or two children who would go through, and by the time they got through, they would have felt the pain but not the joy of the game. So I wanted to maybe pass on some of my experiences to them and help them have a better experience.

How did you feel about baseball when you were a kid?

I thought it was great. I loved it. … And I thought it was a wonderful game. I still remember the fun times I had playing catch with my dad and playing sandlot baseball and then on the organized teams I was on. So I was always a big baseball nut and liked it and then, you know, wanted my sons to get that type of joy out of it. I still like it. I’m watching the games on TV now. It’s just a great game. It’s a microcosm of life, I guess, and it’s just a fun thing.

There is frequently criticism about how it has become more corporate, more about money, that sort of thing. How do you react to that?

You know, more people watch baseball than ever before. Yes, it is about money, the teams are very costly. If you want to buy a major league team, it’s hundreds of millions of dollars. You can buy your own little league team for about 350 bucks and get the same joy, from what I’ve seen. I don’t mind the players getting a lot of money. I think it’s excellent. You know, the fields I go to—I just saw a Cincinnati Reds game last month—and you could get in there and see a game for five bucks. Downtown Cincinnati, beautiful stadium, so the visual aspects are there for everybody. If you want to pay more and get a better seat, you can pay more. … There’s joys there for a cheap price. You can see the spectacle, and the players are really good. … I think the major league minimum right now, if you can make it that high, you’d make 327,000 bucks a year. So if you could stick in there for three or four years, you can make a million. I think that’s great for young people.

What’s your favorite baseball movie?

Baseball movie? Oh, heck, let’s see. I like both of those Bad News Bears movies. And then I really enjoyed Field of Dreams. I’m trying to think back to when I was a kid. There was some Disney movie, I think, where the guy had something that he could put on the ball and make it spin around, and he was a spectacular pitcher. But then he lost the formula. That was one of my favorites, but I can’t remember the name of that one.

Since the book came out, what kind of responses have you gotten?

Everyone who reads it likes it. Nobody’s told me they don’t like it. I went to Book Expo America in Washington, D.C. … And there, I got signed up with [book distributor] Baker and Taylor, so then it would have big distribution possibilities. … The response is good. People who read it benefit from it, and everybody gets a few laughs out of it. And those who have been engaged in the game certainly understand it. Some of them have told me they were able to relive their pain after reading my book. … You know, you forget about the bad things, try to, anyway. And most people are able to do that. Then when they read my book, it brought back flashbacks of pain from their days on the diamond with their children.