For writers Heidi and Dale Jacobs, baseball is much more than a sport.
As lifelong fans of the game, the married couple decided to spend the summer of 2018 attempting to catch 50 baseball games at various competitive levels, all within a 100-mile radius of their Windsor home.
The adventure took them from sandlots to stadiums in London and Sarnia, through Michigan and Ohio and back.
The couple spoke with Chris dela Torre, host of CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive. Here's part of that conversation, edited for breadth and clarity.
What inspired the project?
Heidi Jacobs: Dale and I had season tickets or partial season tickets for the Tigers for about 15 years, and we'd spend every Sunday heading over to Detroit watching baseball. Around 2016 or so, it was just getting a little harder to get into the car and head over and we weren't quite sure what was going on. So the next year, we gave up our season tickets. We found we really missed baseball. Around February 2018, we came up with the idea: what if we went to 50 baseball games in a 100 mile radius of our house, and went to different kinds of baseball?
Dale, what was the impetus for the book for you? Was it because the Tigers were losing so badly in those years, or was there something else going on?
Dale Jacobs: It wasn't even so much that they were losing. For me, I was just getting tired of seeing major leagues only. I started to feel a bit of loss of connection to baseball. And for me, baseball has always been connected with my father, who passed away in 2009. I realized that one of the things I'd been missing was going to local tournaments and minor league games and the kind of baseball I'd seen growing up. I felt like I needed to get back to those roots of my baseball fandom and why I loved the game.
The book offers so much more than a play-by-play of the action on the diamond. Heidi, what were you thinking about and watching for as you attended each game?
HJ: One of the things that was really a challenge for me is I felt like my baseball watching had plateaued in recent years. So I was really trying to really watch everything I possibly could. And as you can tell from the book itself, my mind often wanders. I ended up with hearing all sorts of interesting conversations in the stands. And so I'm looking at what's going on in the field, for sure ... but also, what are the conversations? How are they watching the game and how are they interacting with the game? It was a lot about figuring out how to watch baseball. And one of the things I really realized is everybody approaches baseball in a different way.
It's interesting to think about your motivations at the start of the project when both of you were losing your passion for the game, because it's very personal for the both of you. Dale, you mentioned it goes back to your relationship with your late dad. You write in the book, "wherever there is a ballpark, I know I'll find my father." Tell us a bit more about what you meant by that?
DJ: I guess as I was sitting at these games, I often felt like he was there as this kind of presence. I felt him there ... those memories of watching baseball games with him. I also felt like we took a lot of people along with us [on this journey]. Like my friend Curt, who we used to go to baseball games in grad school. And my friend Rick, who I used to go to ball games in North Carolina when we worked there. There are all these people who are wrapped up with baseball in my memory. It felt like they were there with me at all of these games.
Heidi, you also write about how the former Detroit Tigers star Curtis Granderson is an important connection for you. At one point, you draw a connection between his career with the Tigers and your own career as a writer.
HJ: Well, people are always asking me why I love Curtis. And if you know you know me, you know that I really love Curtis Granderson (laughs).
I think if you're a writer or any kind of creative person, you have to deal with a lot of strikeouts. When I was at a low point in my writing life and career-wise, I just started watching Curtis step up to the plate every time. And the way he walked up and just smacked the plate with his bat ... he was ready for whatever came at him. He walked up as if like, you know, this could be the one to break. So for a long time, when I sat down at my computer or I picked up my pen, I told myself 'be like Curtis. This could be it.' So, I love baseball because, like a really good hitter, he hits maybe four times out of 10, which means he doesn't hit it, like, six out of 10. And I think that's a really great way to think about any kind of creative thing: you might 'fail' a lot, but you don't succeed unless you actually start swinging.
LISTEN: Heidi and Dale Jacobs talk about why they made the goal
100 Miles of Baseball by Dale Jacobs and Heidi L.M. Jacobs is published by Biblioasis. It hits stores on March 16 with a virtual book launch scheduled for March 31 at 7 p.m. Visit the Biblioasis website for details.