Of Publications And Champions…

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April 27th, 2017

Like Peyton Manning coming to the line of scrimmage and seeing a surprise defensive alignment, the play I called in the huddle for this blog installment will now be switched via an audible. I might even yell “Omaha!” while doing it.

I had planned, since last Friday, to start this installment with the telling of a night at Target Field that was so above and beyond anything Barbara and I had ever experienced at a ballgame it caused her to say, at the end of the night, “Great. Now we’re ruined” because the entire evening was a step into another world. And a very nice world it was.

This is a good audible, though, because I had called a run and the defense was stacked in the box to stop it, so I switched the play to a screen pass to exploit a better option. And it’s book related, of course. Omaha!

I had finished my second round of Galley edits by last weekend, although I let them sit and simmer for a couple of days just so I could get up on Monday and take one last look. Once I was fairly well convinced that we were good to go, one last nagging question kept tickling my brain. I’d been having a “there’s something amiss here” thought since the first Galley proof arrived a couple of weeks ago, but like a foggy idea that just wouldn’t come into focus, I couldn’t put my finger on it. And then I got it. Kind of by accident.

I was ready to submit the edits on Monday, but I went back to the first page of the PDF proof just to make sure my math was right on the page count. For the edits, Outskirts Press wants the number of the PDF page and the number of the line on that page, in which the edit will be made. With 42 lines on most pages, that can get a little dizzying at times as you try to start at the top and count down to the line you’re altering. The PDF page is important, due to the fact the page in the actual book that has a 1 at the bottom, otherwise known as Page 1, is actually the ninth page of the book, because copyrights, endorsements, forewords, and the table of contents don’t have page numbers. When I scanned past the Endorsement section a brick landed on my head when I finally figured out what was wrong.

I had kept a running file of all the endorsements received and updated it each time a new one came in. There are five on the back cover, and six on the third page of the proof, under a headline that reads “More Praise for Bats, Balls, & Burnouts” and that’s where the problem was finally solved. On my file of endorsements, the last two that arrived ended up being pasted “below the horizon” so that I couldn’t see them when taking a quick look. And, just to make it even more complicated, I kept two copies of the file for no good reason. And they weren’t the same.

When I pasted the endorsements onto the master file, which I submitted as my initial manuscript, I used the wrong file and the last two endorsements were left off. And they were great endorsements I was really proud to receive. This past weekend, I finally saw that they were missing but I couldn’t understand where they’d gone, and it took me a while to go back and figure it out. I also couldn’t quite figure out how to add them. The six endorsements that were printed on the interior page filled it. Any new ones were going to jump over to a new page, and I was worried that might mess up the directions for all my edits. After all, it would throw off the PDF page listings by one. It was a confusing conundrum.

For a while, my author’s rep at Outskirts didn’t quite grasp what I wanted to do, and she repeatedly asked me to actually resubmit the ENTIRE manuscript with the two additional endorsements added. That would, quite literally, mean starting completely over on the production phase. Finally, I asked her if she could just get with the page designer after my 50 final edits were made, and have that person insert the two additional endorsements manually. I think, as I sit here writing this today, that we’ll be able to do that. If we do all the edits first, it won’t matter if we add a page before them, because they’ll already be done. And, I suggested we move one or two of the original six to that second page, as well. Just to make it more visually appealing and balanced.

So, who were the two endorsements from? A highly respected author and a former professional soccer player. What the heck, here they are as this week’s “sneak peek” at the book.

“Bob Wilber provides an insider’s view of three professional sports—baseball, soccer and drag racing. As someone who played pro baseball and scouted prospects after his playing days, Wilber offers an engaging and humorous look into two aspects of the game that we seldom read about: the day-to-day life of minor leaguers and the unsung scouts who discover the talent we watch on major league baseball fields. His energetic “plow forward” approach to his many endeavors shines in his storytelling.” -Thom Henninger, author of “Tony Oliva – The Life and Times of a Minnesota Twins Legend”

“Bob Wilber’s indoor soccer stories are vivid, and bring back a lot of great memories from my playing days. His ability to write about baseball, drag racing, sports marketing, and life in general make those subjects just as riveting. Bats, Balls, & Burnouts is a great read for anyone.” -Greg Villa, former professional soccer player (outdoor and indoor) and former member of the U.S. Men’s National Team

Both gentlemen were kind enough to plow through a draft of the manuscript just to do that, so you can understand my respect for that and my dismay that I’d even allowed their blurbs to be clipped off the end of the page. I think we have it all fixed now, and I will not go to print without these two being included.

And now, the Galley proof is out of my hands again and back with the publisher. This time, it is my sole aim to approve the next proof and send it to be published. We’ll have a book soon. I’m not sure exactly when, in terms of number of days or weeks, but the process will move into its final stage. And as soon as I know when you can go online to order it, I will make that call. Omaha!!!

Yesterday, when we got this all sorted out and put the plan in place, I had yet another one of those magical moments where the enormity of it smacked me right in the back of the head. One second, I was working with my rep and exchanging emails about how we would make this fix, and after that was done and I hit “Submit” on my publishing page, I began to post something about it on Facebook when the tsunami washed over me. The book was done. Not the actual printing of it, but the writing and editing are officially done. That’s kind of a big deal.

I started the process around December 15, way back in 2015, with the Kickstarter campaign and the development of an outline. On January 6, 2016, I began writing. On October 20, or thereabouts, I finished the first draft of the full manuscript. It was long. Like really really long. Like so long Leo Tolstoy would’ve been proud (that’s your daily “War And Peace” reference, free of charge.) So Greg Halling and I spent nearly three months clipping and pruning, right down to individual words, much less paragraphs. And, I spent the money for “enhanced formatting” to keep the page count as low as possible. Once we had it as concise as possible (with a lot of good stories ending up on the floor) I submitted it. My little baby bird was out of the nest.

Now, after two full runs through it in Galley form, where I can see the book exactly like it will appear in print, I’ve sent it back for the final time. And, coincidentally, as I was typing that sentence I got an email from my rep with two questions about the edits I made. I had to take a minute there to fire off the answers.

Barring anything like having my own name misspelled on the cover, I’ve come to grips with being done with it. 16 months since the first day I began writing, more or less. Yeah, it’s kind of a big deal. We’ve all come this far together, and we’re almost there.

So, now let’s go back to the original play I called in the huddle. It was a big deal, as well, but in a totally different way. And a very pleasant and exciting way, too.

Yes, Friday night was our chance to sit in the Champion’s Club seats at Target Field. Now, keep in mind, I’ve been going to professional baseball games since I was in the womb. I remember details of games from when I was three and on my mom’s lap. I’ve sat in great seats, including the front row right behind home plate at both Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. In 1967 and 1968, when the Cardinals went to back-to-back World Series, my mother worked in the team’s front office. We had four season tickets right behind the plate in the fourth row.

Nothing in my past compares to the Champion’s Club at Target Field, with the Minnesota Twins. It’s that amazing. And thanks to Matt Koehnen and the very fine folks at Lexus of Maplewood, we got our chance to experience it. I’m not sure when we’ll get another chance, so I’m thrilled we got to do it.

It starts with valet parking. We drove right around the long lines of cars trying to get into the various parking structures near the ballpark, and instead turned down the street actually named Twins Way, where we pulled into a lot and had our Champion’s Club parking voucher scanned. Then we pulled forward to have two nattily attired young men leap to our assistance and take our car away. One even sprinted back out to it when I realized I’d left my jacket in the back seat.

Living large in the Champion’s Club (Click to enlarge)

From there, through a private security area to have our tickets scanned, and then through a private entrance to the club itself. The description “unbelievable” is overused, but it comes to mind. And, as we walked in we passed Tony Oliva, who was on the phone. Had he not been, I would’ve said hello. He remembers my father fondly.

The food, in the Champion’s Club, is absolutely top notch. We had prime rib, short ribs, salmon, and many other entrees and sides to choose from, and we chose small portions of most. The wait staff was never intrusive but always around, ready to go get anything we could dream up. When we were done enjoying the amazing cuisine and spectacular service, Barb said, “This isn’t like coming to the ballpark and eating hot dogs and peanuts,” and while I agreed I also said, “Yeah, but that stuff is great too. We might have to indulge anyway…”

As the first pitch neared, we passed through another private set of doors and were in the seating area, right behind the plate with our padded high-back chairs and a view of the game that was more than just up-close. We could hear the players talking, and the crack of the bat sounded just like it did throughout my younger years when I was with my dad and his teams.

Because… Prince night at the ballpark

It was a gorgeous night, although the temperature dipped a little below 60 as the game began. We’d seen a few other fans around us with big plush blankets on their laps and wondered where we had to go to get those. We didn’t have to go anywhere. The young lady who was in charge of taking care of everything for our small section of seats came by and delivered two. Yeah, that never happened to me before.

It was also a night the Twins honored Prince in multiple ways. The LED lights that shine on the underside of the Target Field roof were purple, as were the backgrounds on the big screen and scoreboard. Every half inning was punctuated with a different Prince song. It was pretty epic, and it made the treat of the club seats even better. On Friday night we partied like it was 1999.

And our girl who brought us the blankets was never far away and always looking to see who she could help, in any way. If the food in the club was great, the service in the seating area was off the charts. She even went and got us peanuts and a couple of hot dogs, dressed up just like we wanted them, and made sure we had water and drinks from the bar. And it was all included. I did tip everyone substantially, but that’s the only money that left my wallet.

Was it the Spring Solstice?

As some sort of sign that this was a perfect night, just as the sun began to set it shined through the gap between the upper deck and the artistic purple-illuminated roof and it shone directly on Minny and Paul, the two classic characters who have been part of the Twins logo since the club moved to the Twin Cities (from Washington) in 1961. My dad worked for the Twins then, and for the entire decade of the 60s, so I had plenty of Minny and Paul stuff around my childhood home.

When I looked up and saw the band of light spreading across the logo, I almost had to wonder if Target Field had actually been designed to align exactly with the sun on certain evenings. It was our own little version of Stonehenge. It was pretty impressive.

We enjoyed the game, a Twins win over the Tigers, cheered for our boys, enjoyed all the service, and basically just kept pinching ourselves.

We even stayed until the final out, which is a rarity in the Wilber world. Our father, the longtime scout who could see everything he needed to see in seven innings, usually had us on the way home after the seventh, to beat the crowd. This time, we stayed in our seats. When we finally left, we returned to the valet parking area to be greeted by a battalion of people eager to help. They were sprinting out to the parking area and pulling cars up to the multiple lanes constantly. Despite everyone from the Champion’s Club being there at once, our Lexus arrived in mere minutes. And yet another well-earned tip was given.

All of this adds up to Barb’s statement about us being ruined after having experienced this. We aren’t, and we’ll go back to being standard Flex Plan season ticket holders for the rest of the season, either walking up to the concession stands or waiting for the guy with the hot dogs or peanuts to come down our aisle, and we’ll enjoy it just as much as we ever have. Whether it’s the Champion’s Club or the bleachers, I still revel in every day or night at the ballgame, and we’re so very fortunate to have a place like Target Field to call our home “yard.” The Metrodome might have been a crazy place to play baseball, but it was our crazy place and we loved going to games there, as well. Target Field, though, is VERY special.

Baseball has, as I said above, been a part of my life since before I was born. It’s been a huge part of my life ever since, on the fields, in the dugouts, on the road trips, and in the clubhouses with first my dad’s teams and then my own. The best and closest friends I’ve ever had were baseball players. Drag racers and soccer players are great, too, and I have many dear friends from those sports, but there’s a bond among ballplayers that has been unique in my life. That’s why I’m holding a bat and wearing a Twins cap on the cover of my book.


Barbara grew up in Pittsburgh, and she followed the Pirates like any normal Pittsburgh sports fan, but baseball was nowhere near being central and essential to her life. Ever since we moved here, though, she’s been a very real and very loyal Twins fan. We always will be. I wanted to be a Twins fan since 1961 when our home in Kirkwood, Missouri began to fill with Twins coffee cups, note pads, ash trays, and TC hats. In 2002, we moved here and I was home. And now Barbara is home too. This smile says it all. It’s says contentment.

Anywhere we ever sit at Target Field will be just fine. I like spending at least a couple of innings just walking around, grabbing bites or drinks at the wide variety of places there are to do such things, and making a full lap of the park on the concourse that’s at the top of the box seats, walking all the way around the outfield and seeing the game from so many different perspectives.

But Friday night was pretty special. I’m not ruined. I’m better for having experienced it. It was a night that will be easy to remember, and the Prince tribute was heartwarming. We miss him, and Minnesotans are still having a hard time coming to grips with the fact he’s gone. His music will live forever. We, at least, have that.

Win Twins!

See you next week… And as always, if you liked this blog installment, please “Like” it by clicking the button at the top. The more likes the merrier!

Bob Wilber, at your service and about to be an author.

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