Below is a Q&A with Joseph Sutton, author of The YEARS the Giants Won the Series: A Fan’s Journal of the 2012 and 2010 World Series Seasons. Drawn from his personal journal, Joseph Sutton’s observations of the San Francisco Giants’ climb to win two World Series will remind you over and over again how a bunch of ragtag ballplayers in 2010 and a band of young ballplayers in 2012 became champions of the world against all odds. Interspersed with comments from his notes of twenty years ago as Little League coach for his young son Ray’s teams, Sutton enhances the importance that baseball plays in cementing relationships between fathers and sons, and some daughters too…
1. How do you think sports can bring parents closer to their kids?
Coaching my son brought both thrills and frustration. Thrills when he made winning hits, great plays in the field or when he stole a base. Frustration when he got down on himself or was mired in a bad slump. That’s when I learned that I had to be more patient with him. The memory of going through the hard times and good times together will always be with us. Even though my son is now 32, we still reminisce about those days.
2. Can watching the ups and downs of baseball help parents guide their children?
Baseball can teach children that there are good days and bad, glorious times and bumps in the road, and that sometimes things don’t go the way you want. Baseball, to me, is such a great symbol of life itself.
3. Does the concept of teamwork help in parents’ relationship with their children?
Teamwork is so important in sports, and especially at home with the family. Teamwork is sharing the workload and supporting each other. Teamwork makes for a happy team and a happy family.
4. You wrote that it takes “talent, fortitude, determination, perseverance, and luck to reach the majors.” Do you believe it takes the same to be a good parent?
By all means it takes all those qualities to be a good parent. I would add another word to that list: PATIENCE. Sometimes I was impatient with my son. Although a parent’s poor judgment can’t change the past, he or she can surely learn from it.
5. As a former college athlete, what do you think is the biggest challenge to success?
The biggest challenge is having confidence in your athletic ability. If you do well your confidence rises, helping you to succeed. If you don’t do well, you lose confidence and get splinters sitting on the bench. I’ve experienced both!
There’s a famous line in the movie that Kevin Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, an Iowa corn farmer, keeps hearing—“If you build it, he will come.” It took Costner the whole movie to find out that if he built a baseball field next to his cornfield, it would bring his father back in his life. Baseball is symbolic of how fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, can connect and bond with each other.
7. Of all of the feedback your writing has received, including from a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, what are the highlights of your writing career?
The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner was William Saroyan. I met and talked to him twice before he passed away in 1981. He was my mentor. There were many times I doubted whether I should keep writing because of all the rejections I received. For some crazy reason I never gave up, and finally, it paid off. Also, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d publish ten books.
8. How did teaching in South Central L.A. impact your latest book?
That was my first and most memorable teaching experience. Coaching my son and his teammates became an extension of teaching. I’m a teacher at heart. A teacher wants to help his students gain self-confidence and knowledge about the world in general.
9. It took 20 years to get your first book published. What did you learn from that?
I learned never to give up on something that I loved to do. My advice to other writers is this: If you have a passion to write, no matter how gloomy things might seem to you, something will come of your writing if you keep at it, if you keep persevering.
10. Out of all the books you have written, which is one of your favorites?
My favorite book is probably my first published novel: Morning Pages: The Almost True Story of My Life. It’s about a writer trying to break out of a writer’s block and little does he know he’s broken out of his block and is writing a novel. Writing Morning Pages was a revelation to me in that it didn’t take me as long to write and wasn’t as tortuous to write as my first three fiction books. Ever since, I’ve become more confident in my writing ability. Confidence, whether in sports or writing, is so important to have.
11. Have you already figured out what your next book will be?
I’m almost finished with two books. One is a collection of short stories. The second details my experience of losing 50 pounds. It’ll be a thin book about my becoming thin.
12. Besides helping readers relive the highlights of The Giants champion years, what is the main message you’d like people to take away from your book?
The Giants realized that there was no “I” in team in those two winning seasons, and that a team working together is more important than individual statistics, agendas and egos. Another important element to their success was their “never-say-die” attitude.
My message for including my baseball relationship with my son is to show how baseball can cement relationships between fathers and sons, and daughters, too. I also wanted to show how America’s favorite pastime brings generations closer together.