Baseball writer Charlie Vascellaro and children's book illustrator Kevin O'Malley have talked for the last several years about working on a book project together at Grand Cru wine bar in Belvedere Square, where Vascellaro worked as a bartender.
After some failed attempts, such as a book on baseball vocabulary, they settled on an idea for a publication to help kids understand everything that goes on at the ballpark.
An illustrated and interactive notebook for young and new baseball fans, "At the Ballpark: A Fan's Companion" is a comprehensive how-to guide that illustrates the entire experience of watching, understanding and enjoying baseball for young readers.
"Kevin and I share a lifelong romance with baseball," Vascellaro said. "Not enough kids are coming to the parks, and we need to do a better job of keeping them engaged. I remember when the World Series was played in the daytime and televisions being wheeled into the classroom. Pinball was the only game we had growing up."
The book ($10, and currently available on Facebook) contains an entertaining and visually enticing mix of factoids, trivia, vocabulary, quizzes and illustrations designed to provide a richer baseball experience for the new fan. There's also a nod to Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First?"
"It starts at the beginning -- how do you get to the park? It becomes a virtual guided tour of the ballpark," Vascellaro said. "The book keeps you engaged in the ebb and flow of the game. We want kids to keep their eyes on the ball."
From where to park the car or pick up the train to definitions of phrases, such as "can of corn" and an "eephus pitch," to explaining the statistics on the scoreboard and the dimensions of the outfield, "At the Ballpark" serves to help the next generation of fans learn about the game.
And did you know that baseballs have 108 stitches?
O'Malley's player cartoons and ballpark sketches -- especially Fenway Park, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Wrigley Field -- are entertaining, expertly drawn and greatly enhance the content.
Vascellaro hopes the package will bring more kids to the ballpark.
"Kids have so many choices today, and we're not doing a good enough job," Vascellaro said. "The new commissioner has a youth initiative, and I'd like to work with Major League Baseball to get this book into every ballpark in the country. Ideally, I'd like to see it given away."
Vascellaro grew up a New York Mets fan who has converted to the Orioles during the last 18 years. His dream is to see the Mets and Orioles meet again one day in the World Series, as they did in 1969, when New York won it's "Amazin'" world championship.
O'Malley, meanwhile, has illustrated more than 70 children books.
"I do the talking, and Kevin does the drawing," Vascellaro said.
Their time spent brainstorming the book at Grand Cru holds a special place in their hearts, because owner Nelson Carey passed away suddenly last year.
"We shared our project with Nelson," Vascellaro said. "Grand Cru was, like, working on the TV show ‘Taxi.' He graciously created an environment that allowed Kevin and I to conceive the book during business hours."
A successful Kickstarter campaign funded the first 1,000 copies, and the environmentally conscious volume comes with a pen for children to take the quizzes and fill in the game details.