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August is a great month for baseball and if you’re a fan of the sport then we’ve got the perfect book to add to your summer reading list.
Big League Dream: The Sweet Taste of Life in the Majors (Mountain Arbor Press May, 2017) by Roy Berger is a book for baseball lovers. Berger, a businessman by day and a writer by instinct, takes the reader behind the scenes for up close and personal stories from some of the legends of the game from the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.
His dream as young boy was to be a professional baseball player but like many young boys with this dream, life led him in a different direction and he went on to become a successful businessman instead. Then at the age of 57, Berger put on a major league uniform for the first time when he acted on his dream and signed up to attend a fantasy baseball camp run by former major league players. This Yankees and Pirates super fan has now been to 11 camps and counting. Berger used this opportunity to help change the way society looks at getting older, exemplifying AARP’s Disrupt Aging concept by redefining expectations in an effort to live a longer, healthier life. In a conversation with AARP Member Advantages Insider he talks about living out his lifelong dream and how doing this inspired him to write not one but two books.
Member Advantages Insider (MAI): You called Big League Dream “the book I’m not writing” – what made you think of it that way?
Roy Berger (RB): After (my first book) The Most Wonderful Week of the Year was published in 2014, I'd 'been there and done that' as far as writing a book was concerned. The Most Wonderful Week is a satire about a 57 year-old finally wearing a major league uniform. When I got the walk-off base hit at Yankee camp in November of that same year and my longtime friend and college classmate from the '70s, Cathy Dorricott, saw the picture and expression on my face she told me "there's the cover of your next book." I told her I wasn't writing another book. Yada, yada and yada, the book was released two months ago.
MAI: How long did it take you to write the book? How did you fit this in with your “day job” as CEO of Medjet?
RB: The actual writing, which included the interviews, research and stories took about a year. It would have been a lot less if I didn't have a 'day job'!
MAI: Clearly writing is one of your passions as is baseball. What was the most surprising thing you learned about yourself in writing this book?
RB: Probably how much I enjoyed doing the research, which returned me to the days when I was a kid and a baseball fanatic. Some of the old names and situations brought me back to innocence and a love affair with the game when that was all that mattered in a young boy’s life.
MAI: What surprised you about your experience at your first camp and what keeps you going back year after year?
RB: I had a flight booked to go home the day after the 2010 Pirates camp began. But I got swept into a world that was make believe in many, many ways. I was wearing a baseball uniform again; I was with ex-ballplayers I worshipped growing up and I could throw and run better than most of them. However, most importantly, I was with a fraternity that wanted to do nothing other than have a good time. There was no bickering, no off-the-field rivalry -- it was pure good times. And it also brought back my old rusty writing passion as I started blogging to a select audience each night during camp that ultimately resulted in two books and a public blog at royberger.com. And perhaps the biggest surprise was never in my wildest day of dreaming as a kid or a 50 year-old would I have ever imagined a day where I could approach two of my heroes – Bill Mazeroski, a Hall of Famer, and Bucky Dent, and ask them to write Forewords to my books and have them without hesitation agree.
MAI: Is there a moral of this story overall?
RB: So many. I don't mean to be trite but the main one for me was to never give up on my dream. I dreamt about being a major league ballplayer when I was ten and finally put on the uniform 47 years later. It would have been much easier on me physically (and financially) to just forget about it, but the realization of the dream has turned into a lifestyle and now lifetime passion.
MAI: What overall message do you want your readers to take away from reading the stories of these legends and your decision to take a leap and follow your passion to go to camp?
RB: No matter what it is, it's not impossible if you have the drive to pursue. Playing with the Yankees and Pirates legends of my youth, even in my late ‘50s and ‘60s is beyond what I ever could have imagined even if I can't get back up again after going down for a ground ball, not to mention the vertigo I get trying to catch a pop-up!
MAI: What would you say to AARP members who might be on the fence to pursue their dream and maybe feel that age comes with limitations or labels?
RB: It's nonsense. There is a place for everyone to chase their dreams. We have guys (and gals) who come to fantasy camp and maybe can't play the way they used to but nobody really cares. It's great just being there, interacting, laughing and the memories shared and created. We had a guy at Pirates camp two years ago, he was 81 and scheduled for open heart surgery the next week. He caught every inning of every game. The body and mind are incredible and can take us places we can't even imagine!
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