By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — Baseball fans have been getting revved up for opening day at Fenway Park, but there is another way area residents can get into the swing of things.
Lawrence Public Library has chosen the short story “Play of the Game” by Haverhill native Al Basile as this year’s citywide read for the library’s reading club and any groups or individuals who want to read it.
Mark Schorr, executive director of the Robert Frost Foundation came up with baseball as a theme for the citywide read. Louise Sandberg, archivist at Lawrence Public Library read three sports anthologies with 30 stories each to choose from.
“Ultimately I chose this one because it was less about playing baseball and more about human interaction between a man and his father,” Sandberg said.
“I got very emotional reading the story because of its content,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg, who has led a book club at the library for eight years, said the club will discuss the short story book. Basile himself will visit the last meeting of the book club April 22 at 6 p.m. at the El Taller clubhouse at 275 Essex St.
The short story is based in Haverhill about a father and son who bond at a Red Sox game. The story was published in “Further Fenway Fiction: More Short Stories from Red Sox Nation,” an anthology of stories edited by Adam Emerson Pachter in 2007.
“The reason why I chose Al’s story is because it really captured generational connections between Red Sox fans and how those ties mirror family strength through a shared passion of the Red Sox,” Pachter said.
Basile grew up on the grounds of Winnekinni Castle because his father Fred was park superintendent tree warden in Haverhill for more than 30 years.
An avid Red Sox fan, Basile remembers listening to the games on his transistor radio and playing ball on the castle grounds.
Basile, a 1966 graduate of Phillips Academy in Andover, said the story is loosely based on childhood experiences. He used poetic license to change circumstances about the characters and events in their lives.
“I wanted to base it in Haverhill to make it closer to my own experience,” Basile said. “When I write about family members, it’s a way of getting as close as I can to be with them.”
Lawrence Library, members of the Friends of the Library and the Robert Frost Foundation collaborated to print a 14-page booklet containing the short story. Cambridge College provided the funds for publishing the booklet.
The short story was translated into Spanish by Esteban Corniel with help from Suzanne Carey-Fernandez, Damaris Lamontagne, Rhina Espaillat and Jill Puleo.
“One of the things we thought of at the beginning was, ‘If this text was bilingual, it could be a real asset and a way of sharing it between an older immigrant generation and youngsters,” Schorr said.
“Even if they read it at home, they are sharing the same story and that can make for some interesting perspective,” Schorr said.
“More communities should forge a relationship between the library and other groups,” said Schorr, who is originally from Chicago.
He said Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley started “One Book, One Chicago” in 2001 and chose “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the inaugural read because the book changed his life when he read it in high school.
“By reading the same book, everyone is on the same page,” Schorr said. “It’s a way of sharing culture, leading people to the library and talking to others about a common experience and knowledge,” Schorr said it’s a good idea for residents to read one book.
“It focuses a community’s attention on something that has been taken for granted. The Red Sox are climbing back from a dramatic experience and we need a new wave of thinking about the team and rooting for them,” Schorr said.
While baseball is America’s favorite pasttime, books about it encourages people to read more.
“Literature can give them a special edge and connect a whole generation to baseball and its stories,” Schorr said. “Literature is a rehearsal for life. A good baseball story can prepare us for a good season or a bad season.”