Zachary Newick ’12 will spend the next year traveling to minor-league baseball stadiums as a Martin Dale Fellow to do research for a novel — an outgrowth of his short story “Record Snowfall” — about a family affected by one member’s dream of making it in the big leagues.
What is it about baseball that attracts you as a writer?
Baseball, especially at the minor-league level, is interesting because it has people doing something that they’re not getting compensated very much for. You have these people who believe that the end goal is to be a star centerfielder on a major-league team, make millions of dollars. ... At this moment they’re doing something that’s the same act, but fundamentally different ... and they’re all just hoping. Really, it’s a way to look at America.
How did you choose places to visit?
I’m going to Tennessee, Lousiana, to immerse myself in their version of the big city — Nashville, Knoxville, New Orleans. But I want to see the small towns where they’re actually playing minor-league baseball because, theoretically, that’s where my characters would be living and working.
What will you be looking for?
The very young first-year players who think they’re on the way up and they’re only going to be playing in Nowheresville for a season, and the 29- to 35-year-old players who’ve been doing this forever.
What baseball experiences do you remember growing up?
I played shortstop [in Little League]. I remember that one time I made a diving catch on a line drive with the bases loaded — it had been error after error, walk after walk — and our whole stand erupted and gave me a standing ovation. It was partly sarcastic, because this is how you’re supposed to play baseball, but it was funny.
— Interview conducted and condensed by Fran Hulette