The game of baseball has been uniting fathers and their children for decades upon decades upon decades.
There are actually many similarities between America’s pastime and the calling experienced by a man in becoming a father. Luckily for us baseball die-hards – and new fathers – a local Catholic author has written the “playbook” for men to realize their fatherly calling through this great game.
Just in time for Father’s Day, Ozone Park native Jimmy Walters released his new book, “Batter Up: Answering the Call of Faith and Fatherhood,” published by New City Press. The book is a home run for dads, as it helps men discern their unique vocation as fathers while encouraging them to seek a closer relationship with God. “Batter Up” has already received high praise from notable figures in the baseball community.
“‘Batter Up’ is an inspiring book for dads of all ages and all baseball fans,” said former New York Mets manager Bobby Valentine. “James Walters’ stories and spiritual insights demonstrate his love of fatherhood and baseball. You will find in this book an invitation to live your calling as a father with greater joy and passion.”
“Every father who handed down the game of baseball to the next generation owes Jimmy Walters a debt of gratitude for this love letter to them and his God,” said Sirius/XM radio host Ed Randall. “The timing of this book for our troubled world is impeccable.”
Walters grew up attending elementary school and playing Catholic Youth Organization sports at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ozone Park. He later became a youth minister at St. Mel, Flushing, and went to St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows, and St. John’s University, Jamaica.
His connection to his Catholic faith through his schooling led him to pursue a career in campus ministry at St. John’s. As the director of the university’s Catholic Scholars Program and Residence Ministry, he is responsible for leading 30 students each year through a faith-based leadership program to help them discover how they can use their God-given talents to benefit themselves and others.
“Batter Up” is Walters’ second book. His first, “Dreams Come True: Discovering God’s Vision for Your Life,” was based upon his work with the St. John’s Catholic Scholars Program. This book serves as a spiritual workbook – complete with step-by-step guides and reflection questions – to help people understand their gifts and talents.
In true baseball fashion, “Batter Up” is broken down into nine chapters – synonymous with the nine innings of a baseball game. For Walters, an avid Mets fan and baseball savant, connecting baseball and fatherhood was as “natural” as Roy Hobbs’ sweet lefty swing.
“Just like with fatherhood, in baseball there’s always something that could happen that you’ve never seen before,” Walters said. “That was an inspiration in writing this book.”
The book-writing process was rather smooth for Walters, the proud father of daughters Shea and Lily. His youngest, Lily, was born in May 2020 – right during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With lockdowns in place, Walters was able to devote time to writing – and even had a special helper.
“Most of the first draft was written with my newborn on my shoulder,” he said.
Though he originally expected this second book to be a prayer guide for expectant fathers, a tragic moment changed the book’s trajectory. His wife, Suzie, experienced a miscarriage during the writing process, so he decided to incorporate this moment as a means of healing for any expectant fathers going through the same tragedy.
Just like baseball is a team game, overcoming challenges as a father can be a team effort too. Sometimes men are reluctant to share their feelings, yet Walters allows men the opportunity to feel a sense of solidarity through language that many of them understand quite well: baseball.
“I found writing very prayerful and spiritual as it allowed me to reclaim my vocation as a dad,” he said. “I used the metaphor of baseball and the stories of my faith to highlight this vocation of fatherhood as a calling from God. It truly wrote itself. It was very much a process of prayer.”
Walters also relies upon the writings of other Catholic authors to tie his story together. His goal is for fathers and soon-to-be fathers to feel the connection not just to professional baseball players but to other dads who share these same loves.
“If reading this they are able to reflect on their own love they’ve received and the love that they’ve given, I think that’s beautiful and powerful,” he said. “I hope readers think about their own stories about how sports connected them with their parents and their friends and just be in a place of gratitude for those experiences in their lives.”
Fatherhood is undoubtedly a privilege. Through his writing, Walters shows that from the very “first pitch” of being a dad – aka the birth of their child – fathers have an important role to play in guiding their children in the faith.
“Batter Up” will make for a great post-Father’s Day gift. You can order the book online by visiting Amazon.com and searching for the title and author.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.