Kenny Arena is a writer and baseball fan still in mourning over his New York Mets losing the World Series to the Kansas City Royals. His novel "Third Base ... A Love Story" deals with a fictional Mets third baseman (sorry, David Wright fans!) who is gay and falls for Jake, loosely based on Arena.
I asked Arena to talk about the book, why it has a baseball theme and why it's a Mets player who is gay.
"The idea to write "Third Base ... A Love Story" came to me one day when I was thinking about how awful I was at playing baseball as a kid," Arena said. "As far back as I can remember I had a connection with baseball and The Mets. I grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, minutes away from Shea Stadium. So visits to the cheap seats happened quite often. There was a love, a fascination and a connection with baseball.
"That meant the first chance I could I was trying out for Little League. I’m not sure how tryouts work these days but back then if you showed up, you made the team. I wanted to play third base but I guess right away the coach could see he better put me in left field where I could do as little damage as possible.
"I stumbled when catching, struck out when I was a bat and never felt like I fit in. And my desire to play didn’t last very long. It was a real bummer back then, but looking back on it made me laugh and also made me wonder. Why exactly wasn’t I any good at it? I loved the game, I put in the effort , but there was something that never clicked.
"Was it that there were no gay sports role models to look up to? To see that you can be gay and still be a bad ass on the field. Were there even any gay baseball players? Or was it not meant to be for a completely different reason that I didn’t know? Those questions lead me to write this story. The story that was going to be about this kid who loved baseball but for the life of him couldn’t play very well, turned into trying to explain why.
"In the story, many years later, Jake is that little kid all grown up and winds up meeting Danny Reynolds, the third baseman for the Mets. Instantly that connection he had to baseball comes back. Along with a strange connection he has with Danny. And as it turns out Danny is having it with him. Their lives start to go very quickly in a direction neither was expecting.
"I wanted to have an established baseball player come out. I wanted it to be a star player and he had to be on the Mets. I didn’t want to push an agenda but I did want to make these points:
"That even though celebrities and professional athletes have a right to privacy and whether or not they choose to be, they are role models for someone and could make a difference to someone’s life’s path. Choose wisely.
"It’s likely that things really do happen for a reason (whether we find out or not) and sometimes getting answers just takes a little longer than we would like.
"And a baseball love story is hot."
Arena is an events and web content manager for a museum, and is a DJ at night. I have not had an chance to read the book (which you can buy here) but I agree with Arena that a baseball love story is hot.