CLINTON -- Author Lucas Mann calls his first book, “a happy accident.” The now 26-year-old former non-fiction provost of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop loves baseball, and in a state like Iowa -- with five minor league teams to choose from -- the land is swimming with story lines.
Why, then, did Mann choose the Clinton LumberKings for his first novel?
“Everything about Clinton just seems really interesting,” Mann said. “The fact that the team has survived when a lot of larger towns have lost teams, that was really intriguing to me.
“I wanted to be as open as possible to where this story would take me. The history of Clinton is even invoked in the team’s name.”
With “Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere” hitting bookstores nationwide, the world may have insight into the inner workings of the team right up the street.
It’s a book that Mann hopes strikes a chord with the local fans. He spent months among them in the summer of 2010, a memorable and record-setting year for the LumberKings as they made a historic run in the Midwest League postseason to a five-game championship series.
But Mann’s focus isn’t just on the field. In just the first few pages, readers experience life beneath Louie the LumberKing’s costume; nine innings on the third baseline with decade-long ticket holders; trips through the clubhouse and on road trips to know the minds under the ball caps.
“It’s not just a cheerful life in the minors portrayal,” Mann said, adding he also delves into the history of the town, and economic and industrial issues Clinton faced during his stay. “The stuff that really interests me is the stories of people’s lives.
“I think I got lucky in so many ways. The players and the management that were there was such an interesting sort of group.”
Many of those mentioned still come to watch and are part of the LumberKings organization. In the acknowledgements section, Clinton general manager Ted Tornow is the first name mentioned.
“He was a young man who had this idea,” Tornow said. “When he came into my office with that idea, I hought here’s a young guy trying to make it... what a great idea. He basically became a member of our staff.”
According to Tornow, nothing was off limits for the recent Masters grad. He hasn’t read the book yet, but added, “What I’ve gotten from it is that he melded the club, this team and the city together well.”
“Class A” can be found at national book chain stores and locally at the Clinton LumberKings office at Ashford University Field. Mann added he didn’t expect so much acclaim to come, but in the first month since it hit stores, he’s been reviewed by several national publications.
“It’s been really surprising,” he said. “It was a book that meant a lot to me, but I expected it to be ignored by and large.”
As for his next literary work, Mann said he’s contemplating more non-fiction and is interested in writing about his family.