When Detroit Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander was a child growing up in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia, he and his father would often play catch in the yard, which lay adjacent to a pond. On one of those occasions, Verlander’s father, Richard, told him that if he practiced hard enough, he would someday be able to throw a rock clear across the pond. His father threw first, hurling his rock three-quarters of the length of the pond before splashing down in the water. Justin took his turn and launched his rock clear across the pond, hitting a tree on the opposite side and rolling back into the water. He was ten years old.
That experience, along with many others, is what inspired the parents of American League Cy Young Award winner and Most Valuable Player of the Year Justin Verlander to write Rocks Across the Pond, a perspective on the joys and pitfalls of raising a young, up-and-coming star athlete.
The Siena Heights University Bookstore, which is managed by Barnes & Noble College, recently partnered with the University to host Richard and Kathy Verlander to promote their new book. The book signing was followed by a presentation and discussion about parenting, their son Justin, and highlights of the Tiger’s 2012 season and World Series appearance against the San Francisco Giants.
According to Siena Heights University Bookstore Manager Deb Flint, the event was made possible through a connection between the Verlander’s book and the family of an SHU student. The cover of Rocks Across the Pond features a photo of Justin fist-bumping young fan Dallas Bolster at Comerica Park. That fan is the brother of SHU student and baseball player, Derrick Bolster. The Verlanders reached out to the Bolsters for permission to use the photo and ended up befriending the family and making the mother, Renee Bolster, their publicist.
The book signing was originally scheduled to take place in October, but was rescheduled because the Tigers had made it into the World Series. Flint said this allowed more time to coordinate and promote the event to students and the surrounding community. The book signing was advertised on the SHU daily announcement emails as well as posters and TV displays throughout campus. “There was a lot of buzz on campus about it,” Flint said. “We are a small campus, so word tends to spread very quickly.”
The first step in coordinating the event was securing copies of Rocks Across the Pond. “We had to locate enough copies of the book, which usually is a pretty straightforward process,” Flint said. “But we really had to be proactive because the Tigers were doing so well going into the World Series that the book was in high demand.”
The bookstore also teamed up with the SHU Office of Student Engagement to help publicize the event. Gabe Dunbar, Director of Student Engagement, said Barnes & Noble did an amazing job of procuring resources for the book signing. “Anything that we needed would show up a couple days later,” Dunbar praised. “It was very convenient for us. Barnes & Noble handled all the sales and the books, so we didn’t have to worry.”
A crowd of enthusiastic fans lined up early to meet the George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award winners, pose for a photo and receive a signed copy of their book. Many stayed for the presentation that followed.
“The fans were thrilled to meet the Verlanders and hear them speak,” Flint recalled. “It ended up being as much about raising a quality kid as it was about raising Justin. Richard incorporated enough general advice that I think there was a takeaway for all of the parents in the audience about how they should support their kids, help them with their dreams and help them become a better person, whether they end up becoming a professional athlete or not.”
The Siena Heights University Bookstore seamlessly coordinated the event using a small team to win great results. Flint said that she would encourage other small schools, especially small private schools, to organize events like this on their own campuses, even if it may seem daunting.
“If an opportunity like this comes up, don’t shy away from it. Figure out how you can execute it on your campus,” Flint advised. “If you reach out to your campus community, you can absolutely get it done and it will end up being a real win-win for everybody.”