Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 22, 2013

Author makes pitch to promote literacy

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — Marla McKenna was all smiles Sunday afternoon as she was joined by Nico Taylor and Chase De Jong of the Bluefield Blue Jays at a table where all three signed copies of her book, “Mom’s Big Catch,” prior to the start of the Blue Jay’s game against the Bristol White Sox.

“I was inspired to write the book by something that really happened to me at Miller Park six years ago,” McKenna said. “It’s a surprise ending, but you’ll have to read the book for that.”

McKenna lives in Waterford, Wisc., with her husband, Jerry, their two daughters, Julia, 14, and Ashley, 11, and their dog, Sadie. The family, with the exception of Sadie, were all at Bowen Field on Sunday distributing 350 copies of “Mom’s Big Catch” to fans thanks to the Bill Cole Auto Mall that sponsored her visit to Bowen Field as well as The Children’s Reading Foundation of Appalachia, who served as host of the visit.

“The Blue Jays were my first minor league team,” McKenna said of the book that is designed to be customized to please the fans of any baseball team. She flipped through the pages to show where logos of various teams could be switched out so young fans of the home team can identify with their teams. Also, there are a few places in the text of the book where the local home team can be added.

“This is my full-time job,” she said. “I go to the schools and teach kids to follow their dreams.”

After coming up with the idea, it took McKenna a couple of years to find a publisher who would work with her on the somewhat unique text-flexible format. The book was published by Tate Publishing & Enterprises, a Christian-oriented publisher that seeks to publish select unpublished authors.

“My whole message to kids is to follow their dreams and don’t give up,” she said. “The book promotes literacy, family and baseball.”

Taylor and De Jong appeared to be enjoying the time they got to sign autographs on the book for fans. “Today, I’m off,” Taylor said. “Dennis (Holmberg, Bluefield Blue Jay’s manager) gave me the day off because I’ve played four straight games, so this is nice.” Taylor grew up in Dallas, Texas, and was recently with the Blue Jay’s minor league club in Vancouver. “It’s a great city,” he said.

De Jong, a native of Long Beach, Calif., was glad to be playing in Bluefield. “My grandfather grew up in Mann,” he told a fan. “It was nice going up there to see where he grew up.”

Brenda Ward, executive director of the Children’s Reading Foundation of Appalachia, said that the foundation is active in Buchanan County, Va., to promote the idea of reading 20 minutes each day to a child, and also active in distributing books to young readers.

“We sponsored Ms. McKenna’s visit here last year,” Ward said. “We have distributed 15,000 books in Buchanan County, and we sponsor the reading in kindergarten program in the county. We provide all kinds of books for young readers to read.” She said that Buchanan County is currently the only county in Virginia that received a federal grant from the Children’s Reading Foundation to promote the reading program.

McKenna said that her book also promotes the “Give a Dog a Home” program through the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation that strives to make sure that every animal they rescue gets a second chance at a happy life and a loving forever home. She said that partial proceeds from the sale of “Mom’s Big Catch” go to the foundation. She said that the singer, Rick Springfield, and his family, provide a matching grant to the foundation for the donations generated by the book sales.

Visit www.marlamckenna .com to learn more about the book and the foundations that it helps.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com