Ebene Magazine – Baseball and Books: Josh Bell of the Nationals has two loves

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The first baseman reflects on the Josh Bell Book Club while living in town, which inspired his love of reading.

Long before Josh Bell ever walked on Half Street SE in Washington, he had been to the for years Capital of the United States of America thought. Decades in fact. These days, the Texas kid who plays the Washington Nationals’ first base closes the circle with one of his first non-baseball loves: reading.

Last week the franchise announced the launch of the Josh Bell Book Club, a monthly virtual event that offers a different selection each month through September. This idea grew out of his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who sold Bell to Washington on Christmas Eve 2020.

In Pittsburgh, his group was more focused on social justice. In June, he was among the panelists on the MLB Sponsored Round Table: Being Black in Baseball and America. In Washington, the goal is to communicate with adults, along with local libraries, in order to improve as individuals as a whole. « Books – Improvement – Progress » is the slogan that is as indicative of Bell’s personal growth as anything else.

« I got to the end of this book club, we read Just Mercy [the book by Bryan Stevenson], which later became a feature film with Michael B. Jordan, we read The New Jim Crow [by Michelle Alexander] and we get to The End of It and I thought, man, I raised myself, ”Bell recalled last month. “There are many problems with the world. What can I do? I’ve talked to my parents, talked to my girlfriend about it and they said why don’t you inspire others the way you are inspired? What are the books that made you what you are today? “

The first title in the series is The Mental Game of Baseball: A Guide to Excellence by HA Dorfman and Karl Kuehl, a book that examines the psychological toughness required to be successful in sport at the highest level be. His agent gave it to him when he first signed.

« I’m 19 years old and I play in the small leagues. We have 13-hour bus rides across the country, » he said of his first experience with the book, which will be presented at the first event on May 23rd. « This is my first time opening this book. And I’ve read it three or four times since then. I keep getting new copies and commenting on them again. » Family learned from educators. We’re talking about a guy who told big league teams to stay away from him when he was in high school because he was planning on going to college. That plan changed and years later he plays in the big leagues and trying to teach adults how to achieve their best selves.

« They call it the preferred library partner, which is wonderful. They asked if we were interested and I thought yes! » said Ted Kavich , the department head for administrative di from the Fairfax County Library System in Northern Virginia. “It seems like such a win-win situation, doesn’t it? Working with them is wonderful. “

In the region, the other group is the Prince George’s County Memorial Library system, which has worked with the Nationals for two seasons. When you think of library and programming, you usually focus on kids or maybe seniors – but other commonplace people who just love to read are just as part of this community as everyone else.

Nicholas A. Brown is the COO of communications and public relations for the system. He was impressed that not only did the Nationals do a lot of work in the community, from STEM training to food insecurity awareness, but that this idea came from Bell himself.

« It was really interesting too see how his story of the advent aligns with the stories of people living in our community here in Prince George’s County and in DC and Montgomery and beyond in Virginia, « Brown said. “It gives people a great opportunity to immerse themselves in self-improvement in a safe space. Throughout this series there will be various discussions such as leadership, achievement like this first book selection, and also topics like diversity and the like. « 

But for everyday citizens, this program seems to help. Bell’s trip to town actually began with a children’s book called Nightwalkers.

Myrtle Bell talks about what happened recently when she was looking for the book, that started her son’s love of literature.

« It’s about a little boy who befriends an elephant. His name is James, ”she explained. « The elephant’s name is Daisy. And Daisy would come to his window and he climbs on Daisy and they walk through the city. During their nightly walks through the city, he realizes that Daisy is looking for something. But what would an elephant in the streets of. » Looking for Washington? « 

She paused. At the time, she had only faintly remembered that her son’s favorite story was about a place where he lived and played, but when she read the book after the announcement of the Visiting clubs again it was a moving experience.

« I opened the book and there it was on the cover and it gave me chills all over the place and I’m getting it back now. »

Except for It is no coincidence, by the strange coincidence, that the former USA Today All-USA high school baseball team member is so focused and well-read. His mother is a college professor. There are more than a handful of his household and close family ia members. It’s in his blood. Bell’s conscious nature began in the womb.

« He’s watching. I was just starting a PhD program when he was born, ”noted Bell. “I worked full time and also went to school. And I would come home from class at 10:30 a.m. at 11:30 a.m. and take care of him. So he was always around books and studied and worked and thought. I really believe that he was in my womb when I was in school, could have influenced him in terms of his deliberate person. He’s really thoughtful. « 

The subject of the book is never lost to anyone. A young black man rides a zoo animal and takes shortcuts through Rock Creek Park to solve the various problems in life and explore the family dynamics of foster children and parents.

« Little black boy in pajamas riding on the back of an elephant. It’s a really absurd story, but it’s such a sweet story, » explained Myrtle Bell. « It’s about perseverance. That’s what Josh is about. you know, and about hope. And Family Importance is a perfect book for him. And it was in DC from all the places it should be -Foot, 240-pound bat books as a way to strangely spice up the routine in life, albeit in a relaxing way.

« Adult lives are so busy and so jumbled. And when we take some time to read, it can be both relaxing and educational. And I think that’s a great idea. I think it’s a great idea to involve adults who can then include their kids and other kids in their lives too, but kids model and see what you do. And that could also be another way of reaching children through the back door. “

James Cullen wants to be ready on game day. The Los Angeles native who moved to Fairfax County was like many MLB fans in the Washington metropolitan area: he went to the Baltimore Orioles games here and there, but when the Nationals hit town he was all in. The Sherwood Regional Librarian participated in the first game for the franchise at RFK Stadium in 2005. If you will, an OG Nats fan was selected to host the Bell Book Club’s first meeting with Bell.

« I’m a big baseball fan, big Nats. And second, I have some book club experience » « Cullen said. » I ran a book club here in one of the other branches. So it was a perfect thing for me. And I was very happy to accept. It’s new to me to work with a big organization like this, but me I’m happy about it. I think it’s great. I think baseball players and all athletes can be role models for everyone, not just for children or young people, but also for adults. « 

Sounds simple, but it’s true. Bell is not yet Got as far as he wanted, but that’s just part of the puzzle. Outside the ballpark, Bell is hoping to spread some love. There will be five installments of the club each Sunday night, presumably for all of the beautiful part of the calendar ers with everything done for the week, but nothing has started for the following week.

Bell is not a superstar. He competed as an All-Star in the Home Run Derby in 2019, but like many black players, he’s not exactly a household name as MLB doesn’t do that particular marketing brand well. But for the kid who left high school, this book club is a natural extension of something that could break the average stereotype of guys in the bus leagues.

It’s not all beer and pizza and rain delays in the lower levels of the game. Lots of people, knowing full well that paying a non-living wage might not pay the bills forever, or really never, maximized their time as much as possible, and Bell fitted just that.

« There were kids, I say Children, but there were people who went to school, like online, like the University of Phoenix, « Bell pointed out. “So we had people who really studied. We had like the back of the bus where we had our lights on. It would be 3 a.m., you couldn’t sleep. And then everything was over in front of the bus. “

And just like with minors, the journey is as much part of everything as the achievement. Bell is still a relatively young veteran, but his wisdom is evident. In a city like Washington, in a word, it’s incredible to have a tall black man with a dreadlock and a home team jersey preaching the value of reading. MLB should keep this in mind next time looking for someone to be highlighted to promote the game.

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« I think self-growth, self-empowerment, and self-improvement are something that are so important and kind of forgotten, » said Bell. « You’re so caught up in your day-to-day life and you come home and watch your shows and it’s like rinse and repeat. You wake up 10 years later. And you think, man, I’ve been doing this for so long. But for me I am I really strive to be a light in the world. « 

Clinton Yates is the flavor maker at The Undefeated. He likes rap, rock, reggae, R&B, and remixes – in that order.

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