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Keeping it real

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Austin Gisriel holds “Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley,” which he wrote about the New Market Rebels and published through Augusta Free Press in Waynesboro in January 2010. In November, he published an ebook of short stories about baseball, “3 Tales from the Grand Old Game.” — Josette Keelor/Daily

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The cover of "Safe at Home," a nonfiction book about the New Market Rebels, by Austin Gisriel, is shown. — Josette Keelor/Daily

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The cover of “3 Tales From the Grand Old Game,” by Gisriel, is shown. — Courtesy photo

Author writes of New Market Rebels, storied coach

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

NEW MARKET -- When Austin Gisriel decided to write a book of short stories about baseball, he knew exactly where to start -- with Mo Weber, longtime coach of the New Market Rebels.

The story he wrote is fiction, but the coach he based on Weber is as real as Gisriel could imagine.

"The coach is dead in this story," Gisriel said, a fact that at first miffed Weber, who laughed it off, telling Gisriel that next time he bases a character on him to make it a live one.

Gisriel said he felt he could get to the true Weber by having the other characters in the story talk about him.

The book, "3 Tales from the Grand Old Game," came out as an ebook in November.
The first of the book's three stories, "I Love it Here in Indiana," is lighthearted even though it's about the aftermath of a beloved coach's death.

Remembering things that Weber has told him over the years about his baseball playing days, like "I led the league in stolen gloves," Gisriel said his friend was the perfect inspiration for his first short story.

Included in the 99 cents price of the ebook is a link to a recording Gisriel made of an interview with Weber.

"You get to meet the man behind the character," Gisriel said.

This is Gisriel's second book, and it's also his second analytical foray into the world of baseball. A lifelong fan of the game, Gisriel intends to keep writing about baseball, now working on a book about Boots Poffenberger -- "a real character," Gisriel said -- who pitched for the Detroit Tigers from 1937-39.

"His career kind of paralleled what was going on in the country at the time," Gisriel said, and he promises the story will make for an interesting read.

In his first book, published in January 2010 and then again as an ebook last spring, "Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley," is about the New Market Rebels' 2009 season.

"I had done an article on the entire Valley League in 2008," said Gisriel, a freelance journalist and former English teacher for Washington County Public Schools in Maryland.

He interviewed Valley League Executive Vice President C. Bruce Alger who later told Gisriel he'd always wanted to have a book written about the league.

Gisriel, who had been trying to begin a career as an author and found out about the Valley League while on vacation with his wife in 2002, decided the time was right to write his first book.

"I am a writer, I wouldn't call it a living," Gisriel said. His wife, Martha, who works for City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., has been supportive of his dream, Gisriel said.

"I had one of those Renaissance lives," he said. "She encouraged me to pursue [writing] and it didn't take much encouragement."

Researching his first book for accuracy was more fun than work, and he spent many days sitting in the dugout with the players learning as much as he could about the world of valley baseball.

He even has his own uniform, which he wore to appease a league rule that everyone in the dugout be in uniform.

Now on the board of directors, Gisriel travels from his home in Williamsport, Md., about once a month, a 90-mile drive each way.

He's also the director of publicity and a webcaster for the games, which are broadcast online.

Gisriel self-published his first two books, the first through Augusta Free Press in Waynesboro, and the second online.

He said working with Chris and Crystal Graham, owners of Augusta Free Press, was a great experience.

"They were able to read with an informed eye," Gisriel said. "It was the correct decision for sure."

"The problem is never the story, it's where to sell this," Gisriel said. "These stories are interesting to me and fun to do."

He figured a collection of short stories made sense to do after writing a nonfiction book, and in many ways, he said, writing fiction is more difficult than nonfiction because of the visual details he wanted to get right.

When writing about the Cleveland Indians' stadium, "I was thinking, 'Well, what was Cleveland's radio station?'"

Real baseball fans would notice details like that, he said.

"I wanted to give my audience the detail that I think they would enjoy," he said. "With fiction you're seeing it in your head. [In nonfiction,] you can't argue with the event that just happened, and the box score is your proof. To me, it's important to get that right."

• For information about Austin Gisriel or his books, visit www.austingisriel.com.

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