When writing about Minor League players, it's easy to define them in strictly baseball terms. Using that criteria, Tony Mansolino is a 25-year-old utility man in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. A Vanderbilt product, he was drafted in the 26th round of the 2005 Draft, and is currently suiting up for the Class A Advanced Lynchburg Hillcats.
But if one looks beyond such perfunctory biographical data, they will discover the following bit of information about Mansolino: in addition to his accomplishments on the playing field, he is also a children's book author.
Mansolino's debut work is "Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go," a bittersweet and ultimately uplifting story that details the struggles and triumphs of career Minor Leaguer Rock Rogers. The book, which features color illustrations by Memphis-based artist Lauren Tague, is available for purchase from Mansolino's own Play Ball Publishing.
It goes without saying that active Minor League players rarely, if ever, publish children's books. Therefore, we here at MiLB.com felt that it would a most worthwhile endeavor to speak with Tony about his literary pursuits.
MiLB.com: When, and why, did you make the decision to undertake such an unorthodox project?
TM: While substitute teaching in January 2007 I decided I wanted to do something that would provide some extra income, keep me busy during the in-season down time, and help me give back to the baseball community. I had always enjoyed writing as a child and I wanted to educate baseball fans on how difficult the Minor Leagues can be. Consequently, I came up with the idea to write a children's book about Minor League Baseball because so much of the Minor League theme is geared towards families and children.
MiLB.com: In a nutshell, what is "Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go" about? What is the significance of the title?
TM: "Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go" was written during the 2007 season while on long bus rides and in cramped clubhouses. The story is about a fictitious player named Rock Rogers who finally breaks through and makes it to the Majors after a long Minor League career. Over the course of the story, the reader is given an insider's perspective of a Minor League season.
The title "Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go" represents the idea that playing in the Major Leagues is not just a dream for a select few -- it is our nation's dream. Generation upon generation of children grow up dreaming of putting on a Major League uniform. Thus, "The Dream" continues to come and go, generation after generation.
MiLB.com: Who is the book's target audience?
TM: This story is geared towards children between the ages of five and 12. However, I have had a very positive response from adults who have read the story. For example, Craig Biggio read it and liked it so much that he had me send him a team set of the book, because he wanted the high school team he works with to read it.
MiLB.com: Is Rock Rogers modeled after any particular ballplayer? Would you consider the book to be autobiographical in any way?
Rock represents a melting pot of Minor League experiences and stories, including those of my coaches, colleagues, baseball icons, and former and current teammates. Through the character of Rock Rogers I wanted the public to see what it's like for a Minor League player who isn't necessarily a top prospect. Not everyone plays for the money or the fame -- most guys play simply because they love the game.
In no way is this story autobiographical. However, when it is all said and done I would have no problem playing out a similar career to that of Rock Rogers himself, but hopefully it won't take 12 seasons and minus all the surgeries!
MiLB.com: How did your collaboration with illustrator Lauren Tague come about?
TM: Lauren is a paramedic firefighter in Memphis. She is also my older brother's girlfriend. When I decided to self-publish, my brother approached me and recommended Lauren. She was eager and offered her services and I decided to give her the opportunity. Despite limited knowledge about baseball, she was able to convey the Minor League scene very well.
MiLB.com: You not only wrote the book, but you started your own publishing company as well. How did you go about doing this, and what sort of challenges did you face as a result of taking this do-it-yourself approach?
TM: When I originally set out to get this book published I had no idea how tough it was to break in with a traditional publisher. As a first time author, publishing houses do not take you seriously unless you have some sort of connection, connections which I did not have. Therefore, I established Play Ball Publishing in order to produce this book. I cold-called professionals within the industry but eventually I was able to create a blueprint of what it would take to publish this book. The biggest challenges I faced were finding the right people to do the design of the book, the illustrations, editing, and now the advertising and marketing seems to be an on-going project. Over the course of the offseason I was able to execute my plan by contracting out the majority of the work. Thanks to many kind people, such as my designer John Reinhardt, I was able to get the book pieced together just the way I wanted it.
MiLB.com: The back cover of "Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go" includes quotes from Ernie Harwell, Craig Biggio, and David Eckstein. How did you get these big-name endorsements?
TM: Fortunately my father [Doug Mansolino, currently the Philadelphia Phillies Minor League infield coordinator] has been in professional baseball for a total of 24 seasons, and he is well liked and respected amongst his peers. He called ahead and asked all three guys if they would mind taking a look at the story. They did and emailed me their responses. All three guys are absolute class acts and have been extremely helpful and supportive.
MiLB.com: A portion of the proceeds of "Dreams Will Come" will be donated to the Bruce Kaye Brain Tumor Foundation. What is the significance of this organization to you?
TM: Bruce Kaye was the father of a friend and former college teammate of mine, John Kaye. After a brain tumor claimed Mr. Kaye's life, John and his family established the Bruce Kaye Brain Tumor Foundation. The foundation provides terminally ill brain tumor patients a chance to live longer than expected. They finance a unique treatment schedule that allows those who are given only weeks to live an opportunity to live years longer than expected. What the Kaye family has been able to do with this foundation in such little time is absolutely incredible. Their desire and determination to help out those in need is inspiring. Donating a portion of the proceeds is the least I can do.
MiLB.com: At the end of "Dreams Will Come, Dreams Will Go," Rock Rogers has just gotten his first taste of the Major Leagues. Is this the culmination of his story, or would you ever consider a sequel?
TM: By no means is this the end of Rock Rogers' career. Maybe Rock will stick in the bigs, or maybe he will get sent back to the Minors. I have no idea what will happen with this character, but I am very excited about the possibilities.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.