People in the region may know Muenster’s Brent Loehr from his involvement in local sports. But now he’s getting a bigger audience with the publication of his new book, The Global Baseball Classroom – Reflections Beyond Home.
“The subject matter varies from experiences with Inuit and African culture, a solemn walk through a concentration camp, the possibilities of a message in a bottle, etc. Locally, there are pieces about the riot that occurred in Saskatoon after the Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series, the Babe Ruth baseball that Father Mathew had in his care for decades at St. Peter’s Abbey, and following the careers of Saskatchewan big leaguers,” Loehr said. “For me, a little round ball has stitched acquaintances together from all over the world providing an opportunity to travel across three continents with lifelong friendships in five.”
Loehr has been a teacher with Horizon School Division for 16 years and has been in Muenster all his life, barring travel for work and when he went to college. He’s pretty much a baseball expert: he’s coached with programs like Team Saskatchewan, Western Canada Games, and the Baseball Canada Cup, and provided coach certification clinics. He was named an MLB Envoy Coach and represented Major League Baseball International in places like Uganda, Zimbabwe, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Sweden. While traveling, he also posted his writing on a blog.
“If I was delayed in posting my travels I would sometimes get emails saying, ‘Please fill us in. Keep writing this stuff. It is interesting.’ A lot of that came from people who were not hardcore baseball fans because I was writing about things other than the game,” he said.
When he decided to stop traveling and settled down, he had to think about his future plans. He thought about coaching for an American team and getting his Masters, but decided to start writing instead. He signed up for the St. Peter’s College writing diploma program.
“I enrolled and starting writing. I wrote. And I wrote. I received some encouraging feedback. It became a series of fortunate events after that,” he said.
His experience at St. Pete’s helped him get into the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Mentorship Program, where he got advice and feedback from a professional editor, who pushed him to submit pieces for publication. A lot of the pieces in the book were published in magazines prior to the book’s publication.
Loehr worked on the book in his off time, so he had to figure out how to fit everything in. However, he said he’s a night owl and his children were good sleepers, so he wrote into the night as well as on weekends.
“Time is our most valuable commodity. I pulled back from some things. I thought, ‘Do I really need to attend this function?’ or ‘Do I really need to watch a re-run of this TV show?’ I drilled it through my head that I didn’t have to be involved with something simply because someone else wanted me to or that I felt I should be involved,” he said. “People who say they don’t have time for things drive me nuts. The clock has the same amount of hours, seconds, and minutes on it for everyone … it is a matter of how you choose to spend that time that is the difference. It is up to me how I spend that time.”
In addition, he said his wife was supportive and gave him time alone to work on it. While writing, he would sometimes bounce ideas off of people but says he tends not to share a lot while he’s writing.
“I read some excerpts to students when it fit in and they at least pretended that they enjoyed them,” Loehr said.
When he wrote for magazines, he said sometimes he would have people tell him they liked the articles before they saw who they were by, which was encouraging to him.
He describes the publishing process as “A learning experience in itself.” There was interest when he started shopping the manuscript but there were still some issues.
“I had a few rounds with a very big Canadian publisher in particular and made it through some hoops with them. Eventually it went to their marketing department who said that the content wasn’t controversial or shocking like a Theo Fleury book or that I didn’t have a familiar name like Wayne Gretzky,” he said. “That I don’t is the whole point. Why can’t a book be positive? I didn’t play Major League Baseball. I am a regular person from small-town Canada. I used that as fuel.”
Eventually, a publisher out of New Jersey called Summer Game Books published the book because of the international angle and was intrigued by the “globalization of America’s game.”
“My least favourite part (of the book process) was how slow the publication industry can work. Writing can actually be the easy part sometimes; it is pitching stories that can be a bit exhausting. Needless to say, I had to learn patience,” he said. “My favourite part is having something accepted for publication. Having someone show that they believe in your writing enough to invest in and publish is another nudge to keep going. Furthermore, it ultimately gives your stories more of a chance to be in front of readers.”
For now, he’s preoccupied with promoting this book, though he is tossing around different ideas for his next project. He’s had offers to write online content. He’s also considering writing more about international baseball or tightening his focus on a certain player or theme. It’s also possible that he’ll switch subjects altogether and write about music.
“The nervousness (about a book release) comes in the form of questions that pop into your head: Will people buy it? Will people like it after they buy it?” Loehr said. “It’s weird because in a way I couldn’t really care less what people think, but of course I actually do. Regardless, you keep on keepin’ on.”
His book is available at Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Kobo, and McNally Robinson.