by Alex Grover
What’s the best way to play softball? On a beautiful Saturday afternoon on the Great Lawn of Central Park. With publishing professionals who joke around, tell stories, and, of course, dole out the occasional trash talk. Taking pleasure in the fact that you’re raising money for a great cause.
That’s what the Book Industry Guild of New York has been doing for the past 23 years. As we mentioned here, the organization has been working with the Literacy Assistance Center to improve the lives of New Yorkers who are illiterate. This year, the WNBA-NYC had the chance to take part and play ball.
Longtime participant and co-coordinator Greg Fagan, sales director for Data Conversion Laboratory and publishing veteran (Raven Press, Wiley, McGraw-Hill), was an early participant when the event began.
“I got in at the very beginning, back in 1992,” said Fagan. “Paul Stanley, one of the event’s founders who was very active in the Book Industry Guild, was visiting my company (Raven Press) on a sales call and told me about the game.” After that, he was a permanent fixture.
In the beginning, the Book Industry Guild played against “the WNEW-FM All-Stars,” a team of the best players from the then-active radio station. “As both an avid softball player and fan of the station,” Fagan said, “I really wanted to play, and I did.” After becoming friends with Paul (and after Paul asked him to help organize the following year), he’s been a member of the softball committee from thereon out.
Coordinating the event for the first three years was much easier than it is now. For a charity game, it was also quite competitive. “WNEW had a great team made up of highly competitive players,” Fagan said, “so we recruited only the best players from the publishing leagues.”
After WNEW ceased to be, the BIG-NY had to go about planning the game in a different way. While Fagan and other members of the softball committee were worried that the new intramural setup wouldn’t work out, “it did—and still does.”
As evidenced by the August 15th game, this seems to be the case. Employees from Simon & Schuster, Pearson, Teachers College, and other publishers in New York City all showed up to play and cheer from the sidelines. Volunteers also handed out free children’s books to Central Park goers, giving away hundreds to receptive passers-by.
After some years with low turnout, this year proved to be a wild success. Raising over $12,000 and contributing again to fighting illiteracy, the game got Fagan excited for next year. “What I want next year is for Paul Stanley, who now lives in Venezuela, to make the trip up for the game.” Increasing ad sales through the game program would also be another step. Fagan loves the event, and can’t wait to see what next year holds in store. “I’m based in Charlottesville, VA,” he said, “but I do get up to NYC and its environs often.” While many of Fagan’s company clients are in New York, it’s “this awesome event” that’s the most important reason he returns to the city. So far, the charity game has raised over $400,000.
WNBA-NYC members Allison Bucknell, Caitlin Morrow, and I attended the game a few weeks ago, giving way to a new tradition for the organization. We’re proud to take part in the charity event for the first time, and looks forward to participating for years to come.