TRAVERSE CITY — Jake Smith hit a home run during his first at-bat.
The former St. Francis High School baseball star and assistant coach not only found a publisher for his first inspirational novel, "Wish," but also could see the book on stands at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.
Comerica's merchandiser started an account with Tyndale House Publishers and plans to carry the book, said the publisher's senior publicist, Andrea Brooks Martin. Meanwhile sales of the book elsewhere are spreading awareness of the National Marrow Donor Registry and raising money for the support and care of pediatric patients and their families.
“Ultimately that was my goal: to motivate people to sign up and maybe help save a life,” said Smith, 39, whose website and Amazon page are frequented by readers who say the book inspired them to join the donor registry. “I’ve always felt that I’ve been called in this direction to use what gifts I have in telling a story to help others.”
Smith started the book in 2010 after a previous effort in the action-adventure genre failed to attract a publisher. In casting about for another idea he fell back on what he knows best.
“I always loved baseball,” said Smith, a family friend of former Detroit Tiger Jack Morris. “My brother and I played baseball for St. Francis in 1990. I played shortstop, he played second base. We won the state championship that year."
Smith returned to the St. Francis field as a part-time coach in 2008 and 2009.
The author centered his new book around a high school baseball coach and former college baseball standout — readers may recognize Traverse City's St. Elizabeth Ann Seton baseball field as the opening setting — and his young son with leukemia. His research took him to Comerica Park, where he interviewed Detroit Tiger third baseman Brandon Inge about his long-time work at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He also got an underground tour that ended in the Tiger dugout.