ABOUT MIRACLE ON GRASS
Miracle on Grass is the true story of how the 2000 USA Baseball Olympic Team – an unknown group of American minor leaguers – stunned the international baseball powerhouse from Cuba. They were led by Hall-of-Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who came out of retirement to lead the charge for his country, and they pulled off the greatest upset in Olympic baseball history. Their triumph was remarkable, but the story of their coming together is even harder to imagine. Miracle on Grass is Fanucchi’s first-hand account of the events that took place over a two-year period, and an intimate, perceptive portrayal of the three incredible weeks Team USA spent in Australia, climaxing with their gold medal triumph over Cuba. Fanucchi gives readers a behind the scenes look at how the MLB executives in charge of this operation went about selecting the players, how Lasorda persuaded management into giving him the opportunity to coach the team, how the Americans narrowly qualified for the Olympics during a gut-wrenching game, and how capturing the gold medal in Sydney changed the lives of every player, coach and administrator involved.
Q: So tell us – why did you decide to write a book about this particular USA Baseball team?
A: Well, first of all, it’s my belief that they are the greatest team that USA Baseball has ever put together, in the history of the organization. It’s hard to argue against that, based on what they accomplished. Not only are they the only Olympic baseball team to win an official gold medal for the United States, but they may end up being the only one forever, unless the sport gets reinstated into the Games someday. On top of all that, their story is not very well known, and I wanted to create a larger spotlight on how they pulled off this great victory. I think a lot of people might know that the USA Baseball team won the gold medal in 2000, but not many people know how they did it? The entire story deserves to be told.
Q: What finally motivated you to go ahead and start the process of such a monumental task?
A: I had been thinking about it for several years, but got caught up in my full-time job, having kids, and raising a family. But then in 2010, USA Baseball had a 10-year reunion of the team and everybody involved, and seeing all the guys again really sparked the whole idea for me. I loved hearing how this moment in time changed the lives of all the players and what it has meant to everyone, and I knew that would give me a great base to work with. When I was finally able to get into a position with my work that would allow me the space to do this, I pulled the trigger, and here we are.
Q: How did you actually get the ball rolling – what was the first step?
A: I needed to know that USA Baseball as an organization, was going to be behind my efforts, especially if I was going to start calling MLB executives and teams, asking if I could interview players and coaches. It was also good to know that if I did come up with something worthwhile, that they would be willing to help me market the idea. We don’t have a major publishing house behind this thing, so it’s a total grassroots effort. Once I felt like everybody was on board with the concept, including every single player I talked to, I started putting together a chapter outline, and then began to set up the interviews.
Q: What was the reaction of some of the players and coaches when you first contacted them about this idea?
A: To a man, everyone was supportive and willing to do whatever was needed. I spent hours on the phone with USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler, met Team USA General Manager Bob Watson at a coffee shop in Houston, and made a lot of phone calls to the players. Not one person I asked for time with was unable to speak with me, and they all loved the idea. It was as if the team first attitude they had in Sydney kept right on going, and everybody was excited about the thought of their story going to print.
Q: You took a trip to spring training in Arizona to visit Lasorda and some of the other coaches and players involved. Tell us about that.
A: It made a lot of sense for me to go to Phoenix, because both Lasorda (Dodgers) and 1999 USA Pan Am Team manager Buddy Bell (White Sox) were there, along with many players and coaches I needed to speak to. I couldn’t have made the trip though without the support of our colleague Steve Cobb, who was an integral part of our operation, and was totally supportive of my efforts. Not only did he offer me a place to stay while I was in town, he went out of his way to dig up a lot of the critical information I was looking for about our player selection process, which went back over ten years. It was a blessing that he was able to find those notes and lists of information in some old storage unit, or else I may not have been able to come up with so many of the details about those decisions.
Q: What were some of Tommy Lasorda’s memories when you visited with him?
A: He was fascinating as usual, and spouted off a lot of the same quotes he had used back in 2000. It was like he never left the mindset of being that Team USA Manager. I truly believe it was his proudest accomplishment, and he will talk about it with just as much passion, to this very day. We had to cut the interview a bit shorter than I wanted to, because it was right after he had eaten lunch, and it was time for his afternoon nap. He’s getting up there in age, but is the same guy the baseball world has gotten to know and love.
Q: We heard you also had a great visit with Olympic gold-medal game-winning pitcher Ben Sheets.
A: It had taken me a bit of time to get a hold of Ben, because he was coming off arm surgery and was not with a major league team in 2011, nor was he in spring training. Once he responded, I knew I needed to visit with him in person, because he’s a central character in the book, and a huge part of this story. I told him I would be in Louisiana where he lives in a couple of months, and would rent a car and come see him in his home town. Once we planned it, he was going to be at his lake cabin, so he called me that night and gave me directions. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was on the right dirt road that he told me to take, because I thought it was leading to the middle of nowhere. Sure enough, I came around a bend and there was this beautiful cabin on a lake, and Sheets was there having a barbeque with all of his son’s little league team, and his family. It was such a blast to see him, and we talked for hours that night about Sydney. I even interviewed his mom about what the gold medal has meant to their family. I stayed overnight in the cabin with the whole gang, and then got up with them the next morning and watched his son Seaver’s little league game, with Ben as the head coach. He wanted to win that game as badly as any game he ever pitched. It was a great time.
Q: Were you able to uncover some unknown details about this story that readers will enjoy hearing about?
A: I think so. I’ve tried to do the story justice, because it is such an incredible, dramatic thing that happened in real life. I hope that readers will enjoy some of the stories that happened off the field, as much as the ones that happened on the field, because in both cases, they are great. I tried to include as many of the players’ personal memories as I could. It’s really fun stuff if you are into learning about how a team gets put together from start to finish, even if you know the outcome. If you’re passionate about American pride and the Olympic spirit, this book is for you. It’s not just a sports story or a baseball story, it’s about a group of men coming together to all pull on the same rope, and an inspirational manager who leads the charge.
Q: How can fans get copies of the book, where will it be sold?
A: The book will be available on www.amazon.com and on my own personal e-store, that we will publicize on my website at www.davidfanucchi.com. Fans can also follow me and the book’s progress on my Facebook page: Miracle on Grass & my Twitter feed @miracleongrass.
ABOUT DAVID FANUCCHI
David Fanucchi was born in Burlingame, California, and was raised in the small Silicon Valley suburb of Cupertino. A 1988 graduate of Monta Vista High School, Fanucchi attended California State University, Chico, and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism in 1993. Fanucchi has spent the past 20 years working in various public relations and communications capacities for both amateur and professional sports teams and organizations.
Most notably, Fanucchi was Director of Communications for USA Baseball from 1999 to 2006, during which time he served as the official Press Officer for the 2000 USA Olympic Baseball Team that captured the gold medal under Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda. He also served as the press officer for the 2006 United States team in the inuagural World Baseball Classic – a roster that included Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Teixeira and Roger Clemens.
Fanucchi held a leadership role for the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) public relations efforts during the 2009 U.S. Open, and most recently has directed press coverage of the Champions Series Tennis Tour, starring John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and Michael Chang among other legendary players. Fanucchi was inducted into the Chico State Public Relations Department Hall of Fame in 2009.
He serves as President of his own sports-business public relations consulting firm – Gold Medal PR – and currently resides in Houston, Texas, with his wife, Jessica, daughters Emma and Grace, and their dog, a beagle named Bogey.
Miracle on Grass is his first published book. You can visit David Fanucchi’s website atwww.davidfanucchi.com.