It is almost April, and it means the Major League Baseball season is right around the corner.
The beginning of the month also means the MTSU Department of English will host the 19th annual Baseball in Literature and Culture Conference at the James Union Building on April 4. This year’s guest speaker is former World Series champion from the Kansas City Royals, Willie Wilson.
“I am always excited as Spring Training winds down and another conference approaches,” MTSU English Lecturer and co-organizer of the event, Dr. Warren Tormey said. “There is always much to look forward to with the keynote presentation, the ballplayer speaking at lunch, and the reconnecting with old colleagues and friends.
'But we have made some changes in our format this year to include the Boys and Girls Clubs. Our speaker, Willie Wilson, is active in the RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities) program, and we are looking forward to providing him with the opportunity to share the game with some area kids.”
Wilson, one of the best Royals of all time, was a member of the 1980 and 1985 World Series teams. The 1980 team lost in the Fall Classic to the Philadelphia Phillies, but it bounced back five years later with its only world championship in team history when it defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.
“First, it was a great experience,” Wilson said about playing in the Fall Classic. “Big disappointment that we lost. I had one of the best years of my career prior to the series. Second, it was a big surprise our team did not look very good according to the numbers, but we rallied as a team and won.”
Recently, Wilson has wrote a biography titled, “Inside the Park: Running the Base Path of Life.” He talked about the reasons why he wrote the book.
“To help others,” Wilson said. “It was very important for me to be very honest and forthcoming when I wrote the book. I think a lot of people have seen surprised when they read the book. The reviews I have seen have been good and humbling. It is great to have people affected in a positive way by my story.”
“Younger fans might not remember the George Brett-Hal McRae-Dan Quisenberry- Wilson years of the late ’70s and early ’80s when they were one of the American League’s dominant teams and had a great rivalry with the Yankees,” Tormey said. “Hearing the stories from the ballplayers is part of the fun, and we are looking forward to hearing about what he has to say about that rivalry.”
Wilson will take the podium at 12:45 p.m. as he will give a 20-minute speech and have a 10-minute question and answer session. However, the event will begin at 8:15 a.m. and will include several presentations on the sport from many angles by some of the top professors in the world.
Another special attraction this year is the demonstration of the popular 19th century version of baseball by a few players from the Tennessee Association of Vintage Baseball. The league is made up of eight teams from around the state, including the Stewarts Creek Scouts, who play under the old-school baseball rules from the Civil War era.
“We have been fortunate to recruit Michael “Roadblock” Thurmon from the Nashville Maroons, along with a couple of other charter league members Jeff “Skeeter” Wells and Jeff “Cornbread” Jennings from the Scouts, to come to MTSU and talk about the Civil War-era game,” Tormey said. “I think that despite some of the differing rules, condition, and points of etiquette between the games of that era and now, folks will see that it is still basically the same game.”
The demonstration will take place at 3:10 p.m. at the Walnut Grove outside the JUB.
Tickets will be sold at the door for $75 for the entire event. However, fans can buy tickets for the luncheon at 12:15 for $10, and they can attend the Wilson speech for free. Registration begins at 7:45 a.m. on April 4.