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Recent UConn graduate writes book on Red Sox manager

by Cindy Weiss - November 3, 2008

The baseball season ended in disappointment for the Boston Red Sox, with a seventh-game loss in the American League playoffs.

But one recent UConn graduate is already looking forward to the season opener next April.

John Frascella, CLAS ’08, has written a book about Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein that has already reached the top 10 of baseball books sold on Amazon.com. And that’s just pre-order sales.

Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land is scheduled for publication on April 1, 2009, in time for the new season.

Epstein was the youngest general manager in Major League Baseball history when he was hired in 2004 at age 28. He resigned mysteriously at the end of the 2005 season, then returned a few months later. He has led the Sox to two World Series championships.

Frascella, who was a journalism and English major at UConn and lead sports columnist for the Daily Campus, is a self-described baseball fanatic. He played in high school, umpires Little League teams, and coaches at a baseball camp.

Getting the scoop
So how did this 22-year-old from Long Island – a Mets fan no less – get a contract a month out of college to write a book about the Red Sox?

And how did he get the scoop on Epstein, who is known for giving the press the slip?

After graduating last May, he was living back at home in his old room in Oceanside, N.Y., thinking about a survival guide that he wanted to write for college students. He drew up a 40-page book proposal and showed it to his uncles, Larry Frascella and Alan Richardson, both published authors.

They loved the proposal, and meanwhile, would he like to talk to a publisher they knew about an internship?

With bills to pay and no job in sight, Frascella was reluctant. But he put on a suit, grabbed a newspaper, and rode the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station to meet the editors at Sterling and Ross, 115 W 29th Street.

They looked over his proposal, but after 20 minutes of talking, they veered into questions like, did he know much about waivers? Free agency?

When he walked out of the office, he had a contract to write a book they had in mind about Epstein and the Red Sox. The catch was he had only two months to do it.

And, the Boston Red Sox “were not enthralled about the book,” Frascella says. In fact, the team’s public relations management and Epstein himself begged Sterling and Ross not to do it, citing Epstein’s desire for privacy.

Research and persistence
The Red Sox PR team’s vigilance just fueled Frascella’s journalistic desire to find out the real story about Epstein and his management techniques, however.

First, he did his research, reading nine or 10 books in one week and every article he could find about Epstein.

John Frascella
John Frascella

Then he called people in the San Diego Padres organization who knew Epstein “when.” Eventually, he got through to Kevin Towers, the Padres’ general manager, who once had been Epstein’s boss.

“It was a great shot in the arm to be able to talk to him,” Frascella says.

He kept plugging away. Next he got an interview with Bill Lajoie, the 74-year-old assistant general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was Epstein’s first assistant general manager with the Red Sox.

“Talk about an encyclopedia of baseball,” he says.

Then a crack developed in the Red Sox wall of silence. Craig Shipley, vice president for international scouting, talked to Frascella.

“Those three guys were really helpful in describing Epstein’s demeanor and work ethic,” he says.

Once the dam starts to give, it’s hard to stop the leaks. Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe sports columnist, lent his insights. And Leslie Epstein, Theo Epstein’s father, who directs the creative writing program at Boston University, lent a sympathetic ear. He tried to get his son to talk, but, as Frascella reports, “Theo said no to his father.”

By that time, though, Frascella had enough information, which, as a good journalist, he will not divulge until publication.

Frascella’s persistence in getting the story doesn’t surprise Timothy Kenny, associate professor of journalism, who was his adviser here.

“He was sort of made for journalism,” he says of Frascella.

“He intuitively understands the whole concept of how it’s supposed to work. He knows how to listen, write, pay attention, and put the puzzle pieces together. He leaves no stone unturned.”

And, says his Introduction to Poetry teacher here, he is able to write about a lot of subjects well.

“He’s a stylish, polished prose writer,” says Penelope Pelizzon, associate professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program.

Frascella is already on to his next book, the one he put aside earlier about how to succeed in college. In his spare time, he’s marketing his Red Sox book to friends through a Facebook group he started. Out of 700 people invited, 300 responded within days.

To contact Frascella about his book, send e-mail to JFrascella@hotmail.com

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