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Fields Of Dreams

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He also brought along a tape recorder to record his impressions and, like a good teacher, created a grading sheet for the parks. The sheet had eight categories--including food, upkeep, scoreboard, and atmosphere--to help Wood come up with an overall grade, from A to D, for each stadium. (Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., got the only A's. Houston's Astrodome and Montreal's Exhibition Stadium were at the bottom of the class with D pluses. Best ballpark food was a four-way tie among Chicago's Comiskey Park, Milwaukee's County Stadium, Royals Stadium, and the Oakland Coliseum.)

Back at school that fall, Wood started to transcribe the tapes he'd made to put together a kind of a diary. He says he planned to make "one copy for myself and maybe one for my folks and then let them rest on the shelf.''

But gradually the diary-on-the-shelf idea was pushed aside by a more ambitious vision. Says Wood, "I started going to writing conferences, and I began to think, 'What the hell, this could be a book.'' Once the book idea got into his head, he admits, "I got obsessed with it.''

To turn his stacks of grading sheets and tapes into a book, Wood followed what he calls "Getting Published 101.'' He found the names of literary agents and hints for how to approach them in Writer's Market, a reference guide for would-be authors. Wood wrote letters and eventually found an agent who liked his idea. He revised what he had written. And his agent sold it to McGraw-Hill on the basis of two sample chapters. Dodger Dogs to Fenway Franks was published in 1988.

But according to Wood, McGraw-Hill did little to promote Dodger Dogs. Wood sent himself all over the country during the summer of 1988 and was interviewed by Larry King and sports personalities Jack Buck and Bob Costas. The book was also excerpted in major newspapers. Wood complains, however, that McGraw-Hill didn't get any books to bookstores until the summer was almost over. As a result, he says, "I've got the most publicized book ever that went nowhere.''

Since then, Wood has written another book, Big Ten Country, for another publisher, William Morrow and Co., with whom he's very happy. The book, which chronicles football weekends at all the Big Ten universities, is selling well.

Although he put his school work on hold to work on the second book, Wood's burgeoning career as a writer has not made him want to abandon the classroom. "If I'd grown up wanting to be a writer,'' he says, "I'd be where I want to be.'' But Wood feels most comfortable teaching and coaching. "I miss those things,'' he says. He spent this past school year substituting in Kalamazoo, Mich., but Wood hopes to return to full-time teaching in the fall.

Jeffrey Porro

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