Inside BASEBALL

When the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp first took the field last year, the only thing more abundant than popular skepticism was, well, the shrimp. There was still plenty of shrimp to be had by the time the season was over, but that skepticism had been virtually devoured by a team hungry to succeed. They won on the field and they won at the box office, drawing their biggest crowds ever and earning the respect of a whole new generation of baseball fans.

Armand Rosamilia was there to see it all from Section 102, Row J, Seat 1, and he tells the story from a fan’s perspective in his new book, A View from My Seat: My Baseball Season with the Jumbo Shrimp, published by Rymfire Books just in time for the new season. The book’s pacing is brisk, its tone breezy. Rosamilia writes like an old-school newspaperman, giving us just the facts as he recaps every game last season. He peppers these reports with inside knowledge gleaned from his years as a fan and extensive interviews with Shrimp players and staff.

“There are 25 copies in the Jumbo Shrimp Souvenir Shop at the Baseball Grounds,” he says. “They’re displayed in the counter at the registers. The fun part for me is having a box with me in my car in case they sell out.”

A veteran author and podcast host, Rosamilia will be signing copies of the book on Saturday night, April 28, as the team hosts the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He exchanged emails recently with Folio Weekly.

At what point in the season did you decide to write a book about the team?
I’d gone away on a book-signing tour in mid-April last year and I’d listen to the radio broadcast of Roger Hoover while on the road. I love selling books and meeting fans, but I wanted to see more Jumbo Shrimp games. While listening to one of the games, the idea hit me to not only write a book about the inaugural Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp season, but add in my own baseball stories growing up such a huge fan. When I returned home, I set up a meeting with Noel Blaha, the assistant GM of the team, to gauge whether or not they’d be receptive. They were extremely interested and gave me full access to the staff, players and anything else I needed to write the book.

How long did it take to write?
I started putting it together around the All-Star break and it took me until about November to get it written, rewritten, edited and put together for print and eBook. A View from My Seat: My Baseball Season with the Jumbo Shrimp has been a lot of fun to write.

A lot of fans were skeptical when new owners changed the logo before last season. Would you agree with me that the risk paid off quite well?
I think it was a great move. I’ve always been a big fan of minor league baseball, so I saw the validity of changing the name and making it fun. When you’re playing teams named Blue Wahoos, Biscuits, BayBears and Shuckers, it definitely makes sense. I love the revitalized energy in the baseball grounds and the logo is awesome.

What’s your outlook for the Jumbo Shrimp this season?
I think they’ll exceed both on and off the field. Being a season ticket holder and writing the book has definitely made me a fan of the Miami Marlins farm system. I’m rooting for guys to move up and do well. The crowds came last year and never stopped. Attendance was up. The community was and still is behind the team.

Will they be able to meet or exceed last year’s success?
With the various prospects on the field this year, they’ll win some games. In the stadium itself, new additions to the food, games and everything else will keep the crowds coming, too.

How many other books have you written?
I actually have over 100 releases to my name. I’ve been writing 30 years and full-time the past six. I mostly write crime thriller and horror fiction, but A View from My Seat was too good a project to pass up.

What’s the next planned project?
Next up will be Dirty Deeds 5, a crime thriller set in Jacksonville and St. Augustine, also involving the Baseball Grounds and the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, though this time it will be fiction.

Which Jumbo Shrimp players do you expect to make it to the majors this year?
That’s a tough question, with so much talent at this level as well as Triple-A. I’d love to see some of the guys I saw last year make the jump, like Austin Dean, John Norwood and Chris Diaz. With the Marlins in rebuilding mode, anyone who gets hot has a chance to get the call-up. It makes it even more exciting this year.

Unrelated to the Shrimp-what are your thoughts on Tebow in baseball? Does he have the skills to make it all the way?
I think he’s got the raw talent to play any sport. I wasn’t a big fan of his time in the NFL, but that’s probably because I’m an Oakland Raiders fan. I hope they take it slow with him and see if he can adjust to Double-A this year. Rushing him to Triple-A or the Majors would mean they don’t care about Tim Tebow, they care about selling tickets. Hopefully, he proves all his detractors wrong and has a nice, long baseball career ahead of him. If he gets released, I wish him luck in hockey.

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A View from My Seat: My Baseball Season with the Jumbo Shrimp book-signing is 6:35 p.m. April 28 at Bragan Field, Baseball Grounds, Northbank, armandrosamilia.com.

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