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Grisham to speak at baseball banquet

| Tuesday, February 3, 2004

John Grisham always dreamed of playing professional baseball, beginning with his childhood days of listening to St. Louis Cardinal games on the radio. For two reasons, however, he never did.”I played little league ball, high school ball, and tried to play college ball, but I was scared of a fastball and couldn’t touch a curve,” Grisham said. “So that kind of narrows it down.”So Grisham turned to writing novels – his second dream. Sixty million books later, this dream has turned out just fine for the retired lawyer from Mississippi.[Writing] was a secret hobby; nobody knew about except my wife,” Grisham said. “Once I realized I was actually going to finish [“A Time to Kill”], I thought it would be nice to write full-time- that’s a dream come true for anybody.”Grisham’s 17th book, “The Last Juror,” is available at bookstores today, and the author will be visiting campus Thursday to speak at the third annual Notre Dame baseball banquet. This is Grisham’s fifth such event in the past 10 years at various locations.”They’re just wonderful events,” he said. “I have a great time, and it’s total fun. It’s great for the players, because it gives them a lot of attention and raises a lot of money.”Grisham will be the keynote speaker at the event, which starts at 7 p.m. Former Notre Dame player Steve Stanley will also be at the banquet. Grisham worked as a lawyer for ten years before beginning his fist novel. Once he started composing his first book, however, Grisham said he woke up every day at 5 a.m. to write before heading into the courtroom. As his fans know, Grisham’s consistency is one of his greatest abilities. His books have landed him on the national bestseller list nearly every year. After finishing his first book, “A Time to Kill,” in 1987, he has produced a book almost ever year since, and he has been acclaimed by Publishers Weekly as”the bestselling novelist of the 90s.” His latest book, “The Last Juror,” is about a young newspaper owner who exposes the gruesome details of a murder. When the convicted murderer is released from jail, he seeks revenge on the owner of the newspaper and the jurors that put him behind bars.Grisham said that, though writing novels is never easy, the finished product is usually rewarding. He and his family vacation every summer before he begins a new book, and he usually finishes the novel around Thanksgiving.”There is no shortage of ideas,” Grisham said. “‘The Last Juror’ is number 17, and [novels] are still fun to write. The words and ideas are still coming pretty fast.”With Grisham’s success has come additional pressure, but Grisham thinks that pressure can only help his writing.”There’s always pressure to deliver a good book,” he said. “When I start writing a book, I want it to be the best thing I’ve ever written. Pressure is healthy because it keeps you honest. I’m serious about what I do, and I want to get better.”Writing has not gotten in the way of Grisham’s continued love of baseball. From his time as a child working on his parents’ farm in Arkansas to working all day as a lawyer, Grisham always has looked forward to listening to the St. Louis Cardinal games on the radio. He used these experiences in his novel, “A Painted House.””The St. Louis Cardinals were on the radio every night, and that was our only contact with the outside world,” Grisham said. “There was no television, so that was the highlight of every day – sitting on the porch and listening to the Cardinals. As soon as I could, I picked up a baseball and started throwing it around the house like any other kid.”Grisham’s love for baseball led him to build his own little league ballparks. He is the commissioner of the league in the summer and also travels to his children’s baseball and softball games in the spring and summer. Grisham’s son, Ty, plays baseball at the University of Virginia – where former Notre Dame assistant Brian O’Connor took over as head coach last year. Grisham said he and his son have attended thousands of college baseball games and have traveled to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series on several occasions.”Over the years, he and I have gone to thousands of college baseball games because that’s our favorite sport. That’s why I’m coming to South Bend – because I love college baseball,” he said.Tickets still remain for Thursday’s event.