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Published: Wednesday, 7/12/2006

First pitch

BY DENNIS BOVA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
O'Leary O'Leary
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There are all sorts of people who make today's Triple-A All-Star Game special: visiting media, baseball executives, Fifth Third Field employees, and, of course, fans and players. Then there's Terence O'Leary. He's in a category by himself. He's the dreamer.

He'll be in SeaGate Convention Centre this week at a table surrounded by books. Actually, several copies of one book - his book, called More Than a Game (Swan Creek Press, 270 pages, $13.95), in which the Mud Hens, Fifth Third Field, and other Toledo sites play roles.

Supporting roles, though.

"It's a father-and-son story," Mr. O'Leary said of his first novel, published in 2004. It's about a father who never really succeeded in professional baseball, and works hard to drive his son to succeed at the game. The son has genuine talent, but wants to take a different path, as a scientist. The conflict is: Does the son follow his father's wishes or pursue his own?

"It's a family book, the heart of which is the father-son relationship," Mr. O'Leary said. "It tells fathers that they can't live their life through their kids. At the same time, it tells kids with dominating fathers that fathers are great, but you've got to live your own dream.

Terence O'Leary's first novel is about a father who pushes his son to succeed as a pro baseball player. Terence O'Leary's first novel is about a father who pushes his son to succeed as a pro baseball player.
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"Brian [the son] has to determine whether he's going to pursue his dream and find a cure for cancer for his grandfather, or fulfill his father's dream of becoming a major-league ballplayer. Dream is the buzzword."

More Than a Game is the fulfillment of a dream for the 55-year-old Chicago native, who moved to Toledo in his high school years when his father took a job transfer. Mr. O'Leary is a 1968 graduate of Central Catholic High School and a 1972 graduate of the University of Toledo with a blended degree in journalism, English, and psychology.

He spent the next 27 years as an advertising salesman for the Catholic Church Extension Society - the same job his father held. "But I loved to write," he said. "I always had this book I wanted to write. I followed in my father's footsteps, but I followed my own dream of writing a novel."

He took creative writing classes at UT and Bowling Green State University. "I consider myself more of a storyteller than a writer. It was difficult to learn the craft of writing."

Mr. O'Leary, who now works as a family counselor at Ottawa Hills Memorial Park, lives in Toledo, near Swan Creek Metropark. "I walk the trails over there. It helps me to think, to get ideas."

The idea for More Than a Game came, though, when he was pitching batting practice to his son, Brian, now a senior at St. John's Jesuit High School. He and his wife of 25 years, Karen, also have a daughter, Brittany, a senior at Ohio Wesleyan University.

"I got to thinking, 'What if I worked with him every day? I could create a fantastic athlete.'" That's how the father character in the novel was born.

"I coached my son and daughter's baseball teams. I saw so much through the years of fathers who want to live their lives through their children. These fathers have to realize that kids want to have their own lives."

This is not to paint fathers in a bad light, though.

"The people I've talked to who've read the book say their fondest memories of childhood are playing catch with their dad. Baseball is the most family-friendly sport. On the younger teams where there are boys and girls on the same team, it's great the way their faces light up when they catch the ball or get a hit."

O'Leary is working on his second novel, which will be the second part of a trilogy begun with More Than a Game.

"It's called Penalty Kick. It starts with a family who had a tragedy and about how soccer brings the father and son back together. The third novel will be about football. Each has a completely different set of characters but set in northwest Ohio."

"More Than a Game" is available in bookstores, online, and at the Fan Fest book signing. Terence O'Leary will be on hand in SeaGate Convention Centre from 1 to 3 p.m. today.

Contact Dennis Bova at: bova@theblade.com or 419-724-6164.



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