From on the Field to Down on Paper: Justin Toole’s “9 in 9”
Laurel Wilder | On 23, Jan 2014
As a utility position player, Justin Toole’s job is to ensure that he can fill in wherever he is needed on the baseball field. In 2012, Toole proved that he was all that and then some when he played all nine defensive positions in one game for the High-A Carolina Mudcats.
In 2013, however, Toole demonstrated that is not only versatile on the field, but in his life outside of baseball, as well. He is a minor league baseball player by trade, was a psychology major at the University of Iowa, and can now add “published author” to his list of titles.
In October, Toole published “9 in 9: Nine Life Lessons Learned from Playing Nine Positions in One Nine Inning Baseball Game.”
“9 in 9” chronicles Toole’s experience throughout his impressive game in August 2012 and his role in each of the different positions. More than that, though, the book is designed to be a way to inspire and encourage aspiring athletes (or anyone trying to pursue their dreams) to reach for the stars.
“People were always telling me that I should tell my story, but I never knew exactly how to do it,” Toole said of the decision to write. “I played that game in Carolina and I was at a state coaches’ clinic here at the University of Iowa and [talked to] a sports psychologist I had worked with for a long time… That’s kind of how the idea for the book came up.”
Toole said the idea to write a book sounded “too good to pass up.” About a year ago, he sat down and just started typing, chronicling his game and getting his ideas on paper. He spent time writing during spring training, as well, and said he had the book done about mid-March last year.
“I had no idea about the book writing process,” Toole remembered. “I went into it thinking, ‘It can’t be that hard, what do you have to do?’”
Toole said he was in contact with a few publishers throughout the season to figure out his options, with the project coming to a head at the end of the season. He describes the final process as just “sitting down, getting it done.”
“9 in 9” came out in the middle of October 2013 and Toole “could not have dreamed of it going any better than it did.”
Toole channeled his inner psychology major throughout the book, focusing on the mental side of the game as well as the literally experience of playing the field. He said he believes it’s important to provide kids and younger athletes with positivity throughout their sporting endeavors.
“It’s been an incredibly humbling experience,” Toole said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and I always try to pass along positive notes, try to be positive. I feel like the psychology part of the game has benefited me a ton, so I wanted to pass on what I’ve learned in the sports psychology world and explain it to them and help younger kids through the process, and I felt like my ‘9 in 9’ story was a better platform to do that.”
Toole has not let the fame and accolades that came with his fabled nine-in-nine game go to his head. Despite now having his name in print and the popularity of items such as Cleveland-based Fresh Brewed Tee’s “I Play the Field” shirt, Toole said the best part of being a published author and spreading his “9 in 9” story and positivity has been acting as a vessel for spreading positivity to kids.
“I work with a lot of kids in the off-season,” Toole said. “It’s amazing how much of the kids haven’t heard stuff like this or how much the kids respond to it and enjoy it. I want to find way that I could reach more people and spread the word and have people enjoy it. Whether it’s through Twitter or email from people I have never met who have read the book, it’s great to hear from people who say, ‘I read your book and I loved it and it inspired me this way,’ or, ‘it taught me this and it put this into perspective for me.’”
Toole works with young athletes closely during the off-season, giving a number of lessons and traveling around the state of Iowa to work with athletes on baseball, softball, and the sports psychology side of the game. He has also had the opportunity to speak at local universities and groups about the mental side of the game.
Of course, Toole still finds the time to maintain his baseball prowess, working out in the mornings and preparing for his departure to Arizona in early February for the start of his 2014 season.
“I feel like I ended last year on a really positive note,” Toole said of returning to baseball for the upcoming season. “As the utility guy, bouncing around from team to team, it can overwhelming, it can be frustrating at times. But I felt like last year I felt like I did a good job taking things in stride and taking advantage of the opportunities I was given. That’s something I’ve always prided myself on throughout my career.”
Toole said that, wherever the organization decides to put him, he will be ready to work hard and continue to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to him. Toole said is also proud of his ability to continually improve as both a defensive and offensive player throughout his tenure with the Indians, something he knows he will continue into 2014.
Toole ended his 2013 season with an overall .253 AVG between Akron, Carolina, and Columbus. He had a total of 82 hits on the season, with 32 RBI and five stolen bases.
“I felt like I had a good year last year, so I’m excited to build off of that coming into this year,” Toole said.
2014 certainly has a lot to compete with for Toole. But, ever humble, he does not allow his 2013 off-season accomplishments to go to his head, describing his favorite parts of the off-season as spending time with his family or just relaxing at home when time allows.
Still, his biggest source of happiness is obvious when he describes the ways in which his book has reached it’s intended audiences.
“There is somebody out there who learned something or got something or felt something from reading it. That has been the coolest part of it,” Toole said. “The whole goal of it was to inspire young kids, for parents, coaches, to be positive with kids and stuff like that. And like I said, it couldn’t be any better. It doesn’t quite feel real sometimes.”
You can buy “9 in 9” on Amazon.com, along with various other book-selling websites. It’s just over 100 pages and Toole said it takes “about three hours to read,” meaning you absolutely have time to pick it up and learn a little bit about the life lessons that have come to Toole through the game of baseball.
Photo: Carolina Mudcats