The book cover for “Rocks Across the Pond” shows Detroit Tiger star pitcher Justin Verlander fist pumping young Dallas Bolster of Dundee, Michigan. Dallas’ mother, Renee Bolster, now serves as publicist for Richard and Kathy Verlander.
Richard Verlander knows parents need plenty of help in raising a successful professional athlete.
He should know. He and his wife, Kathy, had plenty of help, beginning with the people of their small Virginia hometown of Manikin-Sabot, in raising arguably the best pitcher in Major League Baseball, Justin Verlander.
They are sharing their experiences over the past nearly 30 years in raising Justin and his younger brother, Ben, in a new book titled, “Rocks Across the Pond.”
And, the couple is coming to Montague Wednesday, Feb. 6, to talk to parents and fans at a book signing at Montague High School.
The Verlanders, who have received the 2008 George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, will also be selling their book at the book signing. And, $5 from each book sale will go to the Montague High School baseball program.
The book signing begins at 6 p.m., followed by a talk by the Verlanders at 7 p.m. The couple will take questions from the audience and sign more books as time allows.
They will also be at Mona Shores High School at 8 a.m. on Feb. 6 for a speech and book signing.
“Everybody plays a role in a young person’s life in a small community,” Richard Verlander told the Beacon in a phone interview Thursday morning. “There is a sense of community, like a big family. Very nurturing.”
Richard says people in the hometown have invested in his boys, from coaches and teachers, to the neighbor that encouraged the Verlanders to sign Justin up for Little League.
“We learned as we went. It takes a village to raise a ballplayer. We’re here on the backs of others.”
And, Justin’s dad says the support is important not just for fledgling athletes, but for all young people who are pursuing their passion in life.
For Richard, he says athletics were not an important part of his life before raising his family.
“I was not a baseball fan, and didn’t play sports. I played guitar in a band. My wife did play tennis in high school.”
What Richard did was work in the communications industry, and was elected president of the local Richard, Virginia chapter of the Communication Workers of America.
“I shared what I learned about leadership with my boys. We’re a blue collar family.”
But, he did play catch with his boys in the front yard, and when he noted their talent and passion for baseball, he encouraged them to follow their passion and work hard to try to achieve that.
“That the job of parents. Find your child’s passion and encourage hard work toward that,” he says.
And, he adds, the family is competitive in what they do, including one-on-one basketball in the driveway with dad and brothers, miniature golf or playing Monopoly.
In fact, the name of the Verlanders’ book came from father challenging his son, Justin, to throw a rock across the pond. When Justin was 10, Richard Verlander threw the rock about three-quarters of the way across the pond, while young Justin’s throw cleared the pond, hit a tree, and the rock splashed back into the water.
Richard says Ben is also pursuing baseball and is playing for Old Dominion University where Justin played before being drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2004 and spending less than a season in the Minor Leagues before starting his first major league game on July 4, 2005 against the Cleveland Indians.
Richard says that first game, Justin learned his fastballs were not enough to get major league hitters out. He said Cleveland’s Victor Martinez hit one of those 98 mph fastballs off the outfield wall. “But, even then I could see Justin could have a successful career.”
His father points with pride that on Aug. 11, 2011, against the same Cleveland Indians, Justin won his 100th game.
Also, by that time, the Verlander’s son had also thrown two amazing no-hitters (2007 and 2011), was named a five-time All-Star and by the end of the 2011 season would have been named the American League’s Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player.
Even though Justin’s career has launched him in the public eye with video games, television commercials and even having a cereal named after him, Richard says they protect their time as a family when they are together.
“Justin bought a house near us and when he’s home he spends a lot of time with friends, playing golf and working out.”
And, Richard says they remind their boys they are never above taking out the trash or dog when they are home.
He says the family enjoys going out to eat and watching movies together.
Of course, this year they lost about a month of off season family time because Justin pitched in the World Series.
Young Ben, is a junior at ODU and has been switched from pitcher to outfield/first base to keep his prolific bat in the lineup.
““In the case of Ben, he wants to be a baseball player. I remind him his own accomplishments are noteworthy. He’s a starter and a scholarship student.”
Richard says Michigan and Detroit has been good and welcoming to his family.
And, they’re son is returning the favor which makes him proud of Justin’s off the field activities.
“Justin saw how the Detroit organization honored military members at the ball games and decided he would do the same.”
So, without the team organization knowing about it, he began allowing military veterans and their families exclusive use, his Comerica Park suite during games he pitches.
Richard says when the team learned what he did, they publicized it.
“Justin took it upon himself to do that. That makes us the proudest,” says his dad. “To those much is given, much is expected.”
Richard says the idea for their book came from he and his wife speaking to different groups at schools, colleges, service clubs and churches.
“We want to share our story and I knew a publisher.”
He says they enjoy traveling to smaller communities to share their story because that is what they know.’
Montague High School Athletic Director Ken Diamond says the book signing was arranged through Mike Taylor, a local sports radio personality who contacted Montague High School Football Coach Pat Collins about arranging an event. “We thought it would work best with our baseball program,” he says.