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Can we play baseball?: Burnaby author's new kids' book mixes adventure, nostalgia

A new children’s book by renowned local environmentalist, Mark Angelo, tells the tale of children searching for a place to play ball.
Burnaby resident Mark Angelo's new children's book 'Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?', tells the story about a group of kids who need a field to play ball. Right: The author playing baseball as a youth. Photo Mark Angelo/Contributed

What could a kid in 1958 California do without a field to play baseball?

Renowned Burnaby environmentalist Mark Angelo has a new children’s book out telling the story of just that.

Based on a true story from his own childhood, Angelo’s new book Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille? tells the story of a group of friends who want to play baseball, but don’t have a field to play in, and eventually find their own field of dreams – with the help of a Hollywood icon.

Angelo wrote the book in memory of his older brother, who asked him to write about their childhood experience.

Set in Los Angeles, 1958, Angelo describes Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille? as nostalgic, fun and uplifting.

“The book speaks to community and the importance of friends,” Angelo told the NOW. “It speaks to youthful determination – and there’s also a bit of an environmental message there.”

With illustrations by Patricia and Robin DeWitt, the book captures the feelings of youthful play and adventure.

“The environment, rivers and parks have always been my passion,” Angelo said. “But if you had to ask me what my second passion was, through much of my life, it’s been baseball.”

He played throughout his childhood with his friends – and he noted the wildness of Dodgermania at the time which swept through the city of Los Angeles.

And Mr. DeMille? Often called the “founding father of American cinema,” Cecil B. DeMille was the producer-director of acclaimed films like The Ten Commandments and The Greatest Show on Earth.

“He was an amazing man,” Angelo said, and added the book puts a human face on the Hollywood icon from the personal perspective of a young boy who had never met him before.

Now Angelo hopes to take his own grandkids out to Vancouver’s Nat Bailey Stadium, which he described as “one of the prettiest little ball fields on earth,” – and of course, play some backyard catch.

“Writing this book made me even more cognizant of how my own childhood search for a field to play ball, how that influenced my later work as an environmental advocate and a proponent for accessible outdoor spaces for all to enjoy,” Angelo said, noting he tried to make the point that outdoor spaces from parks to sports fields contribute to our health and make communities better places to live.

It’s the author’s second children’s book after The Little Creek That Could.