Brothers Sean and Chase Townsend admit to being a bit skeptical when Patrick Montgomery called them – out of the blue – about his desire to write a book about their father, Towny Townsend.
They knew how much their father had done for baseball in Hampton Roads. But why now, 15 years after their father’s death?
“At first, I was like, ‘Is this real?’” Sean said. “But once I got to know him and he interviewed us and asked us questions, I felt like he was coming from the right place. I felt like he had the right intentions and would do it justice. ”
“I was skeptical because nobody outside of Hampton Roads – and many people in Hampton Roads – have never heard of my dad,” he said. “He’s not a famous person. My skepticism turned pretty quickly to I thought it was pretty cool and humbling that somebody outside of this area found the story fascinating enough to want to dedicate that kind of time to it. ”
The brothers and their mother, Cathy, are glad they listened because now Towny will be remembered in Montgomery’s book entitled, “The Baseball Miracle of the Splendid 6 and Towny Townsend, Heartbreak, Inspiration, and How Baseball Can Be. ”
Marvin “Towny” Townsend had an immeasurable impact on the baseball community in Hampton Roads when he established the area’s first AAU program. He helped raise the bar for competitive baseball in the region with the Blasters and the Drillers.
He also helped shape the careers of many future Major League Baseball players, including the Splendid Six: Michael Cuddyer, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Reynolds and brothers Melvin “BJ” and Justin Upton.
“At the beginning of it, he patterned a lot of it after Boo Williams because Boo had already been doing it in basketball,” Sean said. “Rec ball ended in May before school got out. You’d practice for two weeks for all-stars. Then it would be like June 15 or the end of May, and there’s no more baseball to be played. So your best baseball months were in the summer and no baseball was being played. All he wanted to do was provide an avenue for kids who wanted to keep playing, a place to play. It kind of snowballed into what it ended up becoming. ”
Montgomery had heard the stories about the six star players when he was stationed in Hampton Roads in the Coast Guard.
His interest grew when he heard more about Townsend and the talent in Hampton Roads. The book was sparked after talking to one of his friends, whose son-in-law is Mark Reynolds.
One thing led to another, and Montgomery got the idea to write a book.
He started it in January as he interviewed the players and some of their parents. He also interviewed coaches like Allan Erbe, Gary Lavelle, Gary Wright, Lee Banks and Matt Sinnen, who was Townsend’s first recruit at Virginia Wesleyan.
After three months, Montgomery had a 232-page book broken up into 27 chapters. It begins with Wright writing the foreword and ending with Townsend’s courageous battle with cancer.
The book was released on June 14. A hard copy will be available on Aug. 8. Montgomery will also do a book signing on Aug. 6 at Barnes & Noble at the Peninsula Town Center in Hampton.
Now that it’s finally finished, Montgomery has had time to reflect. What impacted him the most was the road of each star to the majors.
“These players clearly could not get there on their own,” he said. “It was a village of great coaches and wonderful parents that helped get them there.”
What he also gained from writing the book was a tremendous admiration for Townsend.
“The thing that came across from each and every player, parent and friend was the respect that they still have and reverence they have for Towny Townsend,” he said. “The respect is still shining even though he died 15 years ago.”
Sean, 40, said it’s “weird” reading a book about his father.
“There were some things in there that happened before I was born,” he said. “Some of the stories that other guys told about my dad that were in there, I wasn’t a first-hand witness to. It was neat hearing the perspective of other people about my father. ”
Chase, 36, said the book just confirms everything he’s ever heard about his dad’s commitment to baseball in Hampton Roads.
“I’ve always been pretty proud of my father’s commitment to his community,” he said. “I’ve been hearing for 30 years how impactful he was to other kids in the area. From that respect, the book was just more confirmation that my dad’s heart was in the right place and he touched a lot of people while he was alive. ”
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What the brothers love most about the book is that they can share it with their daughters, who never got to meet their grandfather, who passed away on April 4, 2007, at the age of 54.
“If it never sells more than five copies, I don’t really care because Patrick has given us a gift to show our kids of what their grandfather was about,” he said. “They feel like they know him, even though they never got to meet him.”
“I’ve told Patrick this privately, but I’m appreciative of what he’s done,” he said. “And I’m grateful that there are men out there that tell these stories that otherwise probably wouldn’t be told and would be lost if they weren’t written down. I’m just thankful to him for taking on this effort. ”
A print version of the book is available at BookBaby, https://store.bookbaby.com/book/the-baseball-miracle-of-the-splendid-6-and-towny-townsend. To receive an author-signed copy, go to [email protected]
You can also contact your local Barnes & Noble.
Larry Rubama, 757-575-6449, [email protected]. Twitter @LHRubama.