Love is in the air: Wind Surge inspire romance novel
WICHITA, Kansas -- An internship with a Minor League Baseball team can result in all sorts of unpredictable experiences. For example, Jacob Koch served as the inspiration for the lead protagonist in a romance novella set at the ballpark. The novella in question is Home Run Hunter, written by Cindy
WICHITA, Kansas -- An internship with a Minor League Baseball team can result in all sorts of unpredictable experiences. For example, Jacob Koch served as the inspiration for the lead protagonist in a romance novella set at the ballpark.
The novella in question is Home Run Hunter, written by Cindy M. Amos and released earlier this year by Winged Publications. Amos, who works as a Wichita Wind Surge fan host, set the story at the team's home of Riverfront Stadium.
The Wind Surge, Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, played their inaugural season in 2021; Amos, a prolific author, was an avid observer of the ballpark's inner workings throughout the campaign. The result is Home Run Hunter, which traces a slow-brewing and at times conflicted romance between intern Gage Landers and promo team member Lena Hart amid a backdrop of ballpark minutiae. Gage and Lena work for the Wind Splurge, who host other thinly veiled Texas League entities such as the Tulsa Thrillers and Springfield Redbirds.
And, yes, Gage is modeled after Jacob Koch, who worked as a fan experience intern for the Wind Surge in 2021 and now serves as the team's corporate sales and services coordinator.
"Jacob, he's my boss this year. He was an intern last year, getting his sports management degree," said Amos. "I thought, 'I need a hero who's going to have to take a journey.' Because the main character can't end up in the same place he started out. So I picked Jacob's intern position and called him Gage Landers. Because Gage was the 'Kid of the Game' one night [at Riverfront Stadium] and I thought, 'Oh, I like that name.' And a guy walked by wearing a jersey that said 'Sanders' on it. ... My background is biology and field ecology and I always write about the land, so how about Landers? And that's how Gage Landers got his name."
Amos was speaking from Dillons Picnic Patio in right field, her usual ballpark assignment. When Koch wandered by and saw an interview with Amos in progress, he couldn't help but smile.
"How often is someone going to write a book about an internship?" he said. "I caught flak in the office, but my co-workers loved it. They just like giving me a hard time."
Amos, a lifelong baseball fan and former college softball player, found Riverfront Stadium to be an ideal setting for a story.
"The first week I saw the dynamics going on up in the stands and I began calling it 'The game within the game,'" she said. "It's really a microcosm here. The gate keeps everybody else out, so you don't have to describe anything going on except what's in here. ... [The ballpark] has a lot of emotion in it, it really does. Positive emotion."
Home Run Hunter is filled with scenes that could only take place at a Minor League ballpark. A nightly mascot "Fruit Race" provides regular opportunities for covert flirtation between Gage and Lena, with the former suiting up as an orange and the latter a strawberry. A tarp pull, meanwhile, is described thusly: "Gage's knuckles bumped against [Lena's] in the tandem effort. Against the cold rain, the sensation held a warmth all its own." And when Gage and Lena find the time to enjoy the futuristic ice cream that is Dippin' Dots, Gage finds it to be "the best 15-minute break an intern could ask for."
Fortunately, one of Home Run Hunter's more significant plot points has no basis in reality.
"I did have to go into the fiction world and add a little drama," said Amos. "So there's a dead body in the groundskeeper's area."
Corpse discoveries notwithstanding, the novella maintains a light and breezy tone throughout. Amos said it's been a "good little seller so far," and notes it can also be found in a four-book collection entitled Summer Sweethearts. And even though this was Amos' 45th book (all issued by Winged Publications), its release came with no small amount of trepidation. After all, Gage Landers wasn't the only character inspired by a 2021 Wind Surge employee.
"I was sweating bullets to put this book in front of the people in the front office," she said. "I felt as a writer I had really put myself out on a limb because, by the way, this is my day job! I was worried someone might get ticked off. 'Why did you include me, or why didn’t you include me?'"
Amos said that Home Run Hunter will have at least one sequel and is currently in the planning stages for the "second season" of the series. When that book comes out, the guessing game will start anew.
"Everyone loves trying to figure out who they are, and make the connections," said Koch. "With me, I just told [Amos] that I wanted a signed copy in case someone doesn't believe me."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.