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Indians spring training behind the scenes: Utility man Justin Toole adds author to resume

By Stephanie Storm Published: February 26, 2014

Back in the day, baseball players worked during the offseason. Way before the days of multi-year guaranteed contracts, they had to in order to continue paying the bills and taking care of their families.

While coaching and managing in the minors, current Indians third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh spent his off seasons working as a grade school substitute teacher back home in Pennsylvania.

Heck, knowing Sarbaugh as well as I do (I covered the Tribe’s Double-A Akron club when he first served as the team’s hitting coach and then later when he came back as the Aeros manager), he might still be teaching during the fall and winter even though he’s entering his second season coaching at the major league level.

But now Indians minor leaguer Justin Toole has added a new dynamic to interesting offseason jobs for ball players, having spent his writing the book “9 in 9: Nine Life Lessons Learned” to become a respected author.

An easy yet engaging read at 107 pages, Toole’s book is essentially about his experience of playing all nine positions in a game while at high Class-A Carolina during the 2012 season.

Written like a motivational autobiography with self-help tools and plenty of baseball sprinkled in, I wanted to share more about Toole’s book here, thinking many of you might be interested as well.

So I took about an hour Tuesday to sit down with Toole, 27, after the Indians morning workout to see how well the book has been received.

Here are some of the questions and answers from our insightful sit down.

Q) Early in the book you talk about how being honest about an injury during the draft cost you your shot at getting drafted. That put a chip on your shoulder that still drives you today, didn’t it?

A) I had a pretty successful college career and when you’re playing baseball and doing well, its hard not to think about the next level. So during my senior season, I thought that when the season was over I’d go on to play professionally. But when I broke my arm, that whole thought process completely changed gears. But then I got a phone call from a team during the draft and they asked about my arm. I didn’t want to put myself in a position where I said I was healthy and then go down there and fail the physical or something. Obviously being cleared medically and being able to participate in baseball activities are two different things. So I just felt it was right to be honest. It would have been great to be drafted, it was a dream I always had. But I think it worked out better this way (signing as an undrafted free agent), as the Indians are a perfect organization for me. I had to go a back way around trying to get into professional baseball, but at the same time, it kind of helped not only cherish being here and understand how hard it is to get here, but also showed me how much I care about the game of baseball and how much I love playing it.     

Q) How well has the book been received since it’s debut in mid October?

A) It’s been unbelievable. I didn’t really have any expectations going into it. In high school I wrote good papers. But when it comes to writing a book and delivering a message, you have in your mind what you want to say and how you want it to come across. But until you put it out there, you don’t really know how receptive people are going to be.   

Q) Who was your target audience when you first started writing?

A) I had a lot of high school kids in mind, kids I’ve worked with in the off season as kind of the target audience, but it’s been accepted by so many different people. I’ve had college athletes send me messages saying they really enjoyed it. I’ve had schools contact me to buy hundreds of copies for their fourth and fifth-grade classes and then I went to visit them and talk more about it. So it’s been so much more successful than I ever could have imagined. 

Q) The book is about you playing all nine positions on the field in one game, but it’s also a life-lesson type of book as well.

A) I wanted to take things I learned in my life and share them with others. Hopefully they can take a message or one or two things and use it in their lives. Growing up, my dad was a coach and I often went with him to coaching clinics. There they always tell you that if you come away with one thing, it was worth your time. So, my whole goal was that people can learn one thing out of there that will make it worth their while.

Q) You came up through the minors with a handful of the guys playing for the Indians now – second baseman Jason Kipnis and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, for example. How has that helped you in your quest to someday play in the big leagues? 

A) Ever since I was age 2 or 3, I thought I was going to be a major league baseball player. I was blessed to grow up in a family and with the right situation where I could do that. Now, when I work with kids, I want to allow them to believe they can achieve their dreams, too. Playing with guys and getting to know a lot of them who are playing in the big leagues right now, you realize they’re just like everyone else. They’re extremely talented on the field and great guys. But at the same time, off the field you realize they’re just like everyone else.   

* For more information about Toole’s “9 in 9” book or to order a copy, visit Barnes&, or The book can also be purchased as an Ebook.  


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