LARNED — When Ryan Shelton attended Larned High School, he played tennis because his high school didn’t offer high school baseball at the time. Shelton helped pay for his college education playing tennis at Northwestern Oklahoma State University at Alva, Okla.
But baseball always remained his first love and became an inspiration for his novel “The Mentor.”
“Baseball was always important in town and it’s still one of my favorite sports,” he said. “I grew up with a group that played baseball starting in Little League.”
Shelton will conduct a local book signing from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at Scraps, 612 Broadway. His mother, Mary Shelton, resides in Larned and some relatives live locally.
“I try and get home to my hometown as often as I can, and it’s always good to travel to Larned,” he said. “I love central Kansas. I grew up fishing white bass with my dad at Cedar Bluff and Lake Wilson.”
Shelton taught English and coached football and track from 1998-2001 before moving to Ponca City, Okla., where he teaches English and coaches tennis.
Baseball serves as a backdrop for “The Mentor,” to tell a story that tells the story of Vincent Preston, a talented baseball player who faces challenges in his home life achieving his goals. The background story is derived from real-life stories in Ponca City.
“The story is written about some of the at-risk students and challenging home lives I’ve heard over the years,” he said. “There’s not a better story than writing about America’s past-time — baseball.”
He wrote his first draft of “The Mentor,” in 2003, but it required quite a bit of time to get the novel published through Martin Sisters Publishing from Kentucky.
“Getting a novel published is difficult, but this one was the right place at the right time,” he said.
The main character, Vincent Preston has absentee parents. He raises himself, barely graduating high school, and has one chance to get out of his small town — baseball. He has a strong arm, but unfortunately it is wild, out of control.
Thankfully, his English teacher, Mrs. Dean, introduces him to her husband, “Grandpa Dean,” a gruff WWII veteran and former Major League Baseball scout who missed his shot when he was injured in the line of duty. He is riddled with cancer and is looking for one last chance at atonement for carrying around his anger for so long.
Vincent’s mentor teaches him not only how to take advantage of his natural talent, but to trust in God. He’ll need his newfound faith in Christ to overcome his shady coach, the coach’s bully of a son, and the local drug dealer, all of whom are intent on wrecking his dreams.
In high school, Shelton entered a hunting story in a regional newspaper contest and placed second. His first novella was about four junior high students who go on an ill-fated camping trip. Shelton’s goal was to write a young adult Christian novel centered around baseball.
His passion for writing began with his first letter to Santa. He’s been writing in some capacity ever since and especially loves to pen stories about the great outdoors and sports.