A Mile In His Shoes: Mickey Tussler's 'Legend' Comes to Life on gmc

By Andy Argyrakis | senior editor, www.watchgmctv.com
Posted: Mon, 09/12/2011 - 11:14

album promo image for Based on the Book: Inspiring Story Makes TV Debut on gmc

The countdown is officially on for the gmc World Premiere Movie “A Mile In His Shoes,” but long before the uplifting story makes its television debut Sunday, September 25, it was the basis of a book written by acclaimed author Frank Nappi. “The Legend of Mickey Tussler” is the 2008 novel based on a 17-year-old baseball player of the same name, who scores a roster slot with the Boston Braves’ minor league team.

Coach Arthur Murphy is absolutely awestruck by the youngster’s pitching arm, but it isn’t a surefire bet, given this particular player's challenges. Mickey has autism, which leads to an endless stream of wisecracks from both opponents and teammates. Add in an early life under the thumb of an abusive father, and it’s the ultimate underdog story with a lot of unexpected curveballs.

“I’d always entertained the idea of telling a baseball story, but not the typical hackneyed tale of a player who gets discovered and achieves success with all the usual storylines,” notes Nappi phoning in from Long Island, where he's also a high school teacher. “In conceiving the story, I wanted to make it groundbreaking. I’m fortunate enough to teach high school and be around special needs kids, so I have a little taste of how amazing these kids are talent-wise.”

Though the book initially hit streets on St. Martin’s Press and was aimed at an adult fiction fan base, word spread like wildfire and Nappi saw a much wider audience represented at his book signings. Junior high and high school baseball players became instant fans, while the book was simultaneously championed by the sports world and families with special needs kids.

“I’ve been happily surprised on two levels, starting with the baseball scenes, which were loosely compared to ‘The Natural’ and said to be really vivid,” he reflects. “As a baseball guy who’s played and coached, that was really rewarding for me, but so was getting calls from parents of autistic children who found a niche, perhaps in sports or music, and were so pleased that a book celebrated the idea of these kids achieving wonderful things.”

In addition to the public fanfare, Hollywood came calling with the prospect of turning the book into a movie. And after Nappi accepted, a who’s who of A-listers joined the charge, including Dean Cain (“Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”) putting on the coach’s cap, burgeoning newcomer Luke Schroder (son of “Silver Spoons” and “NYPD Blue” legend Rick Schroder) taking to the pitcher’s mound in his debut role, and William Dear (“Angels In the Outfield”) assuming the director’s chair. Country music singer George Canyon also stars.

“There are several similarities [of the book to the movie] at the core," shares Nappi, "with Schroder's character still being a great pitcher, being discovered by the coach and experiencing challenges like intolerance, violence, pranks and all the other ugliness that has to be exposed. In regard to the differences, the movie takes place in 2002 instead of 1948 and the ending is a little more viewer-friendly. But either way, the story delivers the messages of a fight against intolerance, accepting people who are different, and resiliency in the face of adversity.”

With the newfound attention given to Tussler’s tale, Skyhorse Publishing will be re-releasing the original book in April 2012, accompanied by the sequel “The Legend of Mickey Tussler: Sophomore Campaign.” Besides building on the character’s previously laid groundwork, it will address everything from the death of a close friend, to racial unrest, and health concerns.

In the wake of those releases, Nappi will continue championing special needs organizations like Challenger Baseball and Autism Speaks. But before returning to the public eye, he has a fall semester of teaching on the calendar. However, he promises to take an evening off from it all to kick back on the couch for the world premiere of “A Mile In His Shoes.”

“Everybody always asks how I balance everything, but I just create a time to write at night when everyone else is sleeping,” he shares with a laugh. “I watch less TV, eat a little bit less and sleep a little bit less, but when something like this happens and you see a book come to fruition, it’s beyond exhilarating and makes the sacrifices worth it. My family’s been so supportive. It’s exciting for us all to be a part of something emerging like gmc and it’s been nice to see so much build up.”  

The gmc World Premiere Movie “A Mile In His Shoes” debuts Sunday, September 25 at 7 & 9 PM ET. For additional details and previews, visit http://www.watchgmctv.com/video/mile-his-shoes.

Copyright 2011, www.watchgmctv.com. For permission to repost or reprint, click here.


About the Writer

Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, IllinoisEntertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He’s also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park’s Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel’s very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).

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