If your kid doesn't like baseball — and don't worry, it's a character flaw that can be overcome — Kevin O'Malley and Charlie Vascellaro are here to help.

Following two years of painstaking research, mostly watching games and thinking really hard about them, the two Baltimore men have come up with a baseball primer they hope will help youngsters understand what they're missing.


"At the Ballpark: A Fan's Companion" is a 64-page volume designed not only to introduce the young to America's pastime, but also to answer any questions that might arise as they watch it. Just what is the strike zone? It's in there. Where did that song, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," come from? It's in there. What do all those numbers up on the scoreboard mean? It's in there.

"If a kid goes to the ballpark for the first time and isn't sure about what is going on out there, this is what this book is designed for," says Vascellaro, 51, a Bolton Hill resident and native New Yorker who used to work for the Orioles' minor-league affiliates. An author of books about Manny Ramirez and Hank Aaron (among other works), he says he and O'Malley, 53, spent months trying to decide what sort of baseball book to write.

Among the discarded ideas: books about famous chokes (as in blown opportunities), baseball vocabulary and jobs in the sport.

Eventually, they decided to more or less merge those last two ideas and gear their work toward younger readers. Vascellaro did most of the writing. O'Malley drew the pictures, and "At the Ballpark" was born.

The book, designed to be filled in as the game progresses (it even comes with its own pencil), proceeds chronologically, taking its young reader step-by-step through the ballpark experience, from getting to the game (did you arrive by car? Bus? Flying reindeer?) to cheering the last out.

"We just want the book kind of sitting there, waiting for them, to consult as need be," Vascellaro says.

So far, "At the Ballpark" has sold about 500 copies (it can be purchased for $9.99 via the afanscompanion.com website). But Vascellaro says he and O'Malley, both serious baseball fans of long standing, have a far grander ambition — to attract a new generation of fans to the game.

"That is ultimately why we wrote the book," Vascellaro says. "We are hoping this might encourage them to kind of embrace the game, in the way generations before have."


If you go

The two authors will be at the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards , 301 W. Camden St., for a discussion and book signing, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22. There will also be a panel discussion on "Where and How Kids Used to Play Baseball," moderated by Stan "The Fan" Charles. Vascellaro and O'Malley will be back signing books at 10 a.m.-noon today. Information: baberuthmuseum.org/events.