Daniel Coyle is the New York Times bestselling author of The Little Book of Talent, The Talent Code, Lance Armstrong’s War, and Hardball: A Season in Projects. A contributing editor for Outside Magazine, he is a two-time National Magazine Award finalist. Coyle lives in Cleveland, Ohio during the school year and in Homer, Alaska, during the summer with his wife Jen, and their four children.
Q: What’s the most significant risk you’ve taken professionally?
Daniel: It was 1991. I was 26 and working as an associate editor at Outside Magazine, which, in the kind of juxtaposition that happens in Chicago, happened to be located less than a mile from Cabrini-Green, one of the city’s poorest, most notorious housing projects. One day, one of my fellow editors told me about a youth baseball league that was starting in Cabrini. He and I started coaching with a few other guys our age, and quickly grew to love it -- particularly the remarkable, resilient kids we met. At the end of the first year, I realized that there might be a book to be written about our team: one that would tell the story of their lives over the course of a single season.
At that point, the longest piece of journalism I’d written was a one-page article on waterproof-breathable jackets. But naivete is a powerful fuel. I took an unpaid leave of absence from Outside and began spending my days at Cabrini. On the advice of a local social worker, I wore a worn-out sport jacket in order that local gang members would take me for a social worker instead of a police officer. I spent much of the summer in Cabrini-Green, rode with police, spent endless afternoons on the ballfield, and got to know that neighborhood better than I knew my own. Our team, which was average at best, somehow made it all the way to the league championship game. By summer’s end, I had the material for Hardball: A Season in the Projects.