ALAMEDA -- Some researchers tab softball as the nation's most popular participant sport. If that's the case, then Alameda's ever-popular recreational adult slow pitch leagues long have reflected that reality. And any Alamedan wanting to write a softball-oriented book would not have to go far to find material and inspiration.

Phil Canalin surely didn't.

Well known and respected in Alameda sports circles, Canalin used his experience with the Willies softball team as the basis for his book, "Slow Pitch Softball -- More Than Just a Game."

Released for trade copy and eBook distribution on July 4, the book has drawn much fanfare, particularly from past and present Alameda Recreation and Park Department softball players. A book release party at McGee's Black Skillet Grill attracted more than 100 people. ("I never had so much fun," Canalin said).

Those who missed that event will have another chance to meet or catch up with Canalin when he comes to Books Inc. on Park Street at 7 p.m. Saturday for a book signing event.

"Slow Pitch Softball" is a fictional book loosely based on real events. It begins with William, a young man looking to escape boredom.

"He's trying to find something to do with his friends," Canalin said. "His father has a bunch of friends around, so why not start a softball team?"

Overall, the book recounts the 10th anniversary season of a team -- also known as the Willies -- and of all the fun and camaraderie its members and their families enjoyed.

The actual Willies, of which Canalin was a founding member, played 24 seasons in the ARPD leagues. Named in honor of Willie Mays, each player wore Mays' famous number, 24.


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"The rule was we wanted to play for fun, and you had to want to go out and have fun after the game," said Canalin, who played throughout the team's existence.

That postgame fun included barbecues or get-togethers at the team sponsor's place of business. Such fun and camaraderie were nothing new to Canalin, now 55, who grew up as one of five brothers (in a family of seven) on Alameda's West End.

As boys, the Canalins played in the ARPD's T-shirt baseball league (this was before the advent of the Alameda Little League), often getting their names mentioned in the Alameda Times-Star's weekly "Play Ball" section. Then it was off to Encinal High School, from where Canalin's daughters, Jessica and Kelsey, also graduated, and where nephew Jonathan Canalin currently serves as boys head basketball coach.

"Part of the (basis for the) book is that we all grew up playing with each other and against each other," Canalin said. "The greatest thing about Alameda is that you get to a certain age and you realize that you've been hanging out with these guys forever."

Canalin also maintains another Alameda connection through his father-in-law, Richard Daleke, once the commanding officer at the Alameda Naval Air Station. And on a professional level, Canalin works as a financial manager for the Alameda County Public Health Department.

"(Being from here) definitely helps me gain a voice locally in Alameda," Canalin said of his writing. "But I think a lot of people can relate. I'm sure there are a lot of places in the country where people play together for a long time and become friends and family."

As it is, Canalin is no newcomer to writing, either. He had a children's book published in 2006 called, "Just Hug a Bubble!" Canalin's brother, Ed, who illustrated that book, also provided the cover art for "Slow Pitch Softball."

Additionally, Canalin and his wife, Sue, collaborated on a cookbook project called "Dinner at the Sonnemans." Another book, "Invisible Society Fables," a collection of short stories about homelessness, is scheduled for release at the end of the year.

For Canalin, "Slow Pitch Softball" was a labor of love, a book 10 years in the making, with Sue Canalin providing much editing and input. Published by Texas-based Black Rose Writing, the book's 12 chapters cover 316 pages.

IF YOU GO
What: Phil Canalin, author of "Slow Pitch Softball -- More Than Just a Game"
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Books Inc., 1344 Park St.
Information: 510-522-2226 or http://www.booksinc.net/Alameda