LAFAYETTE -- For San Francisco Giants fans whipped into renewed fervor by the team's recent clinching of the National League West title, the next best thing to playoff tickets could be a seat at the Lafayette Library on Sept. 30.

There, writer Matt Johanson will wax eloquent as an insider to the team's greatest stories, collected in his book, "Game of My Life: San Francisco Giants."

The Castro Valley High School history and journalism teacher has been following the rocket ride of professional baseball since his card-trading boyhood.

"I latched onto the Giants when I was a kid," he recalls. "Collecting cards, listening to the radio, going to the games ... that was what we did."

After drifting away from baseball long enough to write for the Union Democrat newspaper in Sonora and find refreshment for his spirit while hiking and climbing in Yosemite, Johanson returned to the Bay Area.

"I fell in love with the Giants again in '97 when they had their worst-to-first-year," he says.

With the sweet timing major league managers hope every batter will develop, Johanson's swing (back to his home team), stance (a teaching position at CVHS) and delivery (in articles about sports and the outdoors) came together in 2006.

"The publisher approached me and wanted a book turned around in six months," he remembers. "I was apprehensive because it sounded like a lot to do. But a book about my favorite game and my favorite team? It was too good to pass by."

The first edition, published by now-defunct Sports Publishing, told legendary and less-well-known stories from Giants' history. A 2011 update, with chapters added to ride the wave of the 2010 World Series win, allowed Johanson to "bench" next to his heroes.

"It was pretty much just me, creating relationships with players. I started with the guys I wanted to get. The big stars, it's tough to get them to spend time with writers they don't know. Sometimes, the less famous players gave the best interviews."

The tenacity that drove him to the clubhouse more than a dozen times and the thrill of putting his own stamp on team highlights are points he emphasizes while teaching students and leading the staff of the Castro Valley High paper, The Olympian.

During the course of his 15 years at CVHS, the tools of the trade have changed, from slides and transparencies to PowerPoint and LCD projectors, and from books and face-to-face interactions to Google and social media.

"It's hard to get a kid to open a real book and meet real people," he laments. "They're totally plugged into social media, probably more than they should be. The digital revolution is a double-edged sword."

STAR testing is a necessary hardship, he proclaims.

"It's tough, but it's a responsibility the schools have to fulfill," he explains, sounding like a coach promoting push ups to reluctant recruits at spring training. "The best way to do that is to motivate students. There are ways to teach history and I try to find a way to be effective that's also fun: games and competitions."

With journalism students, he's realistic.

"It's a rough road. I don't encourage them to go into the field. If they want to go into journalism, they can't try that halfway and expect to succeed."

But he does believe in drilling home skills they will use in any profession -- especially good writing, ethical practices and teamwork.

Using case studies, like when to name students involved in disciplinary measures or whether to publish provocative photos from school dances, Johanson gives them ground rules for publication.

"Even the kids who have been in sports aren't used to team work in an academic setting," he says. "It's a class for learning by doing: if you miss a deadline, it impacts everyone."

With a new book "Yosemite Epics," a collection of stories told to Johanson by a "Who's Who?" of adventurers and illustrated by Christopher Hampson, the three-time author is thinking ahead.

Next summer, when the boys of baseball are pitching themselves through another season of dramatic moments, Johanson will be writing of his marvelous feats and amazing expeditions in a Yosemite guide book.

Author Talk,
'Game of My Life'
WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 30, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Lafayette Library and Learning Center, Community Hall, First Street and Golden Gate Way
COST: Adults $5, Youth $2
INFO/RESERVATIONS: 925-283-6513, etx. 101 or email to reserve@LLLCF.org hen