ALAMO -- Bee Hylinski's love affair with the Oakland Athletics began when she was in her early teens and living in Kansas City. That's when the team was known as the Kansas City Athletics.

"My brother and I fell in love with baseball," she said. "I fell madly in love with (pitcher) Art Ditmar."

Hylinski, who wore a skirt, a shirt with a Peter Pan collar and Mary Jane shoes with white socks, said the fans in the stands dressed stylishly in those days. But, she said, fans were fans regardless of the decade.

"Fans were incredibly enthusiastic for the A's and they cheered whether the team did something good or not," she said. "But when the Yankees came to town, they got booed."

She attended more than 30 games that baseball season. But it took decades later before Hylinski -- like a lover reunited with her soul mate -- rekindled her love affair with the Oakland Athletics in 1988.

These days, Hylinski spends her time going to A's games both as a fan and a volunteer. Her passion for the game resulted in her first novel, the recently-published "Contract Year: A Baseball Novel," which she describes as "a labor of love for the game of baseball."

The novel centers on a young major league pitcher, Larry Gordon, who had everything going for him -- the perfect woman and a bright future in baseball -- that is, until his world starts to unravel.


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Hylinski has been a season-ticket holder since the late 1980s. She "channeled" former A's (and now Giants) pitcher Barry Zito as inspiration for her novel's protagonist.

"I've always been fascinated with pitchers, so it should come as no surprise that the central character in my book is a pitcher," said Hylinski, who was a tax, estate planning and probate attorney, and is a former mayor of Moraga.

Hylinski, who now lives in Alamo, taught art classes through Walnut Creek Civic Arts Education and showed her work as a fiber artist. But having hand surgery prevented her from creating the intricate detail work required for making candle holders, boxes and other functional pieces using heat, metal wire and wire cloth.

In the summer of 2005, she attended the Oakland Feather River Art Camp near Quincy to focus on creating gourds. Instead, she was drawn to a writing workshop taught by Oakland writing teacher Clive Matson.

"He had the participants write a piece of 'flash fiction,' " Hylinski said. "We had to write about what we know and what we're passionate about. Well, other than my family, I'm passionate about baseball, so I created the character Larry Gordon."

The piece she wrote that summer is part of Chapter 10 in "Contract Year." Even though Matson thought Hylinski could stretch the Larry piece into a novel, Hylinski didn't dive into the project immediately. But she wrote the first chapter, and by the time she reached the end of Chapter Three she was hooked by her own story.

"I did make an outline, but Larry didn't want to follow my outline," she said. "I was trying to make Larry do something that was not in his character and wasn't something he would do. So I listened to him. I didn't have writer's block because I listened to Larry and thought, 'What would Larry do in this situation?' "

Hylinski did extensive research on Major League Baseball players and was granted permission to interview A's minor league pitchers who participated in the Arizona Fall League to get a sense of the young players' demeanor and use of contemporary colloquialism.

Matson said he's seen how Hylinski has progressed from writing a short piece to a novel.

"The important ingredient was her enthusiasm for baseball and for that event she wrote about," Matson said. "The enthusiasm about the story was already brewing inside of her."

The author hopes readers sense her passion for baseball and how she got inside her character's head as they read "Contract Year."

"It's a novel about a major league pitcher, but it's also a love story," Hylinski said. "So it appeals to both men and women."

Bee Hylinski
For more information about Hylinski and her novel, go to www.contractyearnovel.com