Anika Orrock with one of her illustrations from her book in her home in Nashville.
Anika Orrock was all warmed up for her big pitch. On the mound at Yankee Stadium, tossing out the ceremonial first ball.
On Tuesday night, though, the baseball illustrator and cartoonist will be far from the Bronx. Instead of starting off the Pirates-Yankees game, she’ll be back in Nashville, Tennessee, pondering her fate.
No way to tour the country, promoting and celebrating the publication of her first book, based on the women pros popularized by the movie "A League of Their Own.”
Now with the majors and much of the country shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, she spends her days pacing around a small cul-de-sac at home, managing virtual promotions and brainstorming ways to replace lost opportunities and income.
She’s not alone in being shut out, either.
Through what Orrock calls "the magic of the internet,” she connected with Brooklyn baseball artist Graig Kreindler, who experienced a similar letdown.
His 230 paintings were to be a major part of an exhibit at the Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri -- instead, the shrine was forced to close four weeks into the planned four-month run.
While commiserating about their virus-related setbacks, Orrock and Kreindler discovered they both celebrated their 40th birthdays on April 17. To mark the occasion, the social-media conscious pair created a "Baseball Buddy Birthday” video featuring a 3-minute card "draw-off” for YouTube.
Orrock’s newly released book, "The Incredible Women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League,” was the culmination of exhaustive research, interviews and writing about players in the 1940s and ’50s.
The Yankee Stadium visit was among a dozen or so publicity events connected to the publication that got canceled.
Kreindler also spent three years leading up to the painting exhibit.
Orrock grew up in the San Francisco area, where her grandfather was a longtime, popular newspaper columnist and a baseball fan. While a student San Francisco State, she went to Giants games and drew hundreds of scenes from the games.
After three seasons, she compiled them into a school project. She then realized they all looked the same because there were no women in her drawings.
It dawned on her: "I’m a woman and I love baseball ... There have to be great stories of women in baseball.”
Orrock attended a couple reunions of the women who played in the long-ago league that began during World War II and, helped by a lot of persistence, her book project began to take off.
Kreindler’s biggest challenge since the shutdown has been finding enough time to paint while sharing child-care duties with his wife, a writer, to care for and entertain their 2- and 4-year-old children.
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In the past, Kreindler figures he researched and painted about eight hours daily. Now he’s down to just an hour-and-a-half.
For Orrock, she’s encouraged by those she wrote about.
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