By MADELINE MECCA
As if teaching English at Oceanside High School isn’t time consuming enough, Mr. Nappi also spends what little free time he has writing. He feels it is his way to show his thoughts to the world. Not only has he written a trilogy, but book one of the series was turned into a movie. “The Legend of Mickey Tussler,” was the first book written about a young boy with Asperger’s Syndrome and how he survives in the real world by playing minor league baseball.
However, his uncommon idea to write about a boy with special needs was not random. When asked why, he responded with “I have worked very closely with so many Special Needs children as a volunteer with groups such as Best Buddies and Challenger Baseball. I discovered that these individuals really are special.” The actions of those who are mentally handicapped provoked Frank to bring awareness to them and to open reader’s minds to how capable a person with special needs truly is.
Through his work with mentally handicapped awareness groups, Mr. Nappi also discovered how harsh and not understanding the “regular” person can be to disorders such as Asperger’s. “I have also witnessed how many people remain unenlightened and as such treat Special Needs individuals with callous disregard or even worse ridicule and derision. Part of my attempt in writing the series was to throw a spotlight on how unique and often times talented Special Needs individuals are with the hope of fostering awareness, understanding and hopefully one day acceptance.”
Mr. Nappi decided that baseball is the best way to bring about how a child suffering from mental illness can achieve so many great things when given the opportunity. Baseball’s friendly atmosphere and competitiveness was one of the reasons the story was so intriguing. It was not just focused on a boy who overcame a struggle, it also focused on the intensity of baseball and how all players, not just Mickey, are extremely ambitious. It truly gave the reader the feel of a baseball game atmosphere. Mr. Nappi explained “Baseball was and still is my first love. It is a beautiful game and a perfect metaphor for the human condition. This sort of backdrop made it easy to expose some of the books’ themes, such as intolerance, prejudice, love and hate.”
On April 7, 2016, the third book of the trilogy was honored in Rockville Centre at The Turn of The Corkscrew Book and Wine. Here, people were able to speak with the author about his book(s) and listen to his reasoning for continuing the series. He was able to sign the visitors’ books personally and get feedback from them on how they felt about the trilogy. “Everyone in attendance was engaged and there were so many excellent questions asked. Readers are special people, especially those who also love baseball! It was extra special because the crowd was there to learn more about a character they already know.
When the author was asked whether or not he would do another movie if the opportunity was there he said, “I don’t believe any author would say no to an opportunity like that. The first time for me was very exciting and rewarding on many levels, even though I was not entirely satisfied with some of the decisions that the director and production staff made. That’s part of the deal though.”
The night was a great experience for Mr. Nappi and the others in attendance. Mr. Nappi plans to continue to write and has just finished writing a novel he calls “As Long As We Both Shall Live.”