Chris Ballard is a Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated, and the author of One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season (Hyperion). In his 10 years at SI, he has written features, columns, and bonus-length stories and covered a range of subjects, from the NBA and MLB to high-stakes pigeon racing and bass fishing. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Sports Writing series and in 2012 he was one of five finalists for the National Magazine Award in profile writing. Ballard has also written a number of stories for the New York Times Magazine and is the author of three previous books: Hoops Nation, The Butterfly Hunter, and The Art of a Beautiful Game: The Thinking Fan's Tour of the NBA. He is an ideal speaker for colleges and universities, journalism schools, and Hall of Fame museums.
In his "One Shot at Forever" talks, Ballard takes audiences on an entertaining, evocative journey. When Lynn Sweet arrived in Macon, Illinois in 1966, his effect on the small Midwestern town was not hard to predict. An idealist, beatnik, dreamer, and intellectual in a town still living in the Eisenhower era, Sweet made waves wherever he went, including the classroom where he taught high school English. What no one could have guessed was that by 1971, Sweet would become the school's baseball coach and take a group of overmatched boys from Macon all the way to the state finals. Wearing hand-me-down uniforms and peace signs on their hats, playing Jesus Christ Superstar during warm-ups, the Macon Ironmen defied convention and the odds. At a time when there were no class divisions in high school baseball, Macon emerged from a field of 370 teams to become the smallest school in Illinois history to make the final, a distinction that stands to this day. Drawing upon local research, as well as extensive interviews with the players and Lynn Sweet himself, Ballard offers a compelling look at the disparate ways these men remember their brief taste of glory.
Before joining Sports Illustrated, Ballard was an intern at the Courier-Post in Camden, NJ. He has also written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other publications. He has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, ABC News with Dick Schaap, and Outside the Lines. A native Californian, he graduated from Pomona College, where he played basketball and was on the track and field team.
Ballard lives in Berkeley, California.
Photo by John Burgess