By Andrew Alexander, DIG Sports Editor
The relationship between author and subject can often remain solely professional, involving a series of interviews and subject observations.
For Walking with Tigers author Jeffrey Marx, he discovered lifelong friendship during the journey of covering former LSU All-American shortstop Alex Bregman for a chapter in the book.
Bregman is hosting the latest Walking with Tigers book release party on Tuesday, December 8 at Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar in Towne Center from 6-9 p.m.
Marx’s inspiration for Bregman’s chapter in Walking with Tigers came while scrolling through Bregman’s Twitter account (@ABREG_1) one day.
Amid the bevy of inspiration quotes Bregman often tweets out, one line from June 18, 2013 intrigued Marx: “Road to Omaha starts tomorrow.”
Bregman sent out the message minutes after LSU had been eliminated by North Carolina in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
“That just grabbed me,” Marx said. “I’d never seen anything like it. That was one of the things, very early on, that I knew I was going to want to learn about. I knew right then that was going to be the opening of the piece.”
The back cover of Walking with Tigers describes the book as “an unconventional collection of LSU sports stories.”
Fascinated by Bregman’s intensity and unparalleled work ethic, Marx decided the then-rising sophomore’s story needed to be included among the tales of other Tiger greats.
What Marx didn’t know was that the process of documenting Bregman’s sophomore season would transcend the confines of a typical author-subject relationship and blossom into a lifelong friendship between himself and the entire Bregman family.
“We formed a bond of friendship that will never be broken.”
– Alex Bregman, former LSU All-American shortstop
– Alex Bregman, former LSU All-American shortstop
Initially Marx thought it would be one of the shortest stories in the book, but as the process of formulating Bregman’s chapter unfolded, Marx realized the chapter would be much longer than initially expected, eventually becoming the longest chapter in the book.
Titled “Tweet Dreams of Omaha,” Bregman’s chapter in Walking with Tigers focuses on the highs and lows of the shortstop’s sophomore season, both on and off the field.
During the course of the season, Marx and Bregman conducted about a dozen formal interview sessions, but it was not long until the two began to bond as more than author and subject.
“I know that it became very comfortable and natural for us very quickly, and it also became a very special friendship,” Marx said.
The two would communicate via text message or phone calls nearly every day, and spent countless hours talking after LSU baseball games in the Alex Box clubhouse or at Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar, a stone’s throw from the cathedral of college baseball.
— Walking With Tigers (@LSUTigersBook) November 30, 2015
Bregman said although the first month was mostly business, he and Marx had an instant connection.
“We formed a bond of friendship that will never be broken,” Bregman said.
The relationship forged through these frequent get-togethers became a source of stability for Bregman when he faced personal tragedy during his sophomore year.
Bregman confided in Marx the morning after his grandfather passed away.
“That meant a lot to me, not as writer,” Marx said. “It meant a lot to me as a human being because as someone who is the same age as his parents, I felt like hopefully I could help support him that day.”
That afternoon Marx served as a friend and a surrogate father figure for Bregman, whose family resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the young man’s hour of need.
“It was super important to be able to talk about that with somebody and to be able to have somebody there for you in a place away from home,” Bregman said.
Marx’s three-step process for completing a book includes relationship building, researching and writing, with his favorite being the first step.
The author’s familial connection extended beyond the LSU shortstop to his parents as well, as Marx developed lasting friendships with Sam and Jackie Bregman as well.
“These are not people I got to know, worked on a story and now they’re out of my life,” Marx explained. “These are people who I got to know, worked on a story and now we’re all friends for life.”
Sam and Marx initially connected over a cup of coffee, discussing Alex’s childhood, on one of Sam’s trips to Baton Rouge to watch his son play in Alex Box.
“When you sit and spend time with Jeff Marx, you realize what a special guy he is and what an ability he has to capture sports and to capture how sports affect people’s lives,” Sam said.
Throughout the relationship building process, Marx was welcomed as a member of the Bregman clan on two important days in Alex’s life: his 21st birthday and June 8, 2015, when Alex was selected by the Houston Astros as the second overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
“He’s become a friend, there’s no doubt about it,” Sam said.
Marx and Alex also found common ground in their mutual desire to positively impact the lives of others.
As co-founder of the Wendy Marx Foundation for Organ Donor Awareness, Marx has been a devoted advocate for organ donation for decades, in honor of his sister Wendy, who passed away in 2003 after failing to find a liver transplant.
During a special event to raise organ donation awareness at one of the Tigers’ baseball games in 2013, former LSU player Raph Rhymes (also featured in Walking with Tigers) assisted Marx by passing out green bracelets that represented organ donation with the phrase “Donate Life” to his teammates.
All the LSU players sported the bracelets for the game, but as the season progressed, Marx noticed one player in particular who continued to don the green band.
The Bregmans have a family friend New Mexico who went through the waiting period to get a transplant, and the process of organ donation was an important cause to Alex.
Bregman kept wearing the green bracelet in subsequent games, and even sported one during his very last game as a player in Alex Box nearly two years later.
On June 7, 2015 – Wendy Marx’s birthday – LSU was set to face UL-Lafayette in game two of the NCAA Super Regional, with a trip to the College World Series on the line for the Tigers.
Earlier in the week, Marx asked Bregman if he wanted to wear one of the green bracelets and the junior shortstop enthusiastically agreed.
The Tigers beat the Ragin’ Cajuns 6-3 and advanced to the College World Series.
Bregman continued to don the green bracelet at the College World Series and even while he was signing his professional baseball contract with the Houston Astros.
“I kept telling him, ‘Alex you don’t have to keep wearing that green band.’” Marx said. “[Bregman] said ’Dude, are you kidding me? I’m always wearing this band. I love this band.’”
It was the sort of touching gesture Marx had grown accustomed to seeing from Alex during the pair’s friendship.
“We all know Alex as this baseball player, and we’ve seen what he can do,” Marx said. “I can guarantee you as the human being, when Alex is at his best, and when I see him enjoying himself the most, it’s when I see him impacting the lives of other people.”
For more information on Walking with Tigers and the upcoming book release party at Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar in Towne Center on December 8, follow @JeffreyMarx25 and @LSUTigersBook on Twitter and visit JeffreyMarx.org.