Wade introduced himself to the Leap Frogs when they performed at Veterans Stadium on Opening Day in 2005. When the Phillies were in San Diego to play the Padres later that season they offered him a tandem dive. After the season now-retired SEAL Nix White was back in Philadelphia as part of the team that jumped at the Army-Navy game. The two men attended a Flyers game together.
"I said, 'How do you learn to take lessons?' He said, 'There are three of us on the jump team who are all licensed as instructors. If you come out to San Diego, we'll teach you.' And since has told me that he offered that to about 500 people and I'm the only guy who ever showed up," Wade said with a laugh.
The Phillies had a .527 winning percentage in Wade's last five season as general manager but, after a series of near playoff misses, he was let go after the '05 season and eventually accepted a scouting position with the Padres. With time on his hands for the first time in years, he not only took up skydiving in earnest and trained for a marathon. He also began focusing on a vague project he'd been thinking about for awhile.
"I had an idea for a story and started to work on it in dribs and drabs," he explained. "I probably had about 85 percent of it done and then the Houston job came along [in 2007]. I set it off to the side and when I got back last winter I just decided to at least bring it to closure and then decide what I wanted to do with it after that. Then I went through the self-publishing thing, how to self-publish on Kindle and how to cover the cover and all that stuff. Just put it up there and see what happens.
"It beat watching daytime TV. I didn't want to go downstairs and watch those kinds of shows. So that offseason I never turned the TV on until like 5 o'clock in the evening and tried to spend time doing stuff, other than the regular household chores, it made sense to do something that was fun and maybe constructive."
The tale begins with Steve Laun, a former SEAL, returning to his small home town after the death of his father in a car wreck. Eventually, he's convinced that the accident is suspicious and uncovers a massive conspiracy. Along the way, Wade riffs on father-son relationships, foreign intrigue and the military. The climactic scene would be a spectacular movie sequence.
There are autobiographical aspects to the book. "Some of it is. Some of it is background experience," Wade said. "I did grow up in a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania [where the story is set]. It was an area that was big on coal mining and railroads at one time and has struggled, as a lot of places in the Northeast have and a result of things changing. So some of it is. Obviously, more recently, the sky diving. There are different parts that are experiences I've lived through."
While one of Laun's motivations involves a mission gone bad, Wade's admiration for the military is unmistakable.
"That's probably where I'm stretching the most from the standpoint of work of fiction. A lot of that stuff, nobody's ever come and said, 'This goes wrong or that goes wrong.' But one would anticipate that at different points in time some things do. Things that happen around the world that don't work out correctly don't seem to slow these guys down as far as what they feel their ultimate objectives are," he said.
"I can't have any greater respect for any group of people than I do for them and what they do for us."
Along the way, Wade became close to several of the Leap Frogs. White is acknowledged as are late SEAL commander Gus Kaminski and his wife, Candace. Marcus Luttrell, whose book Lone Survivor is being made into a movie, is a big Astros fan.
"The book was a mental exercise. Whether anybody ever reads it is sort of beside the point. But I wanted to make sure that if I was doing something that related in some fashion to them that it was done with the right measure of respect," he said. "I just enjoyed writing it. If anybody reads it and they like it, that's great. If anybody reads it and they don't like it, nothing I can do about it. I had the guts to write it. Took the time to write it, had the guts to put it up on Kindle, if people want to shoot holes in it, so be it."
Which, if you think about it, has a lot in common with being a general manager.