Timbers goalkeeper Attinella finds new passion in children's books

A historic championship in November, a glimmer of hope in December, and a couple hundred nursery rhymes later, and Jeff Attinella is no longer just a Portland Timbers goalkeeper – he’s a published author, too.

Attinella released four children’s books earlier this summer, issuing three sports-centric titles, as well as another about the first moon landing. He's published them all through It Had to Be Told publishing company, which he started with his wife and in-laws this winter.

For Attinella, who moved from Real Salt Lake to Portland this offseason, penning children’s books was never part of the plan. But this past fall, the birth of his first child, daughter Remy, got his wheels turning.

The Clearwater, Florida native is a diehard Tampa sports fan, and he wanted to create a way to share his fandom with his newborn daughter. After taking inspiration from the Chicago Cubs’ curse-breaking World Series win -- and his Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ first over-.500 finish in years -- he started drafting his first story while still in the stands at the Bucs’ season finale.

“I’m sitting there thinking how excited I am to go to a game where the Bucs might be 9-7 for the first time in forever, and while I was thinking that I was kind of like, ‘How am I going to get my daughter to cheer for a team that I’m excited about being 9-7? How am I going to get my daughter to love my teams, especially when we move so much and Tampa is all the way across the country?’” Attinella says. “So I started writing down a little story in my phone and later on that day I kind of mentioned it to my in-laws. Fast forward and here we are: four books, a publishing company and really exciting stuff going on.”

Attinella has published books about the Cubs’ World Series title, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ improbable 2016 NBA championship, the New England Patriots’ amazing comeback win in the 2017 Super Bowl, and the first trip to the moon. He handled the writing, while his wife, Kendall, who has a degree in journalism, led the editing process and is managing many of the day-to-day operations. His in-laws, Wayne and Rosemary Curtis, provided an assist in getting the publishing company and website – where all four books can be purchased – off the ground. They contracted out to four different illustrators for the art.

Attinella has several other books already written, but isn’t yet sure if he’ll send them to print. Anyone hoping for an MLS children’s book will have to wait awhile, however, with Attinella saying he doesn’t want to mix his soccer career with his budding children’s book business.

“I don’t really want to cross the two, just because MLS is quote-un-quote my nine-to-five, and the books are just kind of a bit of a hobby,” he says. “I’m a very, very well-rounded sports fan, and I’m enjoying stepping out of MLS and kind of exploring and learning about these other teams. But when I’m done playing, if MLS wants some books written, they definitely know where they can find me.”

He says the early response has been positive, especially in Chicago, where the Cubs book has been picked up by plenty of businesses – bookstores and otherwise – around the city. Most gratifying for Attinella, though, is the feedback he’s received from parents of kids normally uninterested in reading who are diving head-first into his stories.

“People that are buying the books are giving us good feedback on the stories, especially the kids who are more all about sports, which is kind of how I was [as a kid],” he says. “It’s an awesome thing to reach those kids, and it’s an awesome thing for families to share together. If you’re a sports fan it’s in your blood, and I think that as a parent you want to share that with your kid.”