"Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis
The book centers around Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, and the work he did running the Athletics. In high school Billy Beane was a potential first overall draft pick by the New York Mets. He fell to the Mets at 23rd overall because of the uncertainty of whether or not he would sign with a team over going to Stanford. Beane decided to sign with the Mets because he received a fairly large signing bonus. He was one of the most highly regarded players in the game because of his raw talent. Unfortunately for Beane he never panned out and was a career minor leaguer. He received a few chances in the MLB but never lasted long and kept on being sent back down to the minors. Eventually after being assigned to Minor League Spring Training camp in 1990 with the Oakland Athletics ten years into his career he decided to ask GM Sandy Alderson to give him a job as a scout. Beane became obsessed with trying to figure out why he, like many high schools stars, never panned out to become MLB stars. Since the A’s were under new management the team had to find a way to cut the payroll while still retaining talent. This lead the team to focus on using sabermetrics when evaluating players. Sabermetrics is the statistical analysis of baseball and is used to find players who provide high value for a low cost. Beane really bought into the whole sabermetrics movement when he became GM of the A’s in 1997. Unfortunately for Beane not everyone in the A’s organization was open to the sabermetrics movement. Many of the old-school coaches and scouts refused to listen to the things Beane and his Sabermetrics department told them. Under the sabermetrics movement the team focused more on signing players who walked a lot and high on-base percentages. Sabermetrics also told teams that it was best for them to draft players out of college rather than high school studs because they were more consistent and had a larger sample size of high level baseball experience. Using sabermetrics the A’s were able to become the one of the best teams in baseball, reaching the playoffs every years from 2000-2003, despite having one of the smallest payrolls in baseball. This success as GM eventually led to the Boston Red Sox making Beane a large offer to become their GM where he would have a larger contract and more money to work with as a GM. Beane decides to stay with the A’s though to continue to try and keep the A’s competitive despite their small payroll. This success with sabermetrics lead to a statistical revolution in baseball and changed the way teams scouted players. I would highly recommend this book to all young adults and adults who love baseball and want to learn more about this revolution in the game.
"Where Nobody Knows Your Name" by John Feinstein
This is a book that details what life is like as a Minor League Baseball player. The players in the Major Leagues often get all the attention but many people forget that at one point they too were Minor Leaguers. This book focuses specifically on Triple-A. The book tells the lives of players, managers, and umpires in this part of the Minor Leagues. It details the differences between the life of a Major Leaguer and the life of a Minor Leaguer. The book follows around former Major Leaguers Mark Prior, Dontrelle Willis, Scott Posednik, Dan Johnson and others. These are non-fiction accounts from career-long journeymen who know the riches of being in the Majors and the despair that comes with Minor League life. If you are looking for a book that tells what life is like for professional baseball players from a perspective that is rarely written about, this is the book for you.
"The Mental Game of Baseball" by H.A. Dorfman and Karl Kuehl
This month I will be reviewing the book The Mental Game of Baseball by H.A. Dorfman and Karl Kuehl. This book goes in depth to look at the mental aspect of baseball and how it plays such a large role in the successes and failures of many baseball players. Baseball is a very mental game so knowing how to keep your emotions in control is very important to how you perform. Many baseball players often have trouble regrouping and getting their emotions in-check after a mistake like a strikeout or an error. This book offers techniques and strategies to deal with your emotions after a mistake. A lot of younger players often let one mistake dictate how they are going to perform the rest of the game. This book really helps players learn to move past their mistakes and not let it affect the rest of their game. It tells you how you should just take the game one at-bat, one pitch at a time. I would recommend this book to any baseball player who wants to learn to deal with their emotions better and take their game to the next level. I really found this book helpful as it taught me how to better deal with my emotions as I was never very good at keeping my emotions at bay. In the book it gives 11 good ideas that baseball players can do to be a better baseball player. One of these ideas is visualization. Visualization is very helpful in many things in life but when related to baseball if you visualize yourself throwing a strike or getting a hit you convince your brain that it is going to happen and you are more likely to get that result. Another strategy is to stay positive and always have a good attitude because when you have a good attitude good things are likely to happen but when you have a bad attitude you are setting yourself up for failure. Preparation before a game is important so you go into the game having a plan and knowing what the other team and the players on the other team’s tendencies are which gives you an advantage. This is a very good book for the serious baseball player.
"The Batboy" by Mike Lupica
This month I will be reviewing the book "The Batboy" by Mike Lupica. It is a book for kids ages 10 and up. The main character of the book is Brian Dudley, a 14 year old boy. His dad was a former Major League pitcher who loved the game more than he loved his family. His father left him and his mom to go be a baseball scout but Brian is still waiting for him to come home. His dreams come true when he gets to become the batboy of his favorite team the Detroit Tigers. He gets to help out the players and the team on and off the field. He is even more excited when his favorite player Hank Bishop is signed by the Tigers after a scandal involving steroids. Brian is very excited that he finally gets to meet his favorite player but is disappointed when Bishop is very unfriendly and does not want to talk to anyone on or around the team. One day while Brian and a fellow batboy Finn are hitting in the batting cage Hank Bishop comes and helps them out. Brian and Hank are both in hitting slumps and work to help each other out. After Bishop helps out Brian with his hitting they leave and Brian’s mom invites Bishop over to have dinner with them. After dinner Brian takes a risk and shows Bishop something that he changed in his swing that may have been causing his slump. After that night Hank and Brian become good friends and Hank and Brian’s mom start to date. Brian finds out that unlike his dad Hank cares more about the people who are important to him than about the game of baseball. This book relates to today’s society with the steroid scandals wrecking havoc in baseball and how some people are not always who they seem. I would without a doubt recommend this book to anyone with a passion for baseball.
"Painting the Black" by Carl Deuker
This book is for 9th grade students and up. At the start, Ryan Ward is going into his senior year of high school when a new kid named Josh moves in across the street. Josh is a star baseball and football player. During the summer before school starts, Ryan and Josh start to have a catch every day which is when Ryan realizes he wants to start playing baseball again. He stopped playing baseball after he broke his ankle in a freak accident. One day Josh stops showing up to their throws because of football. While Josh is busy being the star quarterback of the football team, Ryan is getting in shape to play baseball in the spring. When spring rolls around and baseball season begins, Josh is a guarantee to make the team but Ryan is not sure he will make it. Ryan makes the team as the third-string catcher but he gets to play a lot because he is the only catcher who can catch Josh well. Josh is enjoying his achievements on the field as a pitcher and Ryan is enjoying his success in his backup role as a catcher. Then Josh pushes the limits and Ryan has to choose between his team and his integrity. It was one of my favorite books because I am a catcher and it was written from a catcher's point of view. Also, it is an easy read so I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves baseball.
Note: This book has some mature content and should only be read with parent permission.
"Don't Let Us Win Tonight" by Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin
This month I will be reviewing the book “Don’t Let Us Win Tonight” by Allan Wood and Bill Nowlin. The book talks about the Boston Red Sox’s amazing postseason run in 2004. The Red Sox were in the middle of a period of 86 years without a World Series victory. After falling behind 3-0 in the best of 7 ALCS to the mighty New York Yankees it looked like it would be 87 years without a World Series victory for the Red Sox. Inspired by the words of Kevin Millar who said “Don’t Let Us Win Tonight”, in a media interview, the Red Sox stormed back to win the next 4 games and advance to the World Series. Their victory went against all odds as they became the first team in baseball history to come back from down 3-0 to win the series. The book contains many of the stories well known by many baseball fans such as Dave Roberts’s steal of second, David Ortiz’s clutch hits and Curt Schillings bloody sock. Along with these infamous stories are interviews with members of the 2004 club. This book is a great read for not only Red Sox fans but all baseball fans because of its tense situations and a comeback for the ages.
"Sandlot" Rated PG
I would highly recommend this movie to all ages. In my opinion “The Sandlot” is the most iconic and famous baseball movie ever produced. It is a movie about a group of young boys and the adventures they go on and the bonds they make that summer through baseball. The main character is Scotty Smalls who just moved to the area recently to the area. He then meets his new friends on the baseball team he joins at the local sandlot. This team is led by Benny Rodriguez. One day while playing baseball Benny hits the boys last ball over the fence. They are upset that they can no longer play. Scotty runs home and grabs a ball from his dad’s trophy room so they could continue to play. He didn’t realize that the ball he grabbed was signed by Babe Ruth. This ball is then hit over the fence too. Scotty is upset that they have lost his dad's ball and he realizes exactly how grave his situation is when he realizes how rare a ball signed by Babe Ruth is. The boys then start creating different ways of attempting to get the ball back as they can’t cross the fence because the area is guarded by “the beast”. Will the boys be able to get the ball back or will “the beast” prevent them from achieving their goal? Watch the movie to find out.
"The Contract" by Derek Jeter
This book is nonfiction and is for kids in grades 3-8. It talks about a young Derek Jeter and how he perseveres on the field and in the classroom to be a star. In the book, Derek Jeter is in elementary school and living in Michigan. He is always talking about wanting to play baseball for the New York Yankees. Even though many people told him his dream was unrealistic, his parents supported him. In exchange, his parents made him sign a contract which required him to meet many goals. These goals included getting good grades, working hard, being respectful, etc. In school he had to learn that he has to study and work hard to get good grades. Even though it was not easy, he ends up doing better on a math test than the smartest kid in the class. On the baseball field in little league, Derek also faces many struggles. One problem is that his coach puts him at second base instead of shortstop which was his main position. The coach did this so that his own son could play shortstop. The coach also gave the number Derek wanted to his son as well. Another problem was that coach’s son was always criticizing and putting down the other players on the team but the coach would not say anything to him. Even though Derek was upset by this, he respected his coach’s decision and worked hard to prove himself as a valuable player both offensively and defensively. This patience and respect paid off because later in the season Derek takes over at shortstop. Even though this is a book for younger kids, I was a big fan of it because it had a very entertaining plot and taught good morals values and lessons for kids. It also helps that Derek Jeter is one of my role models. I also like that Derek's parents supported his dream even though many people, including Derek’s teacher, thought it was a silly dream.
"Force Out" by Tim Green
This month I will be reviewing the book Force Out by Tim Green. It is a fictional book for kids in grades 3-8. It is a book about two best friends Joey and Zach who are great baseball players for their league. They both dream of playing together on the Center State select baseball team. The book starts with Joey having to help Zach get out of an extra credit project he has to do to pass science so Zach can play in the championship game. Joey and Zach drain the gas out of the science teachers truck so he does not make it to the field trip on time. Joey and Zach’s team ends up winning the championship and they go on to make their town travel team. If they are good enough for their travel team they hope to both be selected for the Center State select team. They both made it to the tryouts for the team but once there they learned there was only room for one of them on the team. Once the tryouts began Joey and Zach’s friendship was starting to fade over the competition and they both started to act differently. In the end it was a decision that Joey had to make that could cost him his spot on the team and his friendship with Zach. I liked this book because it had a lot of plot twists and cliffhangers.
"Fenway Fever " by John Ritter
The book revolves around “Stats” Pagano and his friend Red Sox pitcher Billiee Orbitt. Stats is a kid with an intense passion for baseball but he unfortunately is not able to play because he was born with a heart defect. Stats’ family members are also huge Red Sox fans. His dad, Pops, runs a very well-known hot dog stand outside of Fenway Park and his brother Mark is one of the best shortstops for his age in the entire country. As many baseball fans know the Red Sox and curses go hand in hand. The Curse of the Bambino was one of the most infamous in baseball history until it ended with the Red Sox finally winning the World Series in 2004. Now Stats believes here in 2012 the Red Sox are under the spell of another curse. After talking to Ol’ Red Gruffin, the head groundskeeper at Fenway Park, he learned that the years that the rodents were least prevalent were the years the Red Sox had the most success. Stat believed that there was some connection there and pursued an answer. Stats and Billiee finally realize that ever since the hawks have left Fenway Park the Red Sox have been playing poorly. Using knowledge they gathered about the ley lines running through Fenway Park, Billiee and Stats try to create a new nest for the hawks so they will return to Fenway Park, bringing back the positive energy for the team. Stats and Billiee know that in order to restore “chi” to the park they need to get the hawks back. Can these two help return luck back to Fenway Park and the Red Sox or will their efforts be in vain, leaving Red Sox fans to suffer through another season of heartbreak and despair?
Please Note: The above are only personal opinions of the book or movie and do not constitute a recommendation by our organization.
"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
- Dr. Seuss
"Plunked” by Michael Northrop
This month I will be reviewing the book “Plunked” by Michael Northrop. Plunked is a very good book for younger baseball fans. The main character of the book is Jack Mogens. Everything was going right for Jack. He was becoming a great hitter and had a very good shot of starting at short-stop for his little league team. This all unravels when he is hit in the side of the head with a pitch during one of his games. He becomes overcome with anxiety and becomes scared of the ball. He makes up an excuse for why he missed his next game because he refused to admit he was scared of the ball. He eventually admits his fear to his best friend Andy who helps him through it. When Jack finally comes back to play the big question is, will he be able to overcome his fear of the ball with the help of Andy?
"Pujols: More Than the Game" by Scott Lamb & Tim Ellsworth
This is a very interesting and well written biography about the life of Albert Pujols. It describes his early childhood in his native Dominican Republic and how he lived in near poverty there. When Albert was a teenager they moved to America and eventually settled in Independence, Missouri. He was a high school baseball star there and ended up continuing his baseball career at a community college. From there he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. In his rookie season in 2001 he was the unanimous Rookie of the Year. From there he went on to three MVP’s for the Cardinals. He is widely considered the greatest baseball player of this generation. After those 10 years with the Cardinals he signed a ten year contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The thing I really liked about this book was it showed how great of a person Pujols is. He is a devout Catholic who puts his family and the needs of others before his own. He is also a very kind person. He created The Pujols Family Foundation which is a charity that helps the lives of impoverished people in the Dominican Republic and people who suffer from Down syndrome. Along with his kindness he has a tremendous work ethic. His friends told stories of how he would just be outside hitting off the tee for hours at a time, even before games. He practiced whenever he got the chance and this work ethic stayed with him even once he reached the MLB and allowed him to become one of the best baseball players in baseball. I would highly recommend this book to all baseball fans.
"Baseball Whisperer" by Michael Tackett
I would highly recommend this book for people of all ages as it teaches many great life lessons while telling a great story about baseball. The story is about Merl Eberly and the team he coaches, the Clarinda A’s. Clarinda is a small town in rural Iowa with a population of 5000 people. Merl Eberly was a trouble-maker in his youth but in high school he realized he had a real gift for sports, eventually making it to the minor leagues before being cut. He eventually returned home and started playing for the Clarinda A’s, a semi-pro baseball team that played in the summer. Eventually after a few years on the team Merl became both a player and a coach. It was once Merl became a coach that the team really took off. Despite being a poor team from a rural area the A’s were always a very competitive summer league team, competing with teams comprised of D1 athletes. Eventually the A’s were a playoff team and ended up winning a few championships. As their success grew so did the A’s reputation. Soon college coaches from bigger programs started sending their players to Clarinda because of the great things they had heard about this town. The difference between the Clarinda A’s and many other summer teams for college players is that the Clarinda A’s not only helped to improve player’s skills on the field, but also off the field. Players on the A’s were forced to get a job so that they would have something meaningful to occupy their free team rather than messing around and getting in trouble. This also instilled a work ethic in many of the players. Another thing the A’s provided was that players would stay with host families who took them in and treated the players like sons, giving many players a second support system or even for some players their first true sense of family. While the A’s may not have the glamour of other teams they were a team founded on hard work and companionship which made them so special. The Clarinda A’s produced many future big leaguers such as Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, Bud Black, Jamey Carroll, Chuck Knoblauch, and many more. This book is a great read as you get an insight on one of the hidden treasures in American baseball.“
"The Perfect Game" Rated PG
“The Perfect Game” is a very inspiring movie based on a true story about the 1957 Little League World Championship team from Monterrey, Mexico. The kids on the team were from poor families who had very little but they did have a strong faith in God thanks in part to their priest Padre Esteban. Although the kids all shared a passion for baseball, they had no equipment, no field and no coach. Since they loved to listen to baseball games on the radio, they decided to made their own equipment and created a makeshift baseball field in a dirt field so they could play it. Their coach was Cezar Fas, a man who had hoped to play for the St. Louis Cardinals but never got past being a clubhouse attendant because he was Mexican. Through some connections the coach had in the United States, he was able to obtain some used equipment and uniforms for the team. The kids practiced for hours each day and although they did not do well at first, they continuously improved. The coach was also able to secure the opportunity for the team to play in the United States. They started out their road to Williamsport playing in the regional tournament in Texas. They had to walk 10 miles from the border just to get to their first game. While in Texas everyone underestimated them because of their small size and they faced considerable racism from the people who lived there. They made it through the preliminary rounds and in the process become the first team outside of the U.S. to make the championship game. Throughout their journey they overcame many challenges and went on to win 13 games in a row including the Little League World Series. Even though the odds were heavily against them and they had been considered the underdogs from the beginning, they were able to continually win. One of the pitchers, Angel Macias, was even the first and only player to pitch a perfect game in championship history. The team's faith, hard work and determination allowed them to beat the odds.
"Angels in the Outfield" Rated PG
This is a movie that I would recommend for people of all ages. The book centers around a foster child named Roger and his friend J.P. Roger’s father has very limited contact with Roger. Roger asks when they could be a real family again and his father sarcastically says “when the Angels win the pennant”. The Angels were a very bad team at this time and the odds of them winning the pennant were slim to none. Roger prays for the Angels to win the pennant as he wants a real family again. That when he meets the angel named Al who was sent to make sure his prayers were answered. When Roger and J.P. attend a game Roger states that he sees angels out on the field helping the team. Most people are skeptical at first but manager George Knox keeps Roger around as he has proved to be a good luck charm for the team. Against all odds the Angels manage to make the championship game which if they win they would be able to win the pennant. The only problem is at gametime Roger sees none of the angels who have helped the team reach this point. They say they are no allowed to interfere with the championship game. Will the Angels be able to win without the help of the angels or will they blow their chance at winning the pennant?
"Major League II" Rated PG
This month I will be reviewing the movie "Major League II," directed by David S. Ward. I would recommend the movie Major League for all ages, as it is rated PG. Just a warning to parents that the prequel movie, Major League, is rated R. Major League II is the sequel to the movie Major League in which it shows the rise of the Cleveland Indians from the worst team in baseball to making it all the way to the ALCS. Major League II starts of at the beginning of the next season in which the Indians are considered to be potential World Series contenders. That is until Rachel Phelps buys the team and trades away many of the players and takes in a bunch of veterans and rookies. She was trying to have the Indians do badly so she could move the team to Miami. The team gets off to a rocky start again. They also have the problem of their ace Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn not pitching like he had the year before and their catcher Jake not being able to catch because of bad knees. Eventually through a lot of practice and team bonding the Indians are able to start a comeback. Will the Indians pull of the comeback and be able to make the playoffs, or will they be forced to be moved to Miami? Watch the movie to find out.
"Throwback" by Jason Kendall
I really enjoyed this book because of the inside perspective it gave on being a major league catcher. Jason Kendall, a three-time all-star catcher, describes what it was like to be a major league catcher through his own eyes. Jason Kendall was a very tough and old-school pitcher. He treated everyone with respect but was very strict and did not take it easy on anyone. He talked about the proper way to deal with umpires. He says to never turn and face an umpire while argueing with them and to be respectful when arguing, to become friendly with them so your pitcher can get more calls in their favor and to block balls in the dirt so they won’t hit the umpire. He also talks about the proper way to hit a batter, how to call a game, how to interact with other players, etc. Jason Kendall always fought for what he believed was right and would never let anything slide that he didn’t agree with. He also was a very tough player as evidence by the amount of innings he caught and the fact that he has gotten hit by the fifth most pitches all-time. I would highly recommend this book as it gives an inside view on the life of a major league catcher and really teaches you what life is like in the major leagues.
"Wild Pitch" by Cal Ripken Jr. and Kevin Cowherd
I would highly recommend this book to people of all ages as it is a kid-friendly book but had lessons that people of all ages can relate to. The book revolves around a young boy named Robbie Hammond. Robbie is a pitcher on his little league team, the Orioles. Robbie used to be a star pitcher. He threw much harder than anyone else in the league. That was until the plunking. A terrible accident has made Robbie scared to pitch again, leading to major issues on the mound. He lost all of his control and no longer throws anywhere as hard as he used to, for fear of hurting another player. He faces animosity from his teammates who believe he is only pitching because he is the coach’s son. One day at a practice he meets Ben, a kid with only one arm. Ben attempts to help Robbie overcome his fears and become the pitcher that he was the year before. Would Robbie be able to find his old ways before the season ends and help the Orioles win their first game of the year? You have to read “Wild Pitch” to find out.