Tag Archives: baseball

Baseball-lovers novel hits a home run

August 9, 2009

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“Battle Creek,”
by Scott Lasser

Baseball — my first love — is the setting that attracted me to this 10-year-old novel, but it’s the people on the team — their dreams, their lives, their loves and their losses — that make “Battle Creek” a winner in the field — the field of literature.

Author Lasser has the inside stuff of the diamond down pat — the thinking of pitchers and hitters, the managerial strategy, the nuts and bolts of the game. But he’s even better at the inside stuff of life, the moral dilemmas that real people face off the field, the decisions that we all have to make and the impact that they have on us and others.

“Battle Creek” walks us through a season in the lives of amateur players and their coaches, a group of once-weres, coulda-beens and wannabees, and a talented group at that. Can they capture that elusive national championship? Can they do it without resorting to spitballs? Can they do it while finding satisfying relationships off the field?

What are they willing to do to get where they want to go — both on the field and off?

It’s a guy’s book, to be sure, a baseball-loving guy’s book. And, if you ever played the game beyond tee-ball, there’s an interesting insight into just why it is we love this game. — bz
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Baseball, kids and a child’s book to be appreciated by young and old

April 25, 2009

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“A Glove of Their Own,”

by Debbie Moldovan, Keri Conkling and Lisa Funari-Willever,

illustrated by Lauren Lambiase

All summer long it happened every day at Edwards School Playground on Chicago’s Southwest Side.

The grounder would stick in the shortstop’s glove, he’d whirl and fire to the pitcher — pitcher’s hands “out” — for the third out before the batter could step on first base, an old newspaper with the rock on top (so it wouldn’t blow away).

The four-five-six guys in the field would run in for their turn at bat, and the team that had been batting took the field. Inevitably somebody from the team in the field flipped his glove to one of the guys who didn’t have a glove.

That was baseball — and still is — in the free-of-all-cares world of kids and summer vacation, and it’s what makes “A Glove of Their Own” more than just a nostalgia piece, although the first few paragraphs above are evidence that it certainly is that.

As good a growth- and person-building experience as organized sports can be when caring, trained, thoughtful coaches and supportive parents make them so, there’s a special growing up that happens in pick up games — games umpired not by adults but by children’s sense of fair play, games not pressurized by league standings or playoffs, games in which kids don’t have to “make the team” but just show up in order to get to play.

This colorful, child-sized book won’t win any awards for plot, although it’s cute enough.

It won’t take a Newberry Award for creative writing.

Details in some of the illustrations will make the trained-eyed sports person wince: The hands of the batter separated on the bat? YIKES! The first baseman standing right in the middle of the base and the runner headed straight into him? Quick, dial 911!

But youngsters in the primary grades who like sports will love the story and its rhyming cadences. And the messages in this short, simple child’s book are sure to sew seeds of generosity and caring for those less fortunate, like youngsters who have to play baseball without a glove of their own.

I can’t wait to have my grandsons read it to me. — bz

P.S. — Franklin Mason Press, the publisher, has partnered with Danjulie Associates in a nonprofit effort to raise funds for sports equipment for needy youth. A portion of book sales are donated to selected youth sports organizations, and the company also will partner with groups to do book-selling fundraisers. For details, visit http://www.franklinmasonpress.org. And kudos to Jack Hannahan and Robb Quinlan, two Minnesota Catholic high school products, for their support of this worthwhile project.
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Minnesotan’s work pitches baseball and faith

January 23, 2009

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“The King’s Game,”
by John Nemo

In the middle of a month when temps across the Midwest have bottomed out well below zero, a baseball novel can have a warming effect.
Minnesotan John Nemo — who covers baseball as a professional journalist — combines his knowledge of the national pastime with his deep spirituality to come up with a page-turner that will keep any fan on the edge of his seat.

“The King’s Game” is more than just a sports story. People of faith will quickly pick up on the allegory woven through the compelling tale of the life of Cody King, a great pitcher. The events of King’s life — beginning a birth – would test anyone’s belief in God.

Nemo adds a love element, a friendship element, and best of all a father-son relationship element, exploring all of these while all the while taking us through the seventh and deciding game of a fictional World Series.

As a baseball junkie myself, I notice one faux pas in the action on the diamond: In the third inning, the pitching coach goes out to settle down the opposing pitcher, and later in that same inning the manager trots out to the mound, too. Any fan knows that second visit to the mound means there has to be a pitching change, but that doesn’t happen in the novel. The pitcher stays in the game. Ooops.

This appears to be a self-published book, so if you’re interested in getting a copy, contact the author at john@johnnemobooks.com. — bz
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