Book Review: Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere

Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere is not a book for fans seeking inspiration about the road to “The Show.”
Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere is not a book for fans seeking inspiration about the road to “The Show.” (Photo from Barnes and Noble)

Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere is not a book for fans seeking inspiration about the road to “The Show.” Readers that are brave enough to look beyond the depressing scenery overshadowed by an ominous corn processing plant will be treated to a better understanding of the stereotypical life that exists in a small town with a minor league baseball team.

Author Lucas Mann traveled to Clinton, Iowa in 2010 and he embedded himself in the clubhouse of the Clinton LumberKings–a Midwest League Class A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Mann effectively portrays the city as a stop along the way for baseball prodigies like 19-year-old Nick Franklin while juxtaposing it as a baseball purgatory for struggling players.

Readers develop an interest and then an attachment to the minor league players whose experiences are chronicled in the book. Mann portrays these stories to readers the same way that he learned about them–as conversations over hamburgers at McDonald’s, in car rides home to crowded apartments and in noisy locker rooms.

His story telling makes readers realize that the players, who are idolized by a core group of fans referred to as “The Baseball Family,” are really just young men who happen to be playing baseball in Clinton competing for a promotion.

The narrative perspective allows readers to truly empathize with the athletes. Erasmo Ramirez, a hard throwing pitcher who left his home in Nicaragua, constantly tries to improve his numbers while finding comfort in the company of other Latino baseball players. The conversations with Ramirez will have make readers feel determined and they are left understanding how brave some players need to be to pursue a career in baseball.

They will feel also feel the excitement of Franklin’s journey toward a home record and his inevitable promotion. Mann never lets the readers feel too high as he also shares the stories of the players helplessly relegated to the bench awaiting demotion. 
The narrative culminates in an exciting postseason run for the LumberKings which will leave readers wondering how players have the focus to follow their passion as they compete in Clinton on a seemingly endless road to the majors.

Book Review: A Great Day in Cooperstown

Jim Reisler's A Great Day in Cooperstown will be the first of many baseball books I will review this offseason. (Photo from Amazon.com)
Jim Reisler’s A Great Day in Cooperstown will be the first of many baseball books that Nats Gallery Blog will review this offseason. (Photo from Amazon.com)

I cast my ballot on Election Day at the public library in Aurora Hills and went searching for the first of many baseball books to get me through the winter until baseball season resumes on Opening Day. Jim Reisler’s A Great Day In Cooperstown was a great book to start with because of its focus on the origins of baseball and the establishment of baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Reisler begins his 2006 book by describing Cooperstown, NY in 1939. Main Street was brimming with excitement. Major League Baseball All-Stars and legends fanned out across the town. Over 10,000 visitors packed the town to celebrate baseball’s centennial.

Fans flocked to the players for autographs and many players held court, telling their stories to anybody who was interested. Others cued up at the post office to purchase special issue postcards bearing a commemorative stamp and post office.

The book focuses a lot of attention on why the fanfare was centered in Cooperstown and Reisler debunks the myth that baseball’s rules were invented there Abner Doubleday during the spring of 1839. Reisler explains how the myth gained traction and became widely accepted in the lead up to the celebration of baseball’s centennial

Readers are introduced to each of inductees as they learn about a different aspect of the type of work that went into planning the celebration which included–speeches, the opening of the museum and a series of games played at a newly renovated Doubleday Field.

Resiler also describes the work of two little known figures–Alexander Cleland, a social worker from Glasgow, and Stephen Clark, a Cooperstown philanthropist–who were responsible for acquiring the memorabilia including the “funny old uniforms” and who worked with league officials to establish voting protocols for Hall of Fame ballots.

Washington Nationals fans may be particularly interested in the chapter about Walter Johnson. The chapter includes his brief remarks from his induction speech, the story about how he was discovered by the Washington Senators while playing for a semi-professional team in Idaho and the story about how he managed to throw three shutouts in four days.

The book concludes with a romantic description of the festivities that followed the induction speeches including a detailed recap of the game the Hall of Famers played in alongside the modern All-Stars at Doubleday Field.

I have not yet had the opportunity to visit the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but I would highly recommend this book as an essential read for anybody traveling to Cooperstown for Hall of Fame Weekend 2017.