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.