Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review of "Hard to Grip"

Followers of my reviews know that I have reviewed many sport memoirs over the last four years.  However, this one was very different than the others I have read.  For one, this young man's career was over by the age of 23.  While that isn't rare, the reason why his career had to end was rare for someone his age.  He tells his story in this terrific memoir.  Here is my review of "Hard to Grip."

Hard to Grip: A Memoir of Youth, Baseball and Chronic Illness” by Emil DeAndreis
Baseball, high school, college, memoir, Hawaii
Publish date:
April 1, 2017
326 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that cause swelling and eventually deterioration of the joints. The people who are most likely to suffer from this condition are elderly women. So imagine what it was like when a 23 year old young man who just completed a college baseball career in Hawaii and was about to sign a contract to play professional baseball in Belgium finds out he has this condition.  That is exactly what happened to Emil DeAndreis.  His memoir about this situation after dreaming of a baseball career is one that will tug at every emotion in a reader.

The stories he shares from his experiences are funny, sad, thoughtful and honest. It is clear while reading the book that DeAndreis is pulling no punches and fully describing his emotions when he finds out the news about important events in his life – not just the diagnosis of the disease.  His story about the offer of a Division I baseball scholarship from the University of Hawaii-Hilo was one in which I was pumping my fist to cheer for him. His subsequent description of some of the wacky happenings on the campus with his teammates, the struggles of the team as they compiled losing records in each of his four seasons, and the joy of earning a win against a major conference school (the University of Kansas) are fun to read and make the reader feel like he or she is living the college life with him.

DeAndreis, who studied writing in college, saves his best for his battle with RA. His internal thoughts of denial that he has the disease, the alternative treatments he tried before medication and the support of his then-girlfriend (now wife) Kendall makes for compelling reading. Between the description of what his body was going through, his wish to disassociate from anything associated with baseball because the memories are too painful, and his life afterward which included coaching the high school baseball team for which was a star pitcher, will inform and entertain the reader.

This book is not one in which is meant to draw pity or sympathy for the author, nor is it one that is written with a greater message or cause in mind.  It is simply an honest story of a young man who was diagnosed with a disease that caused him to give up his lifelong dream and adjust to living life with different goals.  It is one that readers of many different genres will like – one does not have to be a baseball fan to cheer for Emil in his road to life after baseball.

I wish to thank the author and Schaffner Press for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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