“Summer Baseball Nation: Nine Days in the Wood Bat Leagues” by Will Geoghegan
April 1, 2020
5 of 5 stars (very good)
While the word “baseball” will conjure up images of Major League players and ballparks with tens of thousands of fans in attendance, there are summer baseball games in which the players are not paid millions of dollars, tickets are fairly inexpensive, the teams are very popular in the local town – and those players are college players whose seasons ended but are playing to keep their skills sharp. These summer leagues are described in this wonderful book by Will Geoghegan in which he spends nine days during the summer of 2016 watching some of these teams.
What makes this book a pleasure to read is that while reading it, it’s easy to imagine one’s self sitting in the bleachers at one of these games in places like Hampton, Virginia, Kenosha, Wisconsin, or Cotuit, Massachusetts. The teams in those three towns, as well as Fairbanks, Alaska are the main focal points of the book. When writing about these teams, their players or the towns, Geoghegan shares the experience with enough detail that readers just might be picturing themselves as sitting in the bleachers at Hampton’s War Memorial Stadium cheering on the Peninsula Pilots or following the ups and downs of the 2016 season for the Cotuit Kettleers.
If a reader is picking up this book looking for statistics like WAR and OPS+ on these college players, or maybe about the cutthroat world of trying to improve either a signing bonus or draft position for these players, then the reader will have to look elsewhere. The business of baseball in this book is about the general managers and other employees of these teams who do everything from advertising to manning concession booths, all for the love of the game. A few basic statistics are mentioned for better players but those are very minor pieces of their stories.
The stories that make this book so great are the ones that just are not present in professional baseball – the Midnight Sun game, an annual tradition for the Alaska Goldpanners. An unusual home run derby hosted by Kenosha in which the long balls land in Lake Michigan. A rebirth of baseball in Hampton more long after the last minor league left town and the town’s love affair with the collegiate players. Reading this makes one realize that there is so much more to the game than just the big money and big statistics. This book is baseball at the grass roots and it is so much fun to read that it comes highly recommended for any baseball fan.
I wish to thank University of Nebraska Press for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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