From the acclaimed #1 bestselling author . . . a riveting journey through the world of minor-league baseball
“No one grows up playing baseball pretending that they’re pitching or hitting in Triple-A.” —Chris Schwinden, Triple-A pitcher
“If you don’t like it here, do a better job.” —Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager
John Feinstein gave readers an unprecedented view of the PGA Tour in A Good Walk Spoiled . He opened the door to an NCAA basketball locker room in his explosive bestseller A Season on the Brink . Now, turning his eye to our national pastime, sports journalist John Feinstein explores the colorful and mysterious world of minor-league baseball—a gateway through which all major-league players pass in their careers . . . hoping never to return. Baseball’s minor leagues are a paradox. For some players, the minors are a glorious launching pad toward years of fame and fortune; for others, a crash-landing pad when injury or poor play forces a big leaguer back to a life of obscure ballparks and cramped buses instead of Fenway Park and plush charter planes. Focusing exclusively on the Triple-A level, one step beneath Major League Baseball, Feinstein introduces readers to nine unique men: three pitchers, three position players, two managers, and an umpire. Through their compelling stories, Feinstein pulls back the veil on a league that is chock-full of gifted baseball players, managers, and umpires who are all one moment away from getting called up—or back—to the majors. The stories are hard to believe: a first-round draft pick and pitching ace who rocketed to major-league success before finding himself suddenly out of the game, hatching a presumptuous plan to get one more shot at the mound; a home run–hitting former World Series hero who lived the dream, then bounced among six teams before facing the prospects of an unceremonious end to his career; a big-league All-Star who, in the span of five months, went from being completely out of baseball to becoming a star in the ALDS, then signing a $10 million contract; and a well-liked designated hitter who toiled for eighteen seasons in the minors—a record he never wanted to set—before facing his final, highly emotional chance for a call-up to the big leagues. From Raleigh to Pawtucket, from Lehigh Valley to Indianapolis and beyond, Where Nobody Knows Your Name gives readers an intimate look at a baseball world not normally seen by the fans. John Feinstein gets to the heart of the human stories in a uniquely compelling way, crafting a masterful book that stands alongside his very best works.
John Feinstein is one of the nation’s most successful and prolific sports authors who has written 24 books to date. His most recent work Are You Kidding Me? , written with Rocco Mediate, was released on May 18, 2009, and is presently on the shelf at bookstores everywhere. In addition, he is an award-winning columnist and regular contributor in both radio and television.
John Feinstein is a 1977 graduate of Duke University and spent 11 years as a sports and political reporter with The Washington Post. He has also contributed to Sports Illustrated, The National Sports Daily, ESPN, CBS Sports and Golf Digest. Presently he appears regularly on-air at The Golf Channel and National Public radio and writes for The Washington Post, Golf Digest and The Sporting News. He resides in Potomac, MD, and Shelter Island, NY.
I was excited to read this book. I mean really, John Feinstein is a fantastic, well-respected sports writer and he's tackling one of my favorite subjects in minor league baseball. I could not have been more disappointed.
Let's start with the factual inaccuracies. He takes pain to point out the difference between Coca-Cola Field (in Buffalo) and Coca-Cola Park (in Allentown) and then he proceeds to mix them up. Continually.
Then there's the part at the end where he writes: "The New York Mets had feuded at different times with the locals who ran the Buffalo Bisons, and when the Toronto Blue Jays, looking to move their Triple-A affiliate closer to Toronto than Las Vegas, brought up the possibility of a swap, the Mets agreed." While it's true the Bisons and the Mets did not get along, teams do not "swap" minor league affiliates. That's not how it works. If he's wrong about that, how many other things could he be wrong about?
We get it. Buffalo is cold in April. Georgia is hot in August.
He seemed to approach the book with the theory that minor league baseball sucks, that it's a joke and a necessary part of baseball life but nothing that any one associated with the game wanted to be a part of for very long. And then he worked to make all his stories fit that meme.
There are some good stories in the book, but he missed the nuances. He missed the very complicated relationship players have to the minor leagues. He missed an opportunity to explain contracts and options, as dry as the topic may be, which often rule the decision-making process. He assumed that no one cares about winning in the minor leagues. Ask the Cleveland Indians. Or the Toronto Blue Jays. Or the Pittsburgh Pirates. They care about winning at the minor league level. The big club comes first, but they believe part of development is learning how to win.
We get it. You fly charter planes, stay in five-star hotels, eat great food and get more perks and money in the majors. You ride a bus, fly commercial and stay in less luxurious hotels. But he states this over. And over. And over.
In the end I wanted more. It could have been such a great book. But it smacked of a major league writer sent to the minor leagues and keeping his major league attitude.
I've always been fascinated by the minor leagues, and so I learned a lot from this book.
But I was disappointed by a few things. First of all, it really only talks about AAA. I would have liked to learn more about the lower levels, but perhaps they're not that interesting or require another book. And most of the players come from the same background: middle-class Americans, often with former MLB experience who are trying to get back in. I would have liked to hear more stories about a Latin American or Asian player who risked a lot to come to the US to play baseball and is wondering if it's worth it to stick it out in Reno or Pawtucket, or to go back home.
Mainly, I think it would have been better as a shorter book or a documentary. It follows many players, managers, and other staff around during the course of a season. When the focus returns to a player it repeats some of the same backstory. While I think some of that is necessary, it gets too repetitive, even repeating the same jokes and anecdotes. And it really really really wants you to know how crappy August is for AAA players. If you want to know why, just open it to a random page and I'm sure you'll read about it.
No one is better at providing an inside look at a sport than John Feinstein. He provides just the right mix of background, anecdotes and quotes. You can feel the pressure on these guys to perform, to make it to the BIGS, to THE SHOW. A lot a minor leaguers drop out relatively soon after starting; once it becomes apparent they will never make it, they decide it's time to stop playing a game and move on with their lives. This book is primarily about Triple A (AAA) minor league players and teams.
These are the guys who have been in THE SHOW and are back, or guys who have played for years and years on the cusp of a dream on the verge of either giving up because of age or injuries and moving on or playing one last year to get a shot at a slot on the expanded September MLB rosters.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves baseball (on whatever level it's played).
"If you don't like it here, do a better job." --Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager
"I'll never forget the words: 'This is your day.' I'm sure I was crying by the time he finished the sentence." --catcher J.C. Boscan, describing how it felt when the Atlanta Braves called him up to the major leagues
"That's the great thing about sports: it only takes one person to believe in you." --former phenom Zack Duke, shortly after he was given a minor-league contract
Bittersweet account of those who toil in single-A, double-A, and triple-A baseball . . . players, coaches, managers, umpires, and broadcasters. Some spend brief or long periods in Major League Baseball, while others spend their careers in the minors. Most bounce from one league to another; Feinstein says, "The revolving door of baseball never stops."
I was surprised that, with all the large and small disadvantages of minor league life (lower pay, fewer perks, instability, silly promotions like Cowboy Monkey Rodeo Night), just about all the players mentioned the low noise level at minor-league parks as one of the worst things about being in the minors. They all missed the electricity and excitement of being part of a major-league game.
The fifth star I gave to Roger Kahn on rereading Good Enough to Dream comes at the expense of this one. I didn't remember this one being five-star good, and it wasn't. Feinstein chose interesting subjects, especially including umpires and announcers in their pursuit of the major-league dream, but the book wasn't absolutely captivating.
You should also know that this is not a "happy" book. It's a story about a bunch of careers ending, then starting up again, then reaching abrupt finality...before starting up again in the same place, with the same hopes, and the chance of seeing the same results. That being said, it was a wonderful insight into the lives of minor league baseball players, managers, umpires and even broadcasters.
I was not a fan of the way this book was structured. I felt like the flow was confusing and about as non-linear a story as one could write. Also, I was perturbed by the innumerable redundancies I came across. I'm not talking about the fact that everyone working in Triple-A Baseball lives with the same basic mindset. I was bothered by the author's persistent return to the exact same quote, by the exact same source, within the same context...separated by a few chapters at a time. This was so alarming because Feinstein's writing was absolutely marvelous from time to time.
If you can fight through the structure and forgive the fact that this book should have been around 200 pages—rather than the nearly 400 it is—you'll get what you want from it.
At the outset it is my obligation to inform the reader that I am a baseball junkie! In fact as I look over my bucket list one of the prominent items is a cross country trip visiting minor league baseball parks as my wife and I transverse the continent. With that being said John Feinstein’s knew book WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME, a saga of the 2012 minor league baseball season is timely. I have been a Feinstein fan for many years and have enjoyed his numerous books. Whether writing about the Army-Navy game, Bobby Knight, Duke Basketball or golf, Feinstein has always delivered a very thoughtful treatment of his subjects. His new endeavor is no exception as the book reflects a prodigious amount of research that is emblematic of Feinstein’s approach. Throughout the narrative stories abound concerning baseball lore and tradition, but what is most important are the lives being described and the affect that baseball has on Feinstein’s subjects and their families. Feinstein’s discussion of Brett Tomko, a major league pitcher who after a number of successful seasons finds himself holding on to his career by a thread as he accepts life in the minors at the age of thirty-six; Mark Lollo, a thirty year old minor league umpire trying to make the grade in the majors learns that after twelve years his umpiring career is about to end; or Ron Johnson, a minor league manager, who tasted the major leagues as a coach, finds himself back in the minors hoping to obtain a major league managerial position are all interesting and at times, heart warming. These are just a few of the individuals that Feinstein describes, others like Scott Posednik, Scott Elarton, John Lindsey, Nate McLouth, Charlie Montoya, and Chris Schwinden all share the trials and travails of pursuing a career in the major leagues and the obstacles they face that reduces them to minor league players or managers. Despite their goal of the major leagues, they seem to accept their situations all because of their love of the game.
Using the perspective of minor league managers, players, coaches, broadcasters and even a groundskeeper Feinstein provides the reader a candid look at the people who make up the lower rungs of baseball. We all read about the Derek Jeters and “Big Papi,” David Ortiz and their illustrious careers, but not everyone can reach those heights. The sacrifices that these men and their families make in the pursuit of just one more chance at getting the call that they are “going up to the show” is heartwarming, but also disconcerting as the odds of their being successful is rather miniscule. Along the way Feinstein integrates the experiences of other players who have interesting stories to tell. Dontrelle Willis, a young phenom eight years ago, rookie of the year, and a twenty game winner, finds himself out of baseball. Jamie Farr, one of the stars of the M.A.S.H. television series is from Toledo, Ohio, and becomes a center piece of Feinstein’s discussion of the Toledo Mud Hens, next to the Durham Bulls the most famous minor league franchise in America.
One thing that all of these players have in common is that they appear numerous times in the “transaction” section of the sports pages (a listing of player movements on a daily basis). This reflects the impersonal side of baseball. As all players understand that the bottom line is that baseball is a business and that the movement of players, the uprooting of families and the ego crushing experiences happen each and every day. The constant comparison of minor and major league baseball are enlightening, where one is a fantasy like experience where you do not carry your bags, food and expensive hotel rooms are the norm, and you fly first class on a charter. This is compared to a different type of reality where you carry everything, your meal money is about $12/day, you room with others and on the road you stay in cheap motels after experiencing an eight hour bus ride. Feinstein captures the life of a minor league ball player as he writes; “No one wants to get comfortable in a Triple-A clubhouse. The air inside a Triple-A clubhouse feels different because there are different people breathing it every day. Players come and go on an almost daily basis; some get called up to the big leagues; some get traded; others get sent down to Double-A; and every once in a while players get released.” (108)
For the subjects of this narrative baseball seems to be in their blood. Tommy Lasorda, a failed minor league pitcher became a Hall of Fame manager with the Dodgers and was asked about his loyalty to his team and he responded, that “I bleed Dodger blue.” This encapsulates how these players feel about their sport and what they give up to play and try to reach the major leagues. There are many interesting parts to the narrative aside from the personal impact of the game on these individuals. Feinstein explores the decision making process and evaluation of players and the culture that baseball has created for itself. But my favorite aspect of the book was the discussion of Scott Strickland a minor league groundskeeper who sought to become a head groundskeeper for a major league franchise. In fact at North Carolina State University he majored in “turf-training!” WHERE NOBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME is an exceptional read for baseball fans and the general public particularly when the sound of “play ball” is echoing across America as the 2014 baseball season has just begun. If you are a Feinstein fan the book will not disappoint, if you are not, you may become one.
Kudos to John Feinstein. An excellent read that follows select AAA minor league players, managers and umpires from 2012. Much more poignant and uplifting than I anticipated. The pace of the story transitions was about right for me. Some solid life lessons about success and failure in the stories of the older players and how to know when to call it quits.
While it helps to be a baseball fan to fully enjoy this book as there are a lot of names, there is not an overwhelming amount of statistics or baseball data.
Along with millions of other kids, I had aspirations of being a professional baseball player. I was fortunate to have played with and against some ball players that went as far as the big leagues, some only as far as the minor leagues. But what casual fans sometimes tend to forget is that even the minor leagues is considered professional baseball. To get that far is a feat unto itself. Unfortunately, my dream ended long before that level (and I do remember the exact moment I finally questioned whether I had the talent to compete at a higher level). So, it was with a tremendous amount of respect that I entered into a slice of minor league life for a selected few by the author. He chose to follow the aging hitter who had a cup of coffee (John Lindsey); the former all-star World Series hero who believed he belonged and was trying to make it back from a string of injuries (Scott Podsednik); a couple of solid former major league hurlers looking for a another chance at the big league life (Scott Elarton and Brett Tomko); a fairly young pitcher bouncing around Triple A (Chris Schwinden); a minor league ump with a dream (Mark Lollo); and a couple of minor league managers with stories to tell and dreams to share (Charlie Montoyo and Ron Johnson). Yes, there was quite a bit of repetition, recalling the life purpose and the back stories several times of the major characters of this story, but the charm the stories carried and the admiration for each of these men chasing a dream outweighed the monotony. Baseball is unique in that it carries a minor league unlike the NFL or NBA and even to some degree the NHL (although they too have a minor league system, it is not nearly as tiered or talent-specific for grooming future stars typically). There is something about the humility (not humiliation) of minor league baseball that makes fans feel comfortable and close to their team that is lacking at the major league level. To a degree this book captures that from the players perspective. One begins to understand how it feels to be passionate about something you know you can't do forever and what it means to come to terms with it when your time nears its end. It has been a very long time since I stepped on an uneven field with faded chalk lines and chain link fences, one mediocre umpire and unkempt grass. I miss those days.
title notwithstanding, I did know a couple of the guys he follows through a triple-A season (Nate McLouth, Scott Podsednik). Intersperses chapters/vignettes of 8 or so main characters, mostly players but also announcer, manager, umpire. The stuff about the umpire, and the system by which they get evaluated for promotion to MLB, was maybe the most interesting.
The player stuff was a good reminder of the pressure they're under, the strange nature of minor leagues as a sports competition (if you're in the middle of the playoffs, and the big league club wants to take someone from your team to mostly sit on the bench and fill in a roster spot vacated by injury, off he goes), and the winner-take-all economy of baseball in which the MLB minimum is about a dozen times what guys are making in the minors.
Other than that, the usual Feinstein issue since he became hugely successful in that there appears to be no editing at all. Same observation, same conclusion, even same incident will keep coming up over and over and ..... I get that it's bittersweet when a teammate gets called up and you don't, that it's hard to accept long bus rides and cruddy pay once you've been in the majors and gone back down, that 35-year olds have to think harder than 21-year olds about whether it is worth it to try another year.......all good points beaten to death in this book.
A few good stories here, but the books a bit of a mess. Feinstein jumps back and forth between the different people that he's following, repeating stories, dropping threads and then picking them up, taking sidebars on people that just happen to be around. It's very disorganized. By the time he gets back to a player, I've often forgotten who the player's story and who this guy is - is he a pitcher? Hitter? Have we ever seen him before? A little organization would have gone a long way to making this a better book.
He also seems to crap all over the minor leagues. Obviously, everyone in the minors is hoping to get to the majors. But he has to repeat this point over and over again. Even when a team wins the championship and several players happily pose with the trophy, he has to point out that still all of them would rather be somewhere else.
With a few exceptions, he tends to focus on players that have already experienced a certain level of success in the big leagues. So we get to read about millionaires who are hoping to get another chance there. It's not really as compelling to me as hearing about those guys that toil away in obscurity and only get a few days in the bigs. Oh, there are some of those as well, but I feel that for Feinstein, those players aren't as interesting as the ones who've already made their mark.
I found it a depressing book. The minors are a place that nobody cares about. Obviously, fans do, but Feinstein doesn't talk about that. There is no joy in playing baseball unless you're moving forward and have a hope of moving up. Nothing counts but the majors. I'm left with the feeling that no one actually enjoys the game, they just play so they can be on a big stage one day. Way to go, Feinstein, you robbed baseball of any romanticism or joy. And you need an editor. Back to the minor leagues for you!
Where Nobody Knows Your Name: Life in the Minor Leagues of Baseball by John Feinstein.
The minors of baseball are for local fans a pleasant diversion, for those that follow the big league club, a source of hope and future stars. This book is about the human characters of one season in AAA baseball. Focusing on nine individuals at different stages of their career, including two managers and an umpire, the book follows one whole season, from spring training to the end of the season, with its hopes of a call-up or realization of an end of the career.
Baseball is a repetitive game, over its months of games. And in the minors, the repetition includes its bus rides to medium-sized towns and moderately priced hotels, and at times edgy boredom. The nine men whose stories make up this book represent well the hopes, frustrations, and cares of their profession. Most have played or coached the game for decades, and love it, but at this level, the question is always how do you love it, and will the love be returned with the ultimate reward with a call-up to the major league team.
There are occasional insights into the human condition, as these nine are constantly coming to grips with who they are and what they want. Unlike the rest of us, they do within constant competition with those in front of them in the major and behind them at lower levels, and in front of a paying crowd who doesn't understand what they do or who they are very well.
This is generally a well-written book that helps the reader understand the humanity of the men who labor under the summer lights a bit better.
I think it was when I read the Jamie Farr CHAPTER that my first thought on this disappointing book is that it was lazy writing. If you are a fan of Feinstein like me, nothing will prepare you for the repetition that serves not to refresh and remind the reader, but to illustrate that Feinstein has too many irons in the fire and can't be bothered to put in the effort to write a real book. The editing is so bad that I suspect that this book adopted Garfield's Jim Davis creative approach, where he oversees artists and writers but does very little of the work himself. All that being said, if a crappy photographer gets to take pictures of Scarlett Johansson, the subject matter will make him appear more talented than he is. Minor league baseball is inherently heartbreaking, and there are some compelling stories in here. It just could and should of been better, especially by someone as talented as Feinstein. No baseball book needs a Jamie Farr chapter; embarrassing to see such padding from someone who used to write with such passion.
I found this to be a fascinating book about life in minor-league baseball. I admittedly never thought about the players that are perpetually entering and exiting the revolving door of the minor league teams; but this book brings those players to life and tells their stories. And not just the players, but the umpires and the broadcasters - even the grounds crews are represented here as people who desperately want to receive "the call" that they are going to Major League baseball. Feinstein has done a great job of telling the stories - as well as writing a book that is incredibly enjoyable to read. I would definitely recommend this book to any and all baseball fans - minor and major league fans - as well as anyone who is interested in reading about not just baseball players, but the people who are wearing the uniform. This is an excellent book.
This book gives you a sense of the frustrating life of a journeyman baseball player, but it was difficult to keep the people and the teams straight. I had to create my own list of the AAA teams, their managers and which major league team they were affiliated with. I think Feinstein is polite and respectful to the players, managers, umpires, broadcaster who spoke with him, but I think this was at the expense of having a more colorful and memorable narrative.
There were small parts of this that were repetitive, but in general I took a lot away from this:
A) Being in the minor leagues is tough, generally low paying, and requires an awful lot of work, though not the type of work that 99% of us do.
B) Major league ball players tend to forget where they came from, though this is not always the case (as is the case with the handful of dudes who are profiled here).
C) As someone who has been obsessed with baseball for almost forty years, I would have given anything just for a career in the minors. I love the game that much. Given the opportunity, though, I would make damned sure that I had a backup plan to fall back on.
D) The title is misleading- I knew an awful lot of the players mentioned in the book.
E) The skill variance between each level of the minor leagues is astounding. Triple A players are REALLY REALLY good ball players, and those who make it to a major league roster, even those who are horrendous at the MLB level, are still among the absolute best players on the planet- it truly is kind of astonishing just how good one has to be.
F) This is a game. An activity of leisure. It is offensive that guys who play in AAA get paid twice what I make in a year for five months of "work." There is really no way to change my mind about how egregious salaries in sports are. It's repulsive.
G) I really, really enjoyed this look into minor league life.
Any time a book gives you even more than you hoped for is a bonus. I picked this up as a baseball fan looking to gain insight about the journey to (and from) the major leagues, and there certainly was plenty of that. But what really struck me was how much we fans take for granted- we watch our team, cheer/curse them, and do the same for the rest of the season at a level consistent with that of our fandom. We don't often hear, let alone think, about their lives outside of the park, or the level of grit, commitment, and sometimes luck that got them there.
John Feinstein's book drives home that yes, major leaguers do indeed live life on another level, but also that minor leaguers are more like the average fan than we realize. The level of openness, fear, joy, and anxiety that the author brought out of those he covered and interviewed was at times literally tear-inducing.
Feinstein is a prolific author whose other work I look forward to sampling. If you are a baseball fan and/or someone who loves a moving human-interest story, this book is for you.
Feinstein spent 2012 following a dozen or so older minor-league baseball players (and one umpire) to gather their stories about what it's like to hang around on the fringe of major-league baseball and wait for a promotion that will probably never come.
The details of these stories are compelling, and Feinstein has an easy style that drew me in to the lives of the different players (and umpire). There are no happy endings, which is sort of the point of the book and makes it a different kind of sports book.
There is no real organization to the book--it proceeds at a more-or-less chronological pace through the year but frequently flashes forward or backward in time. This effect makes it harder to stay focused. But you know what you're getting with a Feinstein book, and this one delivers exactly that--a handful of interwoven narratives that give you a brief glimpse at the inside.
Feinstein, a bestselling sports themed author, created an amazing book showing the journey of 9 players and coaches as they make their way from the minor leagues to the major leagues of baseball. This book perfectly captures the cut throat lifestyle of minor league baseball players, who earn less than minimum wage and life off of couch surfing and PB&J.
As a huge fan of baseball, especially minor league baseball this was a must read. I attend 20+ minor league baseball games a year and interact with most of the players, some who I still talk to these days. It’s interesting to read the stories of players who were in their shoes and still are. I loved how Feinstein used quotes and player experiences to perfectly encompass their situations.
I would recommend this book to people looking for inspiration and baseball fans alike. This book shows perseverance and never stopping to achieve your dreams perfectly. These players lived the worst years of their lives for a lifetime of glory and respect,
With no baseball ball whatsoever at any level being played, None! It was therapeutic escape from everything else going on for a life long fan of the game to read about baseball and all the personal stories of triumphs and hurdles that many (some recognizable) ex major/minor leaguers , managers and umps endured to keep on keeping their dream alive. While just finishing this book,(6/20) both players and owners are still negotiating on an agreement whether we’ll even have a summer classic. “If not this season there’s always next season “
This book has some interesting stories about the minors. However, it is poorly written. The book has no flow and jumps all over the place. It's almost as though the author took each minor league story and just mashed them together.
A peak behind the curtain of life in the minor leagues. I'll never watch a Triple-A baseball game the same. (And, at the rate we're going, I may not watch another live baseball game again.) I thought the book could have used a little more editing. It was hard to keep track of all of the players mentioned and the minor league teams and their big league affiliations listening to the audiobook, especially when someone would disappear for long chapters at a time, only to reappear later.
Where Nobody Knows Your Name has been earmarked for years. It comes as no surprise that the main part of me that was drawn to this book was the lifelong baseball fan. The part that played little league and stuck it out through middle school where I played left field, then right field, then third base, and finally and permanently, second base for the lowest-ranked team in the school (there was a tier system for a suburban middle school, God only knows why). The part that, today, frequently attends minor league games during a season, a spattering of MLB games at Camden Yards, watches or listens to a majority of his team's (the Yankees, let's get that out of the way now) games throughout the year, and manages a fantasy league that's almost a decade old.
Also the part that loves Cheers. I mean, let's face it: it's a great title.
But the part of me that was really captivated by it was not the baseball fan, but the actor. He who has waited in endless audition lines, performed in basements and literally on the street, sent his headshot and resume out to more people than I could possibly count, let alone name, and uses a great deal of his annual PTO to go to season auditions for theatres that, in many cases, aren't casting a role I'm right for this year.
Why say all this? Because it hit me hard and fast early in the book that a lot of how I spend my days is not unlike the minor leaguers chronicled in Feinstein's book. I imagine just about everyone can relate to these players' and coaches' struggles from their own journey through their chosen field. I find myself, far after I thought I would be, in the minor leagues of acting. I'm sure there are minor leagues of accounting and engineering and janitorial service, but I sure as hell don't know what they are. But if those are your fields...I'm sure you do. I'm certainly no athlete, as I might have made clear earlier, but the struggle is similar. That's where this book shines. Even if you've reached the mountaintop of your dream, you know the hardships you faced to get there. This is a book about the cost of pursuing your dream.
The book is full of the stats and terms that all baseball fans love to get into....but it's mostly filled with a very American struggle: to chase your dream and wrestle with the fact that you're not there yet. But maybe...just maybe...this is your year.
If you don't know what an ERA or a WHIP is, it won't affect your enjoyment of this book. Feinstein does an admirable job walking the line of satisfying both the die-hard fan and the layperson throughout his account of a season in the minor leagues. He lifts a veil on an aspect of America's pastime that is seldom explored. In doing so he found a very universal story that will be enjoyed by both those who only know a few famous baseball names and those who know all their team's prospects. It's a book about sport, sure. But mostly it's a book about dreams. Theirs, and yours.
Review: Triple-A baseball, one step below the major leagues, has its own unique culture and lifestyle. John Feinstein’s book “Where Nobody Knows Your Name” describes this through the eyes and stories of nine men: three position players (Scott Posednik, Nate McClouth, John Lindsey), three pitchers (Scott Elarton, Brett Tomko, Chris Schwinden), two managers (Charlie Montoyo, Ron Johnson) and one umpire (Mark Lollo). Their experience ranges from a young man hoping for that shot at the majors (Schwinden, Lollo) to a former World Series hero trying to get back to the big time (Posednik, who hit a walk-off homer in game 2 of the 2005 World Series while playing for the Chicago White Sox).
All nine men featured share what they have liked best and least about Triple-A baseball. For the managers, they agree that the best moments are telling players that they are being called up. For a good emotional story, nothing beats that of the time an eleven-year veteran was crying when he was finally promoted during September call-ups. There are humorous stories about the ballparks and travel adventures. There are human drama stories, especially for some of the older players such as Tomko who wonder at the end of the season if it is time to call it a career or try “one more time.”
These types of stories, ones that make famous athletes seem at least a little more like “ordinary people” is a strength of Feinstein’s writing. He does that in most of his books on any sport, and this is another one of those books that is a winner because of that human element. Between extensive interviews with each of the men featured (and hundreds of others as well) and the research into each man’s career and achievements, the reader will feel like he or she is sitting in the stands at Lehigh Valley, Norfolk or Durham. That moment when the player receives his good news of needing to report to Tampa or Boston to join the big club will make the reader cheer.
If you are a baseball fan, like human interest stories or just want to see what it is like to be on the cusp of celebrity status, read this book. Feinstein has made these types of books a joy to read and this is another outstanding book in a long line of them.
Did I skim? No.
Pace of the book: Excellent. The book took the reader through the 2012 Triple A baseball season through all of the stories chronologically and at a very good pace. The stories in each were long enough to be meaningful but short enough that the reader could follow them easily.
Do I recommend? This is a great book for all baseball fans, no matter what level of the game they enjoy. Feinstein brings the experience of the game from the clubhouse to the manager’s office to the field onto these pages that anyone who loves this game will enjoy.