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Jenn's Blog: Back to School & Back to Baseball: 7 Baseball-Themed Books for your 7th Inning Stretch

09/24/2019, 11:00am EDT
By Jenn Skinner

We are officially well into the month of September which for NVTBL families means back to school as well as back to baseball's fall season. In between hitting the books, we'll be hitting the practices, the Sunday double-headers, and the out of town tournaments. That's why today at NVTBL we're celebrating the joy of books and of baseball by recommending some great reads for you to enjoy while you're hanging out in the bleachers for what seems like the 17th inning.

The subject of baseball is abundant in literature. The many ways life relates to this game seems to be a universally accepted truth whether one has played it or watched it or not. I think that's why there are countless volumes of books either focused on baseball or set adjacent to it.

One of my dear friends, who is a fellow baseball mom and life long fan of the Boston Red Sox, has a ritual which I've long admired. Each spring as Opening Day rolls around she chooses a book to read that centers around the game. So I reached out for a little help from her with this post. I have read some of these books and some I have not.

Also, I want to be sure you moms and dads know that you should have no guilt about sitting at your kid's baseball game with a book in your lap. Baseball parents are champion multi-taskers. We can put sunscreen on a toddler with one hand and pull his fingers out of the chain link fence with the other while simultaneously yelling out, "Good stop, Kid." to the catcher. We can lob a Gatorade into the dugout whilst yelling "Heads Up!" to the unsuspecting grandma who is about to get smacked with a foul ball.

Therefore, we can also keep track of a 6,7, or 9 inning game while enjoying a book. I've done it countless times. You have the ability to mark you place with one finger and not miss a single move by your shortstop. Trust me. This is one of the best parts about a game that can potentially last up to infinity innings.

So with a shout-out to my baseball-book-loving friend, Mrs. C., here are some recommendations. You can check these out at your local library or buy them from Amazon or at a local bookstore or whatever  you want because I'm not the boss of you. Read on, Baseball Fans.

1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is one of the best books that Mrs. C. has ever recommended to me. She and I agree that this is one that goes to the top of the favorites list. This book is set at a fictional college in Wisconsin whose baseball team has acquired a potential phenom as a shortstop. As with most of these books, baseball is a just a backdrop for a story about relationships, loyalty, and love. We meet many characters both on and off the field - each of whom turns out to be as endearing as the next. Mrs. C. and I are both mothers of catchers, so we fell in love with Mike Schwartz, the battle worn upperclassman behind the dish, who represents the loyalty and leadership everyone wants in a teammate. This is a must read.

2. The Brothers K by David James Duncan

If you Google "Best Baseball Books", The Brothers K by David James Duncan will most likely show up. This is a very long book and it takes a while to get into it. This is my way of telling you that I've had it for years and have never started it because it seems intimidating. However, Mrs. C. persevered and says that it deserves a spot on this list. It tells the story of a father whose dreams of playing big league baseball are cut short by a mill accident and of his four boys who come of age in the turmoil of the 1960s. While it can be dark at times and as previously mentioned, is s-o-o-o-o l - o - n - g, Mrs. C claims it has humor and charm and is a great story.

3. Snow in August by Pete Hamill

Snow in August by Pete Hamill is another one recommended by Mrs. C. that I have not read yet, but it is first on my list now. Set in Brooklyn in 1947 just as Jackie Robinson is about to become a Dodger, this story follows an unlikely friendship between an 11 year old Irish Catholic boy and a rabbi from Prague. While not technically a book about baseball, the love of the game is part of each of these two friends' identities. The story follows their relationship as they face the prejudices of their neighbors and the culture of post-World War II in New York City.

4. Calico Joe by John Grisham

Fans of John Grisham usually know what to expect from his books - legal thrillers with a lot of mystery and corruption. What they might not know is how deeply Grisham loves the game of baseball. Two of my kids were fortunate to play at the youth ballpark he built outside of Charlottesville years ago and one of our favorite family baseball movies was 2004's Mickey for which he wrote the screenplay. (Really hard to find this movie, but it is worth it if you find it.) Calico Joe is a quick read and is even appropriate for younger readers as well as for grown ups. It tells the story of a young baseball fan, his less than heroic father who is a pitcher for the Mets, and the phenom rookie of the Chicago Cubs, a homerun hitter nicknamed Calico Joe. I loved this book.

5. The Last Best League by Jim Collins

The Last Best League follows a summer season in the famed Cape Cod League which is touted as the best amateur league in the world. My husband made a point to read it before we visited the Cape a few summers ago and he really loved it. It details the struggles, triumphs, and set backs of college players pursuing their dreams.

6. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Ok. This is barely a book about baseball, but I would call it baseball-adjacent. Evvie Drake Starts Over was one of Jenna Bush Hager's Today Show Book Club picks this summer. There's a recently widowed gal in a seaside town in Maine in the summer. There's a former star MLB pitcher who is suffering from the "yips" and comes to Maine from New York to get away from the media scrutiny. There's a romance and a summer minor league baseball team and second chances and complications. Sign me up.

7. Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit by Matt McCarthy

Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit chronicles the decision a Yale pitcher makes to give baseball a try for one year before moving on to medical school. This book is a realistic look at how difficult it is to make it to The Show. A bonus feature is that McCarthy meets some soon-to-be famous players along the way, so it is a fun look at some well-known names before they became so well-known.

Happy Fall, Baseball Fans! NVTBL wishes you lots of hits, lots of runs, and lots of time in between games in the beautiful autumn weather (or in your car's air conditioning or heating) reading a great book. Have a great season.

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