A SPRING in your step

Happy First Day of Spring, everybody! We made it! (Well, actually that was yesterday, but we’re librarians not climatologists).

I don’t know about you, but when the ol’ equinox rolls around, I like to start thinking about baseball.

The teams have been doing their spring training, uh, training for the past few weeks and we are just days away from the start of a new season.

There’s no better time than now to check out some of the newer baseball related items the library has to offer.

Smart Baseball by Keith Law

If you’ve seen the movie or read the book Moneyball, you’ll know that there is a tension in baseball between the traditional methods of evaluating players and the newer statistical methods collectively known as “sabermetrics”. In this book, veteran ESPN writer and statistical analyst Keith Law covers a lot of the same ground and demonstrates why the old ways don’t really yield meaningful results. Despite this, baseball is filled with superstition and many of the old criteria, like favouring a player who has “the good face” still pops up now and again. He also does a good job at explaining and demystifying some of the newer stats that have become such a big part of today’s game.

Offspeed: Baseball, Pitching and the Art of Deception by Terry McDermott

Baseball is complicated, but one thing is certain: you need solid pitching to win games, or at least to not lose games. Is that the same thing? Who’s to say? Terry McDermott frames his book around 9 chapters, with each one looking at the history of a different type of pitch. Mr. McDermott, like Keith Law, recognizes that baseball relies just as much on folk wisdom as it does on modern statistics, and he does a good job here in using both kinds of knowledge in his research. And even those this book may only really appeal to die-hard baseball fans, you gotta love a non-fiction baseball book that begins with a Field of Dreams reference.

Lou by Lou Piniella

It was only a matter of time before Lou Piniella wrote a book about baseball. The guy has been involved with the game for over 50 years, first as an outfielder in the 1970’s with the New York Yankees, then later as a manager of 5 major league teams. He’s even done some time in the broadcast booth. He’ll probably be best remembered as a guy who liked to yell and scream at umpires though, and I’m pretty sure his nickname, “Sweet Lou”, was ironic. I wonder if his memoir is written in ALL CAPS? If you don’t believe me, have a look at this short video clip highlighting some of the debates in which he took part over his illustrious career. Some of those debates were with a second base, apparently.

Baseball Life Advice by Stacey May Fowles

I think we need a palette cleanser after that, and luckily Stacey May Fowles provides the perfect alternative. Of all the baseball books coming out this Spring, I am most looking forward to reading hers. Currently a columnist with The Globe and Mail, Stacey May Fowles has also written a couple of novels Infidelity and Be Good. In Baseball Life Advice, Ms. Fowles writes from the perspective of a unabashed baseball fan, and all the thrills and simple joys that come with visiting a ballpark and following a favourite team. Already a fan of her prose, I have a feeling that her baseball book will be something special. Early reviews suggest that even if you are not a baseball fan, you’d do well to pick up this memoir. If your eyes glaze over with stats talk (like mine do), and if you can only take a little bit of yelling, (sorry Lou!), then I think Ms. Fowles will speak to that part of the fan that cannot be quantified: the baseball lover’s spirit.

 

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