If you frequent bookstores there’s a good chance you’ve come across The Art of Fielding. If not a baseball fan, you might dismiss it but then you keep on hearing positive reviews. Keep on seeing it. And, since the novel didn’t come out until September of last year, maybe it’s one you’re thinking about for your pile of summer reading books. Well, I’m here to help. Admittedly a huge baseball fan, I can put my natural inclination aside and just review this as a lover of great books.
Here’s the truth: the many critics who love this book are right—if it were 150 pages long. Unfortunately it isn’t. Now that’s not to say I’m giving it a negative review, but I noticed an undeniable dropoff past page 90. Until then?
It was rivaling The Natural, Shoeless Joe and countless other baseball books I love.
The story’s main character is a high school-age baseball player, Henry, who can only do one thing right: field. But if you’re a shortstop and you’re the best, that means a ticket to college and possibly the majors. One player from another team recognizes his ability, Mike Schwartz, presented as an almost mythic creation. He’ll take care of getting Henry to college, he’ll take care of everything.
Mixed in with this beginning are wonderful excerpts from a fictional book called The Art of Fielding. Written by an Luis Aparicio/Mark Belanger-type player, it’s as much life philosophy as it is glovework. It’s woven in incredibly. The baseball scenes as well, descriptions of so much more than a ball hit in play just makes you feel the ballpark—and what got me excited about what I was reading as much as anything.
But then, again, the book lost its strength to me. Possibly when Schwartz just turns into a regular person, to the point where his original larger-than-life persona in the book doesn’t jive. Maybe it’s all the love stories that just don’t feel like they provide depth. They appear to attempt to but a reader shouldn’t feel like the author is trying, they should just feel like they’re being let in on the world of a relationship.
This is a 500-page book which, to me, was in need of major editing, if only so it could have been much more. But, for it was, there are worse ways to spend your time.