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Friday, March 15, 2013

Take Patrons Out to the Ballgame

Written by Jon Williams

The weather is slowly getting warmer and the days are growing longer. We’re just a few days away from the official start of spring…and already more than a month into Major League Baseball’s spring training. The World Baseball Classic, the sport’s answer to the Olympics, is in full swing; unfortunately, the Canadian team went down in the first round. The regular season begins on March 31 with a game between the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros, with other teams starting on April 1 or 2.The Blue Jays open at home on April 2, hosting the Cleveland Indians.

Everything about baseball captivates our creative imagination: the pace of the game, the larger-than life characters that play it, the hot, hazy days and long, sultry nights in which it’s played, the smell of grass and leather…I could go on. So it’s no surprise that it has inspired some of the finest storytelling. It’s a game that translates naturally to audiobook, with the narrator’s voice reminiscent of a broadcaster relating the action of the game over the airwaves.

Here are a few baseball-related audiobooks to whet your patrons’ appetites for Opening Day:

Selected Shorts – Baseball: A fine place to start, this collection features eleven pieces of short fiction about baseball from notable authors and fans of the game.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis and The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri: The Yankees became known as the “evil empire” by being able to outspend other clubs for the services of the best available players. Teams without New York’s revenue are forced to look at other means to build their teams. Here are looks at two such teams—the Oakland Athletics (Moneyball) and the Tampa Bay Rays (The Extra 2%)—who found success despite having payrolls a fraction the size of their competitors.

Ball Four by Jim Bouton: Bouton, a pitcher with the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros at the time, kept a diary throughout the 1969 season. Ball Four is the result, a book that shined the light for the first time on what life was really like as a Major League Baseball player. Controversial at the time, earning the ire of Bouton’s peers, the book was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Greatest Non-Fiction books in 2011.

Cardboard Gods by Josh Wilker: Talk to any baseball fan of a certain age—I’m one of them—and you’ll hear memories of a youth filled with collecting baseball cards and trading with their friends. In Cardboard Gods, Josh Wilker entwines memoir with baseball history, explored through a handful of cards from his formative years.

The Great American Novel by Philip Roth: In 1943, the Port Ruppert Mundys were the worst team in the Patriot League. What, you’ve never heard of the Patriot League? That’s because, as a Communist organization, it has been eradicated from the history books. That’s the premise of this hilarious novel from Philip Roth, the recently retired author of other great American novels like Goodbye, Columbus and American Pastoral.

Blockade Billy by Stephen King: When the New Jersey Titans lose both of their catchers, they call up Billy Blakely to fill in. It turns out Billy is a phenomenal player who quickly captures the adulation of the fans…but Billy may not be who he seems to be. It’s a baseball yarn with a twist that only Stephen King could provide. King also has another novella tangentially related to baseball, A Face in the Crowd, written in collaboration with Stewart O’Nan.

Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella: Baseball fans know the classic baseball movie Field of Dreams. This is the novel the movie was based on, in which an Iowa farmer, inspired by a disembodied voice, plows under his cornfield to build a baseball diamond for the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and a few other notables from the past.

For more novels that became classic baseball flicks, also check out The Natural by Bernard Malamud and Bang the Drum Slowly by Mark Harris.

What baseball tales are your favourites? Are there any that are particularly popular with your patrons?

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