The Poscast this week is our regularly scheduled chat with Michael Schur, executive producer of Parks and Recreation (Entertainment Weekly calls it the smartest show on television). But we did something a bit unusual this week. We divided the thing up into two parts. The first part is us talking about a bunch of stuff — the Red Sox, Tom Brady, the difference between fans and players, the awesomeness of Chris Paul (more on this in the next day or two) and so on.
The second part, which just went up, is the first ever baseball book fantasy draft. We each chose five baseball books. And then at the end, we both determined, that I picked better than he did.
You can listen to both Poscasts here.*
Or, if you want to just listen this minute to the baseball book draft, you can listen on this handy-dandy player.
*I believe the sound quality — note the word “sound” before quality — for these podcasts is improving pretty dramatically. I am now using various pieces of fancy looking equipment, and I think that it no long sounds like I’m in the Lincoln Tunnel (more like the Holland Tunnel now). I’m hopeful that as I actually learn how these pieces of equipment work that the sound will keep on improving to the point where you will actually hear the angels that sing in my office (they sound AWESOME). I appreciate people sticking with it. Then again, I also appreciate the number of people who have written or called in to say that the sound is dreadful and they will never listen again. Hey, I appreciate everybody.
On the Poscast, Michael and I each selected our five favorite baseball books, or our choices for the five best baseball books or something like that … but the truth is that if I put together a Top 5 baseball book list tomorrow and another one next week and another one in a month, I’m pretty sure that all three lists would be different, maybe even wildly different. I ranked my five favorite baseball books for an excellent Web site called The Browser — it’s not up yet — and those five are different from the five I chose in the fantasy book draft. I think with baseball books, feelings change all the time, at least for me.
The most important baseball book to me is one called Hang Tough, Paul Mather, by Alfred Slote. It is a kids book, or in the language of book people, a “Young Adult” book.*
*I’ve never quite understood the young adult thing. Isn’t a “young adult” a lot like being an “ugly Brad Pitt” or “good hitting Yuni” or “bashful Vitale?” An old adolescent, yes, I an see that one. But young adult? Isn’t a 25-year-old a young adult? The only truly young adult I’ve heard of was Doogie Howser, and now he’s playing an old adolescent.
Hang Tough, Paul Mather is about a gifted young pitcher who has leukemia. It is, in my memory, a well-written book with a touching story. You should read it to your baseball-loving 10-year-old. But what I remember even more was the impact the words had on me. I was probably 10 when I read it, and at that time I felt certain that I did not like to read. At that time, reading was work … and it was hard … and the Six Million Dollar Man was on TV … and, no, I didn’t want to read.
But Hang Tough … that didn’t count. That is exactly how I thought of it: It didn’t count. That wasn’t really reading. That was fun. It was about baseball. It was a cool story about a kid who was my age. That wasn’t reading. That was something else. READING was trying to get through Uncle Tom’s Cabin. READING was trying to decipher olde English words and wirds the auther mispelled on purrposs. READING was stuff about the Incas or the layers of the earth or Taft-Hartley. Man, I did not like READING.
But, Hang Tough, Paul Mather was about as good as watching television. It was interesting and funny and reached down to me. It was about the world I knew or at least the world I wanted to know. After a while, I read other books by Alfred Slote and books by one of my heroes Matt Christopher. And then I started to read autobiographies — one on Ron Guidry, I remember, one on Bernie Parent, one on Brian Sipe. And then I started to read other books, some of them not about sports …
And so I fell in love with words without noticing. I now hear kids say that they do not like to read, and I suspect some really don’t, but I suspect others would love to read if they found themselves with the right book. Hang Tough, Paul Mather was exactly the right book for me at exactly the right time.
Years later, when I was bored in class, I would scribble out little sports stories. I didn’t think of that as writing. I, of course, despised WRITING. But that’s a whole other story.