Why are we baseball fans? What draws you to the game? Is it something tangible or is it a feeling you get from watching it? Is it the same reason that it was when you were 13, 43 or 63 years old? Obviously everyone will have a different answer and quite honestly there is no wrong answer. One thing we all have in common is at one point in our lives, every single one of us wanted to be out on that field as a member of the pros. That dream faded for many of us when we realized we had not one bit of talent to back it up. Today’s book takes a look at one of the very few who were lucky enough to keep that little boy’s dream alive inside themselves, and while it may be 40 years behind his schedule it is still a monumental dream fulfilled.
Roy Berger is an average guy just like the rest of us. Making a home, enjoying his family and friends and raising his kids to the best of his abilities. But deep down inside he had that dream that to some degree we all still have, he wanted to be a major league baseball player. While reality sets in for all of us when we realize we don’t have the ability to back up the dream, all of us like Roy never totally let go of that dream. Being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan in his youth, the 50th anniversary of the 1960 World Series Champions led for a unique opportunity for Roy to make his dreams come true.
Fantasy Camps to me were always a toy for the rich fans. The ability to hob-nob with the heroes of yesteryear and the chance to be shoulder to shoulder with them out on the battlefield. Now while I still believe these are the tools of the affluent fan, this book shows us how much dedication one has to put into playing in a fantasy camp along with proving no matter what your financial status is in life, you can’t put a dollar sign on your dreams.
Roy Berger takes us on his journey through four Fantasy Camps. He starts with his first true love the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1960 team. The Pittsburgh Pirates being the first love of his youth was a logical starting point and provided good value for the money. He shows the reader how any fan might feel going into the first fantasy camp and it gives you a good feel for what these camps are all about. It also shows how addictive the game of baseball really is to true lifetime fans.
His second year he takes us on tour with the Detroit Tigers. The combination of rain delays and cancellations at that camp plus the fact that he had no real attachment to the Detroit Tigers led to his worst experience of all the visits. It was the lowest price of all the camps he attended and proves the adage you get what you pay for. This trip also showed that even though he was a player in his late 50’s that he still treated the game with respect and went through the needed preparation to give it his best.
His third year, 2012, Roy takes us to his adult adopted team, the New York Yankees fantasy camp. The highest priced of all the camps, because its the Yankees and they can do it, it offered the most amenities along with the opportunities to hob nob with the most players. An overall great experience both on and off the field, the only downside of course was the price.
Roy’s final fantasy camp took us back to the Pirates, which to me seems to be the best value of all the camps he attended. A combination of on field injuries and Father Time catching up with Roy made this his poorest performance at any of the camps and lowest showing in the camps final standings for any of the teams he had been on.
This book is a great example of how no matter how old we are, we never can outgrow that little kid inside of each of us that wants to play baseball. I find it amazing that grown men will pay thousands of dollars for a week of playing baseball with some of their heroes. It is also the opportunity for grown men and women to create new friendships that endure year to year. Without doubt this is very a unique opportunity and one that price will ever forbid me from partaking in, and at any age, but if I could afford it I would most certainly go.
Roy’s book does a great job of showing the reader what one goes through in a Fantasy Camp. It is not just show up and play ball, because at our age (over 40) most of our bodies would just laugh at us if we tried that. He shows the preparation and dedication required to play and the most important what it takes to not look like an idiot in front of your heroes. It shows that no matter how old we get, as long as you can write the check, baseball will always keep us young at heart.
If you have any sort of inner child this book is great for you. It will show you where baseball may lead you if you always stay true to both yourself and the game. You can get this book direct from Roy Berger himself.
I have mentioned in the past, that through the passage of time some players lose their magic. Sometimes locale plays a factor, other times it may be a great player on a crappy team and then there are the times when a player gets overshadowed by his own teammates. Such is the case with today’s book, and its nice to see this player get some book time.
Willie Stargell spent his entire career as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. They won a couple of Championships during his time and became a powerhouse for the Iron City that was tough to beat. When people think of the Pirates, automatically Roberto Clemente is the first one they speak of. He gave up his life doing something for his fellow man in need, and created a legacy that stands the test of time. But what about Willie Stargell? He played many great seasons and sometimes gets forgotten in the shadows of Clemente’s legacy.
This book is not a new release but it is one of very few out there on the market about Willie Stargell. It takes a very nice look at Willie’s career with the Pirates as well as an in-depth look at Willie’s personal life. The personal side of Willie is something new for me. We all are familiar with the career but I always felt he may have been a fairly private person and that may have effected what we were able to know about him.
His untimely death in 2001 may also have played a part in not always getting the recognition he ultimately deserved. So this book does give him some of the praise he earned and is more thorough than the biography that was first published on Willie in the early 80’s.
Since Willie is a Hall of Famer, his appeal will transcend Pittsburgh. Fans from all over the world should enjoy this book. Its a look behind the curtain, if you will, of a man we honestly don’t know that much about. Dozens of books have been written about his teammate, and now almost 30 years later there is finally another one written about Willie. Check it out because I don’t think fans will be disappointed.
It is amazing how the game of baseball evolves right in front of our eyes. Players get stronger, equipment and playing conditions get better, fan experiences are more enhanced and the basic business model of a baseball team changes dramatically. These are all things that have happened through the last several decades that change the end product fans see out on the field. Today’s book takes a look at how one of the longest losing streaks in professional sports history was ended by evolving with the times and changing a teams basic business approach.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were a team that could not catch a break. The owners of bad team morale and essentially no end in sight to the losing streak no matter what moves they made. Baseball history is full of superstitions, so you could almost call them cursed. The Pittsburgh Pirates was desperate to break this cycle and decided a fundamental change was needed in their approach to the game to help end their misery.
Big Data Baseball walks the reader step by step through the Pirates plan. Showing how they saw the need for fundamental change and how they implemented it into their system. By following charts and data analysis they were able to play the numbers for batter tendencies and apply essential Sabermetric principles to their on the field game.
By implementing this new culture within the franchise, they started at the lowest level of the minors and installed in their up and coming players how these moves were beneficial to the team. By doing this they were able to establish some credibility to their new system that carried over to higher levels of play which essentially created a winning culture that spilled over to the field.
Travis Sawchik does a real nice job of showing the reader how the Pirates fostered the change in their system and how they have now built a consistent winner. While they are not steam rolling all of baseball this system is good enough for the second best record in all of baseball this season. It has ushered in the winds of change in Pittsburgh and breathed new life into that struggling franchise.
Even if you are not a fan of the Pirates or the new numbers game within baseball you will still like this book. It is a good story of how hard work and outside the box thinking leads to great results for an ailing franchise.
You can get this book from the nice folks at Flatiron Books