Just in time for Father's Day ...
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A Father and Son's Adventures
Playing Minor League Baseball
Skyhorse Publishing, 2007
As another Father's Day approaches in the U.S and Canada -- that's right, if you haven't thought about it, it's June 15, which is next Sunday! -- it's time to reflect for a moment on the fact that for many families, inportant parts of baseball are all about fathers and sons.
Now, we're not just referring here to Griffeys and Boones and Bells, but instead on the bond (not "Bonds") the game can help grow between any father and son, be they fans or, as in the case of a fortunate few, players.
Again, we focus here not on the major league bloodlines that dot the Great Game's historical tapestry. Instead, we examine the story of a father and son who each played pro ball -- more than virtually everyone who visits this site can claim -- but neither of whom developed as a pro to the level we casually call "big leaguer." Meet Rick and John Wolff, father and son ...
Oddly, while John (the son) is, Rick (the father) is not found in a search for "Wolff" in the BaseballReference.com minor league directory (those records are incomplete), but we do know that dad spent two years in the Tigers minor league system back in the 1970s and later served as the baseball coach at Mercy College in New York state, then six seasons in the 1990s as "sports psychology coach" for what became the Manny & Albert Cleveland Indians, so he knows his way around a head game.
Rick also knows his way around books, as he is currently executive editor at a publishing house -- not Skyhorse, which published this work -- in New York. Given that, one might expect Rick to take the lead in the narrative, but truthfully, the story is primarily John's. I don't pretend to know who wrote or edited what parts of the narrative, but there are definitely two voices to the book -- and not just because all of Rick's contributions are shown in italics as a visual separator.
As recently as early in 2007, the younger Wolff continued pushing toward fulfilling his big league dream, inking a minor league deal with the New York Mets. He played two games at short for the GCL Mets, collecting a single in four at-bats, but then BaseballReference.com has nothing else on him.
Much of the book takes place in extended Spring Training '06 with the White Sox, the team that drafted young Wolff. But it also wanders, if too briefly (at least as far as the Wolffs are concerned, certainly), to the 2006 Appalachian League for the three games (1-for-7 with two walks) John spent as a 2B/1B with the Bristol Sox. By late July, the younger Wolff is hooking on with the Kalamazoo Kings of the independent league, providing some of the most entertaining pages of the book overall.
Though John's "voice" in the book is the more prominent, it is not as refined as his father's is (which, generationally, should not surprise anyone a bit). Both stories are well-told, though I admit several pangs of "I wish Rick would write more here" as the senior's shortish interjections and reminiscences tailed quickly to another longer passage from the younger Wolff.
Perhaps strikingly evident in its absence is any mention of drugs (PEDs or otherwise) or sex, which, which at its heart is not a bad thing. Certainly those items were around, or at least part of the clubhouse discussion, for both authors, but they are dominant enough in today's news stories; this is a baseball book, and a good one.
Yes, it's a good book. It's not a great book -- Roger Kahn and Rob Neyer (is that the first time those two names have been used together?) need not see the Wolffs as literary competitors of note. But in another way, this is a great book in that it is truly one that might inspire a conversation between a father and a son ... about baseball, certainly, but moreso, about the generational differences that define the careers of each.
Sounds like a pretty good Father's Day gift.