Disclaimer: a review copy of this book was provided to me.
Title: The Way of Baseball
Published: Simon & Schuster, 2011
# Pages: 206
Availability: Right now it is very widely available indeed.
Written By: Shawn Green and Gordon McAlpine
Who Is: You probably remember Green, who was an all-star outfielder for the Blue Jays in the 1990s, and later played with the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Mets. McAlpine is a California-based writer of novels and video games and all kinds of things.
What It's About:
It is about how Shawn Green learned about Zen and meditation and became a better ballplayer and human being because of it. If you pick through the book, you can find a regular baseball biography in it, covering his whole major-league career, but for Green, the important part seems to be the Zen and meditation lessons he learned, and there is certainly a lot of time spent on that. Which I think is great. I am not a one for meditation, myself, but what I do like is that the book is about something, that there's a point to the book that's important to Green. It makes it better!
And it's not like I don't think there's any value in it. Green might disagree about my reading of what he wrote, and certainly he knows better than I do, but I find it easy to cast his meditation as a technique of practicing: do all your thinking ahead of time so you don't have to take the time to do it during the game. It's actually pretty funny. Green spends a lot of time describing the automatic, one-with-your-swing state that he tried to achieve in order to do baseball right, but all through the book he shows how much thinking he was actually doing, and how much detail he understood the game in. Green clearly understood the game very well on a conscious and intellectual level; the section he wrote on noticing how pitchers tipped their pitches shows as much. Which is not to say that Green was wrong or that his position is not valid; it's just that he had more points to make than it seems like he thought he did.
How's the Writing:
Oh, it's good. I suspect that most of the credit for that goes to McAlpine, but that's fine; par for the course. Thing I noticed about this book is that, more than any other book I've read about the Blue Jays, is that it's a very professional job. Nice little hardcover, thick paper, lots of white space, some design, not a typo to be found. Other Jays-related books have been okay in these respects, but this is the first one that's been so good as to be attractive.
One thing that bugged me a bit is how some dialogue is depicted. There are quite a few conversations between Green and Carlos Delgado, for instance, but they don't ring true. I don't say that Delgado is misrepresented or anything, just that it seems that Green and McAlpine reconstructed the exchange to carry whatever point Green is trying to make, and it sounds a bit artificial, and bumps me out of the narrative. It's not a big thing.
It's a neat book. I'll reread it.
Secret Hero: Carlos Delgado certainly comes off very well in this book. Larry Hisle and Tony Fernandez, too.
Anecdotes: Green starts off the book by describing his four-home-run game, which was probably his highlight as a ballplayer. He also has some stories about how he and Cito Gaston didn't exactly see eye to eye; those who are inclined to doubt Gaston's knack with young players will find nothing to change their minds in this book.