It is a place and time relatively unknown, shrouded in mystery. Some players spend a couple of years there, others spend almost or equal to a decade, and certain phenoms are there for the blink of an eye and then find themselves in the Major Leagues. The Minor League system of baseball is a complex well oiled machine whose one goal is not to win games for the team, but to make its players the best they can be.
In Where Nobody Knows Your Name, bestselling author John Feinstein takes the reader on a tour of an area of baseball many know little-to-nothing about. As baseball fans, we all have our favorite players and learn of how quickly they made it through the minor leagues and got brought up to the majors to become the highly-paid skilled athletes they are today. Feinstein focuses on a number of specific minor league players, including a manager for the Tampa Bay Rays AAA minor league team, and even a minor league umpire. Some of these players are young guys drafted at a young age looking to get brought up to the big leagues real soon, only to have their hopes dashed and their confidence threatened. Others are former major leaguers still playing in the game that keep getting sent down and spending more time in the minor leagues. As for the lives of the coaches and umpires, much like the regular players, they also yearn for a chance to be brought up to the major leagues to do what they believe they do best.
Feinstein doesn’t hold back on the details, showing the low pay for players, managers and even umpires that jump to shocking amounts once they spend some time in the major leagues. There are also stories of players being sent up and down, released and picked up by teams, and yo-yoed around the country as they go from minor league team to minor league team, just wanting a chance at the Show.
The first two thirds of the book are filled with these gritty stories and fascinating details, though the reader can become a little lost at times with the sometimes long and sometimes short chapters on specific players that they may not remember or know too well from earlier chapters, and yet are just thrown into their life story again. Something that may have been easy for Feinstein to recognize may prove tricky for the average reader. The final third of the book seems to present more calls ups and send downs and releases and pick-ups that the reader has already read about, which slows the book down considerably, but ends with a satisfying epilogue that brings all the players’, managers’ and umpire’s minor league stories to a satisfying end.
Originally written on March 24, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.
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