A few contemporary baseball novels, brought to you by Literary Hub:
The Might Have Been by Joseph M. Schuster
If you’ve ever spent time around the margins of professional baseball, you’ll know that nobody has better stories or more pathos than a minor-league manager. In Schuster’s 2012 debut, we get Edward Everett Yates, a washed-up player, now a manager, who had a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals, busted his knee, and thirty years later, with his life looking more than a little tattered, still can’t give up the game. Two promising youths come on the scene. That’s the way it is with baseball. There’s always some new prospect, some new reason to get out of bed and believe this is the week, the month, the season all those disappointments finally get redeemed. Like any sports novel worth its salt, The Might Have Been is about regret, limitations, and our infinite, absurd capacity for hope.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Harbach’s 2011 bestselling debut has quickly become the benchmark by which contemporary sports novels are judged, and Henry Skrimshander—the shortstop who shows up for his first day of college with a pro-ready glove, a good arm, and a tattered book of baseball philosophy—looks poised to claim a place alongside Roy Hobbs, Moonlight Graham and other luminaries of baseball fiction. The Art of Fielding follows a familiar arc—the span of a magical season, a Midwestern setting, bouts of the yips. Harbach is fluent in the game’s minutiae, but he’s just as interested in Melville, Emerson, and our country’s literary legacy. Behind the folksy charm and clubhouse pontificating, Harbach has a subtly ambitious task: a meditation on the idea of America, where we stand and where we’re going.
The Contract by Derek Jeter and Paul Mantell
Okay, this one doesn’t make the cut on literary quality. It’s strictly a curiosity: a middle grade novel ‘by’ and ‘about’ Derek Jeter, released as the first in a series from the Jeter Publishing imprint. (Jeter is also dipping his fingers into sports journalism, in case you didn’t know, with The Players Tribune, a magazine supposedly written and edited by professional athletes.) Look past the plot, which mostly focuses on young Jeter’s burning desire to move from second base to short (that’s what Gatsby was about, too, right?), past the hagiography, past the craven capitalism of the whole endeavor, and there’s something worth contemplating here: who are our sports heroes nowadays? How do they see themselves, and their childhoods? Granted, unless you have a kid in the right age group, you’re never going to actually read this one, but the next time you’re wandering around a Barnes & Noble, it’s worth a quick flip through the pages, and a simple thought: why won’t they move that kid to short?