on March 19, 2009
This is a inside look at what it's like for an Ivy League graduate to try to blend in as one of the boys in a rookie league in the low minors in Mormon country. His teammates ranged from bonus babies to fringe draft choices. More than a few eventually made it to The Show. I got a kick out of Matt McCarthy's having to dumb himself down to be accepted, while maintaining his admittedly Yale-based superiority about religion and academics. He really puts you inside the clubhouse and on the team bus. The off-the-field adventures are hilarious.
McCarthy has come in for criticism from his team's veteran manager and some of the players who he describes have said they were not even on the same team with him that season. Even if some facts have been lost in the four or so years since he played, or names have been changed, this book is easy to read and very accurately captures the flavor of what it's like to try to make it to the majors. George Will could experience vicariously what he never would come close to in real life.
on June 11, 2013
Dirk Hayhurst wrote one of the funniest, most telling, intelligent treatises of minor league baseball life I have ever read. Hayhurst was a career minor leaguer who had moved from the lowest rungs of the system up to AAA. He wrote of the hilarity, the joy of winning, even at the lowest levels, and the stomach churning nervousness at every level. The themes of loyalty, the difficulty of independence, and self belief are all explored in depth in this book, in this reviewer's opinion, one of the finest baseball stories ever written.
Matt McCarthy, in his own way, is a poor man's Hayhurst. His career only lasted one year, comprising of a stop in the lowest or the low league. His narration is breezy, and an honest look at his circumstance and his abilities. The hilarity does not reach the height of Hayhurst's adventure, and McCarthy's self examination is not as deep.
McCarthy finds himself in certain predicaments, such as when his girlfriend, who he has been pining for, and remaining faithful to for the better part of a season, flies in for a visit, only to announce that she is a born again, and has re-virginized herself.
For all the pain, fun and disappointment, McCarthy walks away from his career learning lessons from his career. Those of perseverence, of learning and accepting one's limitations, of laughing at one's own bizarre circumstance, and making decisions to play by honest means and accept the consequences, even while others around him are cheating.
I found myself wondering whether I would enjoy the experience of competing on a professional team, giving my all, even while I knew my talent would not carry me. I think I would make the same decisions as Mr. McCarthy.
on February 26, 2010
This was a great read, well written and expertly paced. Good enough that I Googled the author, his teammates, the Provo Angels, and other aspects of the memoir just to catch up and learn more of them 9 yrs later. I was dismayed to see the book slandered by the NY Times and alliterate bloggers for some negligible discrepancies. The entire memoir rings true and complements accurately the experiences of other low-minor leaguers recorded in previous memoirs (e.g., The Boys Who Would Be Cubs (1990; J. Bosco) and Minor Players, Major Dreams (1997; B.H. Mandel). I consider this the best MiLB memoir I've ever read and I favor the genre.
on July 13, 2009
Matt McCarthy's autobio of his time in minor league baseball was quite entertaining and kept me interested in his and his team's exploits throughout. However, I was also left feeling incomplete. Characters could have been more deeply explored, the season covered more in depth, more, more, more. It was all just too superficial, but still managed to fill nearly 300 pages. It's a quick read that's great summer fare, just don't expect much depth to the story or character development. From Yalie to Angels minor league washout to med school intern, good luck Matt. I just hope you have greater appreciation for your skills as a doctor than as a baseball player; self-fulfilling propheses have a way of happening.
on May 3, 2012
Having just finished Odd Man Out, A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, I can say that my only complaint is that I wish it were longer.
Matt McCarthy's stories of his year in the minors with the California Angels organization are rife with recognizable names, current major leaguers, who he spent time with as they, too, struggled to big leagues. But these aren't Sunday church picnic tales. I'm sure some of the players involved cringed when reading their own exploits told back to them in the voice of this long-forgotten teammate. I could only think, if these were the exploits he felt okay with publishing, one can only imagine what was edited out.
It is always a treat to read a well-written book about sports, and especially from an insider's perspective. If you are a fan of baseball at all, you will enjoy this book. Even those who aren't drawn to America's Pastime will find a compelling story and humorous anecdotes enough to satisfy.
on December 25, 2011
Matt McCarthy has written a lively and insightful memoir of his brief stint as a minor league pitcher for the Angels organization. He describes what it was like to leave Yale as a senior sign before going on to spend a little more than a season as a struggling minor league pitcher. His book gives the reader an insiders view of what the minors is like and is full of humorous anecdotes about his team mates. For those who enjoy humorous memoirs about the travails of minor league pitchers I would also recommend they pick up a copy of Dirk Hayhurt's, The Bullpen Gospels.
on September 18, 2013
Many of the key incidents the author describes have turned out to be fabrications. Unfortunately for McCarthy, organized baseball keeps detailed records on where players were playing on any particular date and sharp readers started checking places and dates. The ugly thing is that his inventions unfairly cast his team members and coaches in a bad light, something McCarthy has steadfastly refused to address.
Overall, the author portrays himself as a superior Ivy League hero forced to deal with inferior rednecks, Hispanics and Mormons in the uncharted Rocky Mountains. By his own descriptions he comes across as an insufferable elitist snob with an exalted opinion of himself, but without enough baseball talent to make the grade.
If you are looking for a good minor league baseball autobiography, I would recommend "The 33-Year-Old Rookie" by Chris Coste or the classic "A False Spring" by Pat Jordan.
on December 21, 2014
Minor league baseball is an odd world, filled with young players who are hoping to move up the ladder from Class A to the majors, from small towns to the biggest cities. They know the odds are generally against them, but they pursue the dream anyway for a variety of reasons -- in some cases, because they aren't long on other options.
Matt McCarthy had other options. He graduated from Yale, and eventually was headed to Harvard's medical school to pursue a career as a doctor. But when he was drafted by the Anaheim Angels in 2002, he put that thought aside to pursue his baseball goals.
The resulting book, "Odd Man Out," reviews McCarthy's year as a pro baseball player. It comes as close to being an authentic recreation of the experience than any book of its type that I've read.
McCarthy played baseball for some bad teams at Yale, and came out of the experience as a marginal pro prospect. He was drafted in the 22nd round, signed for a $1,000 bonus, and was shipped to extended spring training in Arizona. From there it was on to short-season A ball in Provo, Utah.
Minor league teams are an odd collection of people. They come from all different backgrounds and countries. There's a world of difference between a Joe Saunders, McCarthy's Provo teammate who was a first-round draft choice who had signed a seven-figure bonus, and some of the Hispanic players who had come from poverty in the Caribbean.
The manager is Tom Kotchman, also known as Casey's father, a baseball lifer who certainly wants to win games. However, he's quite a character -- profane and rough around the edges. Let's put it this way -- he and McCarthy weren't likely to sit around talking about biochemistry.
Plus, Provo isn't a typical setting for a minor-league team. The town is the home of Brigham Young University, and most of the population is Mormon. Young baseball players are going through enough cultural shock as they try to adapt to living on their own, and they respond to the religious culture as you'd expect most young men to do -- making fun of it and putting it down.
McCarthy is a stranger in a strange land, then -- not above it all but certainly out of the usual mold. He tries to notice what's going on around him, but he is naturally preoccupied by the fact that he can't have two good outings in a row and that his pitching velocity is down at least 5 mph.
It's easy to root for McCarthy here as the story moves along through the 2002 season, even if you can guess by the subtitle ("A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit") that he isn't destined for greatness. If you are wondering about the time lapse from season to publication, it doesn't really hurt the story. If anything, it's fun to read about Saunders and Prince Fielder in their early pro days, and the other experiences seem rather universal.
The book did receive some criticism for some minor factual errors, such as players being promoted a couple of days before they were said to be part of an incident that's part of the book. Although that's never a good idea, the general storyline comes through loud and clear here. I raced through "Odd Man Out" and was sad to see it end, sad to know McCarthy is done writing about baseball.
on December 13, 2014
After reading this book, I find it amazing that anyone makes it to the major leagues. Life in the minors is definitely no picnic. Matt McCarthy's style is entertaining and intelligent. I'm not surprised he ended up going to medical school.
on December 30, 2013
I read a lot of baseball books, and this is one of the more enjoyable I've come across in a while. There are any number of "tell all" books about the clubhouse in the majors and the minors, and they have shaped how fans understand the game. "Odd Man Out" doesn't break new ground, per se, but because its author is different than his teammates but yet a ballplayer, he can share a perspective that feels closer to how many of us would experience that world.
Matt McCarthy pitched at Yale. He had some success on a lousy team in a non-competitive Division I league. He was lucky to be drafted in the 26th (or 27th) round, and he was a super long-shot to play in the majors. The book chronicles his one season in Rookie ball -- the lowest level of the minors -- for the Angles. When he was cut in spring training the next year, McCarthy went back to medical research, did projects in Africa, and later became a doctor.
This book describes his Yale baseball team and his minor league season, with both the disgust over the conduct of teammates (at times) and his love of the sport. There are a few regrets -- things he missed in college -- but for the most part, he's proud of his path.
McCarthy loves baseball, and he enjoyed the antics and camaraderie of the clubhouse. But yet, he was an outsider. It's clear that he had few friends on the team and was never the instigator of antics, hazing, fights, or anything else. He was just a quiet guy on the periphery. That's how many of us would have been in a clubhouse of 30 testosterone-laden guys, half of whom spoke only a little English. We'd want to go to the ballpark, do our thing, and then be left alone.
What makes the book so enjoyable is that McCarthy can share both the funny stuff, but also the serious stuff, with a detachment that both approves of it and also realizes that it's only okay in the limited confines of the clubhouse and the non-real world of a baseball season. Sometimes, it's guys doing unmentionable imitations with hot dogs; other times it's guys contemplating steroids to improve their power hitting; other times it's the coach throwing things across the locker room after a loss; and yet other times, it's prejudice, racism and sexism run amok.
McCarthy shows all that, and it's not pretty (to him or to me --- though it might be very exciting for some people). And yet, McCarthy can also see the way his coach cares about winning and tries harder than any coach he's ever seen to get the players to do their best. The coach even brings in his dying best friend to give the players a pep talk and a little extra insight about how to improve their technique on the field.
All in all, the intensity of a season stands out for me. Players are in 76 games in 80 days, with bus rides of 4 hours or more between games and little to eat but chain restaurant junk. They don't know what's going on in the world outside of the game. They barely have time to eat before trying to get some sleep in one town after another: Provo, Orem, Medicine Hat, Billings, and so on. When they have a few minutes, they chase girls, drink beer, and dream of the big leagues. It's an arrested adolescence, but one that is the dream of many.