Customer Reviews: Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks
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The subtitle of this well crafted work: "A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-Experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks." For the first two categories, right on! Geeks are not going to learn a whole lot that they already do not know. That aside, though, this is a nice work.

Examples of what is in some of the chapters: Chapter 2 focuses on "Pitchers and Catchers." The first part of the chapter describes basic pitches (and how they are thrown)--fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, split-finger fastball, knuckleball, screwball, spitball (naughty, naughty!), eephus, and gyroball (does it even exist?). Each is described, with a bit of humor added here and there.

Chapter 5 explores "Fielding." There are brief descriptions of what each position has to do. As an old second baseman, I enjoyed reading about the basics of the double play and so on.

Chapter 6 examines "Stadiums" (but should this not be "Stadia," to use the proper Latin term?). One of the more enjoyable features is the description of some unique fields. Think Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. But why not talk about the cool stadium in Cleveland?

Chapter 9 takes a peek at "Random Stuff to Know." E.g., Why K for strikeout on scorecards? What about uniform numbers? The seventh inning stretch? And so on.

This book is a lot of fun. Even hard core baseball fans might enjoy it for its style, even though they may not learn a great deal that is new. For beginners and intermediate fans, though, this will be quite a pleasure!
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on July 17, 2007
I really liked this book a lot...I learned quite a bit about baseball and I enjoyed the author's sense of humor. I don't think the book quite lives up to its subtitle: ...for beginners, semi-experts, and deeply serious geeks. It probably won't be quite basic enough to totally please the absolute beginner...but still not a bad choice either. Likewise I think that most semi-experts and serious geeks are going to be looking for something more than what is offered here. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that will really enjoy and learn from this book, the way I did. I'd recommend it for people with at least a very basic knowledge of how baseball is played, who want to learn more about a truly fascinating game.
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on June 11, 2007
It's easy to read and entertaining. The book is well-edited - chapters are split up in such a way that makes it easy to find immediate answers during a game, yet it flows cohesively enough to make it an entertaining read on a quiet night. I like the extensive dictionary of baseball terms and phrases. It has lots of whats, but frequently also includes the whys behind things like the history of certain stats and the main reason the MLB did away with spitballs. There's lots of insider info, interesting facts and anecdotes; everything from how to read a box score to unusual attributes of ball parks. This book is loaded, and any baseball fan will enjoy it.
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on March 30, 2007
this book is a must read for anyone interested in getting the most out of watching a baseball game. even the most knowledgeable fans will find lots of new and interesting information in this extremely thoughtful book...but not to worry, it is extemely entertaining and funny as well. in addition to the well laid out text there are references in italics linking to a prodigious glossary at the end containing every imaginable baseball term. this is a welcome addition to the literature especially as it comes right at the beginning of the new season.
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I strongly disagree with the reviewer that says that there is not much here that has not been said elsewhere. While I am new to baseball, at the age of 55 vastly more familiar with soccer, football, and basketball, my youngest son loves the game, and I have spent time looking for the perfect book that can both help him see the nuances, and help me follow the game.

This book is nothing less than extraordinary. It would be a superb gift for any high school or college student who loves the game, and for any parent or grandparent new to the game. Personally I think it has a great deal of information that those who consider themselves avid fans have NOT noticed, but you can decide that better than I.

Here are some of the nuggets in this book, which is the tactical complement to the strategic companion by another author, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game." The two books together constitute an instant reference library from any baseball affecionado.

1) 1 in 100,000 make it to major leagues from among those who strive to get there.

2) Going to college is a superb way to perfect your skills and shorten the time to selection for minor leagues--a tiny handfull get to go straight to the majors.

3) Five tool players can field well, throw hard (and accurately), run fast, hit home runs, and hit a high batting average.

4) Any major leaguer, however "bad" they might appear on a given day, is the best of the best and has spent a lifetime getting there.

5) Awesome concise clear description of the many kinds of balls that a pitcher can throw to a batter.

6) Runner on second can see catcher's signals and signal to the hitter more often than not. I had no idea.

7) When bases are loaded, a fast ball is more likely, hit to it and improve your batting average.

8) Amazing list of all the *many* reasons a coach might walk out to talk to a pitcher.

9) Leg strength is critical for all players and helps power the ball.

10) Run bases on a CURVE for faster rounding of bases.

11) A catcher can be the team's reference librarian, a goldmine of knowledge about hitters built up over a lifetime of observation.

12) Strike zone defined by each player, not a fixed box. From the kneecaps to a line halfway between the belt and the shoulders.

13) Outstanding section on umpires, who can spend thousands on a school and endure 8-12 years in the minors on bare subsistence salaries. If they do make it to the majors, then they earn a six-figure salary.

14) Lovely section that clearly illustrates and explains all of the symbols needed to record every move in a baseball game.

15) Umpires WILL remember every slight over the years, and when borderline calls need to be made, the slights will come home to roost.

Superb glossary.

I am giving this review and the book to my 12-year old, in the hopes that he will read every word and refer back to this book many times in the years to come.

This book is a GEM. Ignore the faint praise by other reviewers.

See also the DVDs
Field of Dreams (Widescreen Two-Disc Anniversary Edition)
A League of Their OwnBaseball - A Film By Ken Burns
The Natural (Director's Cut)
For Love of the Game
Impossible to Forget: The Story of the '67 Boston Red Sox
Nine Innings From Ground Zero: The 2001 World Series
Rising Sons Return - Matsui, Ichiro and More!
American Pastime
The Pride of the Yankees (Anniversary Edition)
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Watching Baseball Smarter will appeal to youngsters around 9-12 who are eager to grab as much baseball knowledge as possible by attending and watching games on television. For those young people, scoring, colorful terms, and obscure rules can make the game seem more mysterious than it is. At the same time, learn those elements of active watching and a youngster can develop the basics to enjoy being a lifelong fan.

If someone had given me this book at that age, I would have treasured Watching Baseball Smarter above all over gifts I got that at that time. I would have been most thrilled by the illustrations of how the various pitches are thrown.

Remember that observation when you consider if you know any budding fans who would be thrilled to have this book.

As for the claim that the book is also for semi-experts and deeply serious geeks, I don't think so. I didn't see any material that wasn't well known to me by the time I was 15. And I was hardly a semi-expert or a deeply serious geek. I just enjoyed watching and attending the games.

Don't give this book to a serious baseball fan; you'll embarrass yourself if you do.

Here are few questions to test your ability to enjoy the book:

1. What is the infield fly rule?

2. What is a double switch?

3. What is a catcher's earned run average?

4. What is a safety squeeze?

5. How do you keep score?

If know all five, this book isn't for you. If you know four, you'll get an occasional nugget from the book. If you know three or fewer, this book is a good choice for you.

On this reading, the main pleasure was from remembering when I first learned the material and from an occasional bit of trivia that was new to me. The former pleasure was what kept me reading, and I was disappointed that the book was aimed mostly at an elementary level . . . having found the subtitle to be misleading in terms of the book's relevance for me.

Play ball!
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on July 12, 2007
I think this book is pretty much aimed at younger readers, 10-20, or an occasional follower of the game. It's material is really fairly light. If you're familiar with baseball, then there's not much here that hasn't been said somewhere. It has five interesting questions on the back cover. For example, "Why do some players urinate on their hands?" Good luck if you can find the answer. There is no index. That is quite unfortunate in my view. If you are pretty familiar with baseball, you'll find yourself skipping over material to find something you might find interesting. The lack of an index will let you down.

I'm turning this over to my 12-13 year old nephews. I'm sure they'll love it.

I don't think the interesting question about name five ways a hitter can get to first without hitting the ball is in here. (Answer is found by Google.)
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on July 26, 2010
I (i) am a woman; (ii) did not grow up playing (obviously) or talking about (or watching much) baseball (e.g., I did not know that there were any differences between the NL and the AL, and I didn't understand why the Red Sox and Yankees could not play in the World Series); (iii) have recently become a huge fan; and (iv) would now place myself well beyond the beginner level, but still pretty shy of the semi-expert. From my perspective, this is one of the most satisfying book purchases I've made in a long while. In fact, it's the first one I've liked so much that I wanted to write a review of it.

I finally decided to start taking advantage of the fact that I had moved to a great baseball city after the Red Sox won the 2007 World Series. I was tired of coming in on game 7 of the ALCS, getting fired up about the World Series, and then forgetting all about the game until next time (if there was a next time). I wanted to be as excited for the moment as all of the other fans in Boston. So I started watching every game. I loved watching the games, but I remained in a state of moderate confusion most of the time. Someone gave me a rulebook for my birthday (Baseball Field Guide: An In-Depth Illustrated Guide to the Complete Rules of Basebal). I learned a lot, but I still had tons of questions that the rulebook didn't seem to answer. How does color announcer Jerry Remy know the pitcher's going to throw an outside fastball (there are actually universal signs; plus the catcher sets up outside)? What does it mean to pitch from the stretch (it means the shorter wind-up pitchers use when men get on base to keep the runner from having time to steal -- I might have missed that in the rulebook)? Why would a team trade away its best player halfway through the season (they know they're out of the race and can get pretty good deals from a postseason-bound team who needs the player)? How in the world could anyone understand the gestures the coaches make (rub the belt, tap the nose, tap the hat, rub the shoulder, tap the belt twice, and then tap the elbow)? What thoughts go into the order of the lineup? Why is that missed out an error, but the earlier one wasn't? Why do umpires break up conferences on the mound? What makes a ballpark a "hitter's ballpark"? Other than the cheering fans, is there a real "home team advantage"? What's with all the wacky statistics, and do they mean anything?

These are just some of the many questions that Mr. Hample answers in this thoroughly entertaining and engrossing book. He also answers a bunch of questions that I didn't even think of, which was convenient, because I also got the sense that I didn't even know enough to ask the right questions and that as someone who had never actually played the game, I never would. Like, why an umpire might choose that career (he can't play but loves the game), or why I shouldn't be too quick to call a fielder a loser when he makes an error (if he's a good athlete, he's probably making the error when other fielders couldn't even reach the ball). I learned about the many things a pitcher juggles in his mind during every at-bat besides how to throw the pitch. I learned more about how batting averages are calculated. I learned that many of the goofy signs the coaches and manager make are fake to throw off the opposing team; that's why they make so many at a time.

And I enjoyed doing so, because Mr. Hample doesn't just provide definitions with diagrams (although there a a few of those). In many cases he puts you in the mind of the players at different positions (and even the umpires and base coaches) by setting up scenarios and taking you step-by-step through the rapid-fire multi-tasking that goes on in their heads. I would paste in an example, but I bought the Kindle version for Kindle for Mac, and it won't let me copy text.

The one thing missing from this book, for someone like me anyway, is a good description of the different kinds of pitches and how to tell them apart just by looking. Most websites are aimed at people trying to learn the pitch, so they focus on how to hold and release the ball. I want to know how to recognize the pitch. Even so, I learned so much that I would give the book six stars, if I could.

I think that if you (i) love baseball (but have never actually played) and want to know what to look for in order to be able appreciate the richness of baseball that semi-experts and deeply serious geeks already love; or (ii) are one of the semi-experts and deeply serious geeks who want a potentially fresh take on the already familiar intricacies of the game, then this book is definitely worth it.

(Note that you can download one of Amazon's free Kindle readers for other devices and then download a sample of this book before you purchase it. If you're considering the Kindle version, but don't have a Kindle, you should know that there are a few minor typos, as well as a couple of references to page numbers, which at least Kindle for Mac doesn't show in its e-books. Some of the charts are pretty tiny, although still readable, in the Kindle version, too, but I think this is only an obstacle on non-Kindle Kindle readers that don't allow you to zoom on images. If I could do it over again, I would buy the hard copy.)
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on May 3, 2007
So you'll probably hear a lot of reviews for this book that start with, "Okay, I'm a huge baseball fan..." or "I played baseball my whole life, and..." followed by praise for Mr. Hample's insight, research, and humor.

Although the book would TOTALLY help peak interest and raise awareness amongst new baseball fans, you will probably pick it up because the huge, warn-in baseball looks good enough to eat, and you love the game like a member of your own family.

As someone who has lived and learned baseball for 30 years, Mr. Hample's book provided me with more knowledge, more open doors, and more "No kidding!" Pick this book up. Read it. Carry it with you to a game. Have it out on the table when you watch games on TV. You'll see why...

Bravo, Mr. Hample. You have created a gem.
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on May 27, 2015
I was a baseball addict as a kid, but it's been 15 years. I just got in to the sport again and I realized I had lots of questions about what the announcers were saying. What's a cutter? How is that different from a slider? What makes a base runner "good"? Why is the third foul an out when bunting, when it is never an out when swinging? I keep this book by my TV for reference and I have used it a lot. I'm even going to sit down and read it cover to cover because there is so much in here to know and to make watching baseball even more interesting. The old saying is true: Baseball is like church; many attend, few understand. Aside from the uber-practical information in here for baseball watchers, there is also plenty of really fun trivia. Want to know how many Cy Young awards Cy Young would have won? Want to know why and where the tradition of the seventh inning stretch originated? Buy this book!
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