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Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit Hardcover – February 19, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
While his professional baseball career lasted for just one summer, McCarthy still compiled enough incidents and anecdotes to make for an eye-opening read about the wildly unpredictable life of a minor-league ballplayer. Drafted in 2002 by the Anaheim Angels, the Yale-educated left-hander was eventually shipped off to the Angels rookie team in Provo, Utah, where he had to not only adjust to the grueling schedule of a professional athlete but also to the culture of a heavily Mormon town. McCarthy shatters the idea of a glamorous lifestyle in the minor leagues—from the agonizingly long bus rides to the never-ending meals in chain restaurants and minuscule paychecks. He also portrays the unflattering aspects of the game, be it the divide between the American and Hispanic players, or the constant inner struggle on whether to take performance-enhancing drugs. But there are plenty of humorous (and sometimes obscene) stories sprinkled in. All the while, McCarthy writes of his own personal struggles as a pitcher and the constant physical and mental strain he endured to keep alive the dream of one day making it to the major leagues. While the book sometimes reads like a journal (which he kept throughout the summer), McCarthy can be an effective storyteller. Its a pull-no-punches work that will give many baseball fans a glimpse into a part of baseball not seen on ESPNs SportsCenter. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Much as Jim Bouton recorded life as a major leaguer with the 1969 Seattle Pilots in his classic Ball Four, so Matt McCarthy shares his life as a minor leaguer with the 2002 Los Angeles Angels’ Class A farm team in Provo, Utah. If McCarthy lacks Bouton’s immortal cast of characters, or his singular deadpan wit, he proves a sure-handed reporter in revealing the daily grind of a season, the unabashed racism among players (all Hispanics are simply called Dominicans by their white teammates), the lousy pay and living conditions, and the callous nature of this most zero-sum of professions. Baseball fans will likely recognize Joe Saunders, Bobby Jenks, and Prince Fielder—bona fide major-league stars who were teammates or competitors of the author. McCarthy’s professional baseball career might be forgettable but this account is not. --Alan Moores
Top customer reviews
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.
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.
There are a lot of familiar names mentioned in ODD MEN OUT. The first one I noticed was Craig Breslow, a relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. McCarthy and Breslow were both left-handed starting pitchers for the Yale Bulldogs and amazingly both biophysics majors. Another would be Bobby Jenks, now a closer for the White Sox, who was a washout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, mainly because of a drinking problem and the fact that he'd threatened to kill one of his coaches. Then there was Joe Saunders, a first round draft choice for the Angels who gets preferential treatment and bothersome media coverage. It can't help but go to his head. There are at least a dozen other recognizable names. I just saw one of them play for the Los Angeles Angels at shortstop this weekend, one of the "Dominicans," Erick Aybar.
Surprisingly, the most fascinating character in the book is not a player. Tom Kotchman, Casey Kotchman's father, wins that accolade hands down. He berates his players when they lose, gives them the silent treatment on seventeen-hour boss rides when they lose again. He does Dice Clay impressions when they win and he wears an obscene talisman around his neck for good luck.
McCarthy also goes into elaborate detail about the relationships between the "Dominican" players and the Americans. The Dominicans would include anybody from south of the border, Mexicans, Venezuelans, and even a few actual Dominicans. The American players refused to shower with them because of their bawdy behavior while soaping up. It's pretty much a culture clash in other respects as well. One particularly amusing anecdote involved Ervin Santana, who now starts for the Los Angeles Angels. A coach Brian Harper, who caught for the Minnesota Twins in the 1991 World Series, was trying to teach his pitchers how to cover first base and Santana kept screwing up. Harper accuses Santana of a lack of teamwork, betting him he doesn't know McCarthy's name. The best Santana could do was "McCorksky" and that was McCarthy's nickname from then on.
Provo, Utah, home of the rookie league team, also provides some ammunition for McCarthy. Of course there's the Mormon factor to think about. He lives like a prince with one of the host families there but that doesn't stop him from referring to some of them as Jack Mormons, who conform to church conventions but drink and carouse on the sly.
Most of McCarthy's humor doesn't quite ring true. Although he gets drunk at one point and chews tobacco for the first time in another instance, most of the time McCarthy lives up to his bio-physics credential. He's just too much of an attaboy to tell an effective Jim Bouton anecdote.