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The Opposite Field: A Memoir Hardcover – October 27, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Rick Bragg Reviews The Opposite Field

Rick Bragg is the author of the bestselling All Over but the Shoutin', a New York Times notable book of the year, as well as The Prince of Frogtown and Ava's Man, both memoirs. A Pulitzer Prize-winning national correspondent for the New York Times, Bragg is also the author of Somebody Told Me, a critically acclaimed collection of his newspaper stories. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of The Opposite Field:

In one shimmering paragraph in the memoir Opposite Field, you almost begin to believe that award-winning writer Jesse Katz might be the luckiest man on earth.

In it, he stands looking across a little league baseball complex in Monterey Park, a million gray parking lots from Hollywood, from the Pacific. But these fields are his oasis. Even the name is lovely: La Loma. Here, he will coach his own son, his prodigy, year after year.

"It was a natural stadium, geologically perfect... the homerun fence curling through a wall of green. The effect was at once lush and windswept.. you could stand here and watch... five-year-olds lost in clover at this corner, ten-year-olds spitting seeds at the other, fifteen-year-olds brandishing metal spikes... I would guide Max through that circuit... in this one extraordinary park, I would see him grow into a young man."

And that is where the perfection ends. Life, love, fatherhood, and baseball, come flying at him spikes high and gouge him straight through the heart--and sometimes the groin.

He tells it all in a rich story that is in places warm and in others raw, where a stepson almost dies from a gunshot to his face, and the special man in a beloved’s life is somebody else. The baseball is almost an antidote to life here, where, after one spirit-numbing loss, the coach raises the lid on a cooler filled with water balloons.

And if you love the game you will love it displayed here, a sweet, sad, poignant and sometimes hysterical drama in the dirt, a world where coaches plot, scheme and go on meth binges, outfielders with medical conditions twitch from the sparse grass, and monogrammed Louisville Sluggers splinter on the first pitch.

But it is also an unflinching story written by a great writer about failed marriage, and not some small amount of hanky panky. It is a wrenching story of a son who watches a strong mother battle cancer to a stand-still. And, through it all, it is a story of a father who watches his son shift and change in delightful and heart-searing ways, hoping that his decisions do more good than harm, hoping that at the end of the day his son will know... what? That his father loves him above all things.

This is not a pat story, not a neat one. People are not that way.

It is much better than that.

Here, you learn that not getting the girl is not so cruel, that growing older with disappointment and doubt and fear is not so bad--as long as your boy hits .620, and throws a curve ball that drops off the edge of the world.--Rick Bragg


“You need two things to make a fine, fine book: a story and a teller. The Opposite Field brings them together, like young love. It's a story about fathers and sons, and good love and failed love, and baseball. If that isn't by God a book I don't know what is. This story breaks your heart in places. But then it makes you glad you have one. In one chapter, after a bitter loss on the baseball field, Coach Jesse Katz throws open the lid on a cooler full of water balloons and a field of misery becomes a place of delight. If there's a metaphor here, for marriage and fatherhood and all of the rest, that may be it. But the best thing about this book is the teller. This guy can flat-out write.”
—Rick Bragg, author the New York Times bestseller All Over but the Shoutin’

The Opposite Field is more than a beautifully-written memoir. It's more than a wonderful baseball story. It indisputably has the element of connectivity that is in all great and powerful storytelling. Jesse Katz delivers the human experience in a way that speaks to all of us.”
—Michael Connelly, New York Times bestselling author of The Scarecrow and Blood Work

“Cast through the prism of one of America's oldest pastimes, Jesse Katz illuminates contemporary American life with wonderful detail and honesty. The Opposite Field brings to life the eastern suburbs of Los Angeles, drawing them out of the shadows of  Hollywood glitz and gangland portraits we typically read about, evoking the struggles and dreams of the children and parents in and around the hidden-away baseball field of La Loma. It's a heartfelt story, well-told.”
—Norman Ollestad, author of Crazy for the Storm

"A love letter from a father to his son, The Opposite Field is also a hymn to baseball, the new Los Angeles, the joy and pain of modern parenting as well as one man's journey into wisdom and clarity, and Jesse Katz shapes this material in such a way that he makes it as dramatic as a movie. I never would have thought a book about a Little League team could be this compelling, or that so much could be at stake, or that La Loma could become--and it does in Katz's buoyant prose--the stuff of legend."
—Bret Easton Ellis, author of Less Than Zero, American Psycho and Lunar Park

“Acutely observed, deeply human, and very wise about the game, The Opposite Field is more than Jesse Katz’s memoir of small town baseball. There’s his wayward love for L.A., Latinas, and the promises of spring. And his realization that every ball diamond is the beginning of an American ballad.”
—D. J. Waldie, author of Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir

"Jesse Katz has captured the hybrid soul of California's Monterey Park, a community that, despite its sharing a border with the largest Mexican community in America, East L.A., is probably as suburban and middle class as any, particularly in the drama of its neighborhood sports leagues.  Yet it is unique in ways that Katz deeply understands and eloquently evokes. And the poetry of his prose--Katz may be the next big writer dude of the LA style."
—Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always Running

"A 'Little League Dad' book like no other. Jesse Katz¹s The Opposite Field is set not in the usual Waspy suburb but in a community on the edge of Los Angeles with a majority Asian and Hispanic population. In addition to evoking surprising cross-cultural discoveries and conflicts, Katz portrays everything from his legendary mother¹s flight from the Nazis to the shooting of his stepson -- and critiques not only his failings as a baseball manager but as a parent."
—Greg Mitchell, author of Joy in Mudville

"With his precise journalistic eye, [Jesse] Katz ultimately chronicles his lifelong quest to finally reach home plate. And it's a grand slam."
--from OregonLive.com 

“The Opposite Field
blends Katz’s both painful and comic struggles as a single dad to remain connected with his growing son through baseball. And with taut and vivid writing befitting a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Katz delivers trenchant observations about relationships, parenthood and his immersion in Latino culture in his love life, at work as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times and at play in Max’s Little League.”
--from WWeek.com

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030740711X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307407115
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,656,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By W. C HALL VINE VOICE on October 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jesse Katz's memoir is not about baseball, though baseball is central to the story. "The Opposite Field" is really about his relationships with the people closest to him in his life: his parents, his (ex) wife, his lovers, and the most important person in his world: his son Max. This is the story of Jesse's years as a baseball coach and commissioner for the La Loma Sports Club, the youth sports association in the Los Angeles suburb of Monterey Park he and Max call home. Interwoven in the narrative of these years are the stories of his tumultuous marriage, his often-troubled relationship with his stepson, and his complicated search for love. Also prominent are memories of his youth in Portland, Oregon and his remarkable parents, his father Mel, an artist; and his mother Vera, who served three terms as Portland's mayor after distinguished service in the Oregon legislature.

At the center of the narrative, and of Jesse's heart, is Max, the only child of his marriage. Although the grander themes of baseball as a shared ritual passed from father to son are explored, this is not an urban field of dreams (though there is a season finale worthy of the film version of "The Natural".) It's a difficult and messy place, populated by people with broken families struggling to maintain stability in the face of economic issues, substance abuse and a myriad of other problems. If things weren't complicated enough, hostile neighbors, corrupt vendors and cultural barriers are also part of the mix. Through it all, Jesse struggles manfully to keep the baseball program afloat while constantly wondering if he's doing right by his son. He stepped up to save the baseball program when it was teetering on the brink of oblivion; yet it extracts a steep price in time and energy.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although this memoir centers on a father's relationship with his son, through baseball, it's far more than that. To save the Little League he winds up managing one of the teams, and the league, and the park. It becomes a number of narrative threads: his son, his Nicaraguan wife, a troubled stepson as well, his feisty and vivid mother, who is mayor of Portland.

The story needs the reader's full attention, since Katz leaps back and forth in time and location, in mood and in characters. The push-pull relationships, and rivalries, are just as personal in his dealings with other coaches, with league players' parents, as they are with his extended family. The personal troubles he observes, or confronts, get to be far darker than what you'd expect from a book ostensibly about Little League. It's fortunate that the author's prose is direct and terse, because the story is really something of a saga, a wide-screen story of all the people and worlds he encounters as a young and middle-aged man.

It's a much larger story than its cover would suggest, and all of it in 300 pages or so. It's remarkable and forthright, and well worth the reader's time.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Pulitzer Prize winning writer Jesse Katz examines his past with his unique memoir THE OPPOSITE FIELD that involves the complex and not so complex familial relationships and those he closely associated with on and off the baseball field. He literally incorporates the significance of the game of baseball that symbolically stresses the so-called game of life and all of its intricate elements that follows a path of unpredictability; metaphorically speaking that begins at home and proceeds with the process of getting back home. Readers may draw this connection with the major themes of the book, coming of age and the steps toward maturity as depicted through Katz's multicultural and multifaceted experiences that takes place within his lifetime and the places he has lived and visited; Katz's recollections of his childhood in Portland, Oregon and within the California sunshine in La Loma Park where Katz and his son Max spent many a season playing ball and nurturing their relationship between father and son.

The most interesting aspect about the book is the not straightforward or romanticized reflection of the game as it relates to Katz life. However, with his past recollections, there is bit of nostalgia as he retells his childhood memories. And as one first glances at the title and the opening pages, thoughts come to mind, such as how the story may possibly be yet another story about baseball that resonates FIELD OF DREAMS OR THE NATURAL. But Katz's memoir is more than fulfilling one's hopes and dreams, but rather the unselfish need to share one's aspirations amidst the whirlwind of births, marriages, divorce, illnesses, and deaths.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Jesse Katz has written some wonderful magazine and newspaper articles for the Los Angeles Times. He can get readers empathizing with the meanest gang members and the most innocent of victims. His writing can leave you spellbound. He deserves the two Pulitzers he has.

But somehow, all that talent for organization was lacking in this book. I was expecting a memoir about a baseball coach-turned commissioner, not an autobiography that meanders all over his life, and by page 50 I was ready to read about the rag-tag little league team Katz erroneously inherited. I was not interested in learning about Katz' early years and his generous sharing of his manliness. To say that he is fond of all things Latina is an understatement, (but we don't learn why until page 142-148).

Just as the professional reviews have readers thinking this was a memoir about a Los Angeles little league team, beset with strong personalities, money problems, screaming parents and challenged kids, there was often too much other stuff interspersed in the chapters to make the story flow smoothly. Katz reminisces far too much about his life throughout this book. There were too many times I put the book down in exasperation when he'd go off on a tangent again about his failed loves, his Jewish parents, how his mother came to this country, how he, as a rising privileged college student worked for a time in Nicaragua, the troubles with his gang-banging totally unmotivated stepson and his job as a newspaper gang reporter.

All that aside, the pages devoted to his son Max were truly touching. Of all his failures in life, being Max' father was a priority and it shows. If the reader can peal all the other distractions of this book away (see previous paragraph) this is a touching read.
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