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
—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."
“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.”