Baseball writing you shouldn’t miss

Back around the All-Star break, I learned that Twins relief pitcher Pat Neshek has a blog, in which he reveals that, well, he’s a baseball nerd. As he put it in his pitch to fans to vote him into the last spot on the All-Star squad, if he weren’t playing baseball, he’d be watching and reading and writing about it, like all of us. On top of that, he’s obsessed with baseball cards.

Speaking of baseball cards, I know I’ve pointed out Josh Wilker’s Cardboard Gods blog before, but it’s been particularly good lately and seemed worth noting again. It’s less about baseball per se than about how the way that baseball provides landmarks and highlights that help us to remember, preserve, and even sometimes to understand our lives–and it’s really good.

Finally, a link at Baseball Primer today introduced me to Dirk Hayhurst, a minor-league pitcher who writes the Diary of a Non-Prospect for Baseball America. The column that drew my attention was a thoughtful, well-written piece about signing autographs, but his columns on early-morning bus rides and manning the ball bucket are also well worth your time. Hayhurst has a good eye and a surprisingly nuanced perspective on his profession, and while he’s just a beginning writer, he clearly understands how to tell a story.

I wrote to him to tell him how much I enjoyed his column, and I got the following response:


I had no Idea my little story was out there in so many places. Its very
flattering to see because I honestly don’t consider myself a very
talented writer. I have never done it before- no previous experience
etc… I just wanted to capture as many sides of the life of a real
person playing a surreal job. I didn’t loose my humanity when I put this
uniform on, in fact, I’d say it became more real to me. What I used to
think about baseball before I signed is not the same as what I think
about it now. I guess I used to think this job, this high profile title
of pro-athlete would answer all my questions about life. IT just gave me
more. Why are so many of us pro anythings so distant? Why are we so
beloved for such a trivial job? Why do kids want my autograph when their parents make 8 times as much as I do!? Why am I more revered then a Doctor? I don’t know, but I’ll do my best to make the most of, because whether it makes sense of not, I have the opportunity to help- I’m going to take it.

Thanks for reading, and feel free to post this on any site you wish.

The indexing at Baseball America is poor, but if you search on Hayhurst’s name, you’ll find quite a few columns. Here’s wishing him luck in pitching and writing.

For reading while listening to ballgames on the radio

I’ve been a bit remiss lately about passing along good online baseball reading, so today I’ll catch up a bit.

First, if you’re not reading Cardboard Gods regularly, you really should add it to your google reader. You’ll thank me. It’s ostensibly a blog about the author’s baseball collection, taken one card at a time–and I know: few things sound more boring than that. But the cards are really only a jumping-off point for author Josh Wilker’s stories of . . . well, everything. This post is particularly good, drawing on an oral history of a little-known–because imaginary–punk band.

Another good one to add to your reader is Joe Posnanski’s Soul of Baseball blog. Posnanski is a sportswriter for the Kansas City Star, and somehow he hasn’t allowed covering the Royals to beat him down. He’s taken to blogging far better than most professional writers. He brings to his blog all the enthusiasm and interest in the sport that the best amateur sites have–and that a lot of professional sportswriters seem to have lost along the way.

King Kaufman
, who regular readers know is one of my favorite sportswriters, today has some notes he made while listening to Ernie Harwell sit in on a Tigers

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broadcast the other day. It’s all worth reading, but my favorite factoid is this:

The first night game in Detroit didn’t start until about 9:30 p.m. “They thought in those days they had to wait until it got dark,” Harwell said. “So everybody was waiting around.”

It sounds crazy, but you can imagine the thought process that would lead you to wait until dark if you’d never tried this crazy night baseball stuff before.

Finally, a story that I can’t believe Jim didn’t pick up: baseball teams visiting Tampa don’t like to stay in the Vinoy Hotel . . . because it’s haunted:

Frank Velasquez, the strength coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates, says he’ll never forget his experience early one June morning in 2003 after the team checked in following an evening flight from Toronto.

“It was pretty realistic,” he began when I asked about it last week. “It was one of those 4 a.m. arrivals. I was so tired I didn’t even call for my bags. I went to sleep. And I remember just waking up for no particular reason, and I see a man standing at the end of my bed near the desk.

“I remember vividly. He had on khakis and a white long-sleeve shirt, but his attire wasn’t Calvin Klein. It was from another era. And his look, the way his hair was combed, was an older look, but he was a young man. It was maybe 7 in the morning because there was light behind him. He was just standing there looking at me. I didn’t feel threatened by him. I kind of looked at him and I closed my eyes. I look back and he’s still there. I was so tired I just went back to bed.”

The next day, Velasquez shared his encounter with one of the players during lunch. The player told Velasquez his story sounded like an experience pitcher Scott Williamson had a few days earlier when the Cincinnati Reds stayed at the Vinoy.

It’s probably good that something is scaring the Devil Rays’ opponents.