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Throwback by Jason Kendall

Professional baseball players make the sport look easy. When I watch a game, it is fairly obvious what each player is trying to do in that given moment. Except for your unusual trick play, it is clear what the hitter, pitcher, runner, and fielders are trying to do in a situation. The difficult part is making that stuff happen.

Jason Kendall is definitely an old school guy and his book Throwback is simply about the details of the game. Everyone knows that pitcher needs to throw strikes and the hitter needs to hit the ball. However, the casual fan is not going to think about laying down a bunt on the right side with a right-handed first basemen charging in during the bottom of the seventh inning. If you are major leaguer, you have to know these things.

Though a comprehensive book, nothing in this book surprised me. With the subtitle A Big League Catcher Tells How the Game Is Really Played, I was expecting more behind-the-scenes of playing in the big leagues. That does not mean I was looking for dirt on famous ballplayers, but I was expecting more stories about working with managers, how to deal with the media, or just simple stories about working with great hall of famers. Instead Throwback is just a simple survey of baseball basics. Anyone who has played high school ball or watches MLB games on a regular basis probably will not learn from this book.

Additionally, Kendall is kind of stuck in the past. Baseball is a timeless sport but that is not to say that baseball has not changed over the years. Kendall had a respectable career but he never really played for a contender. First, he does not seem like a nice guy. He rebukes players for casually interacting with the opponents. I respect his sense of competiveness, but there is nothing wrong with a casual greeting with the first baseman after a single. This is probably why he has never entertained the idea of coaching. Second, he does not give enough credit to natural talent, probably because his talent was all from his hard work. Also, he thinks any one who takes a day off or cracks their foot open with a foul ball is weak.

This may be an interesting book to a high school ball player who has never thought deeply about the game, but Kendall’s colorful language does not make the book appropriate for younger audiences.

In the end, Kendall thinks players today are too soft, too rich, and too dumb, but I am sure there are plenty of soft, dumb, rich ballplayers out there with World Series titles.