500 Level Fan Book Review – The Way Of Baseball

Being a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance has a lot of pretty neat perks.

As a fairly avid reader, my favourite one of these perks is the occasional chance to get an advanced copy of an upcoming baseball book.  A few weeks ago I took advantage of this by acquiring “The Way Of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95 MPH”.  The book is a half-biography, half-self help piece written by none other than former Blue Jay Shawn Green, with help from author Gordon MacAlpine.

In a nutshell, the book is a look inside Green’s mind.  It is a story about how he found success in the big leagues not through steroids, even though he played in the heart of the drug era, and not even through heavy weightlifting, but through meditation.  By maintaining a clear mind, he was able to keep maximum focus on each pitch, helping him transform from a part-time playing singles hitter to one of the most elite power hitters of his time.

It is an interesting concept.  Using only a simple batting tee and the same ball-hitting drill day after day, Green was able to achieve a zen-like stillness and focus in practice that he ultimately took out to the field.  Beginning in the summer of 1997 and ending with his retirement in 2007, Green went through the normal ebbs and flows of a professional athlete (both on and off the field), but never lost sight of the hitting drill that kept him zoned in.  Not quite what you’d expect from a multi-million dollar athlete.

Normally, a self-help type of book is not something I would be interested in.  Fans of books like “The Secret” or “The Power of Now” or even “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” will likely  enjoy the discussions of Presence, Ego, Awareness, Separation, and NonAttachment more than I did.

But that wasn’t the reason I ordered the book.  As a die-hard Jays fan, Green came to prominence with the club just about the time I came back into the mix after the blip that was the mid-90’s.  I remember him coming to my highschool in Whitby to give a talk to Grade 11 students about staying in school, then signing autographs.  (I didn’t get one – I was too cool and wanted to stay close to the hot girls…bad decision.)

So the main reason I read the book was to hear about the baseball relationships he forged, and to listen to stories behind the scenes.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Here are a few samples:

– In 1997, Green and Cito Gaston had a very fiery relationship, with Cito not playing Green against left-handed hitters, and not giving him a chance to play regularly against tougher righties either.  There was an interesting exchange where Cito basically tells him that he is a terrible defender with below average speed who will never hit for power.  Of course Green would go on to win a Gold Glove, join the 30-30 club in Toronto, and break the Dodgers’ all-time single-season HR record.

– Green also had a very contemptuous relationship with then hitting coach  Willie Upshaw, but loved the late Mel Queen.

– There are a lot of references to Carlos Delgado in the book, from their time together in Toronto, in New York with the Mets, and in Japan on an All-Star tour.  But the best story has to be their batting practice home run derby that lasted the entire 1998 season.  Green credits the game for developing his HR power.

– His time as a Dodger was both a success and a disaster, and Green doesn’t back down when mentioning his disappointment with management, reporters, and fans in LA.

– By far my favourite part of the book was his relationship with Tony Fernandez.  For those familiar with this site you will know that I love Tony.  I consider him the greatest Jay of all time, one of the best players ever, and a great man.  He is basically a living God, like Zeus.  An amazing man.  Shawn Green seems to think so as well.  Tony was known to many of the younger players as Yoda because they saw him as a “wise, true master of hitting.”  The drills that Tony used to run in preparation for games are astounding, such as balancing on a platform on one leg while swinging a baseball bat.  Sometimes Tony would only take one swing in batting practice if he felt good, and often during hitting slumps he would use an extremely heavy bat during games in order to get his timing back.

Again – what a man!

Coming in at 208 pages, “The Way Of Baseball” is a short read.  Though I can’t say it was a page-turner, especially in the meditation portions, it was interesting and well worth a look.

500 Level Fan Rating = 3 stars

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