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The Last Best League: Baseball, Cape Cod, and Dreaming the Dreamby Jim Collins
Synopses & Reviews
The compelling story of a single season in the world's finest amateur baseball league.
Every summer, in ten small towns across Cape Cod, young college baseball players showcase their talents in hopes of making it to the "show." A vicious filter, the league has produced one out of every six major league players, from Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton to Jeff Bagwell and Barry Zito.
In this brilliantly crafted narrative, Jim Collins chronicles a season in the life of the Chatham A's, perhaps the most celebrated team in the Cape Cod Baseball League. Set against a seemingly bucolic backdrop — a well-heeled resort town on the bend of the outer Cape — the story charts the changing fortunes of a handful of players, all of whom battle slumps and self-doubt in an effort to impress major league scouts and make the playoffs. Several players go home with career-threatening injuries; one blue-chip prospect fulfills great expectations while another is dubbed "the biggest disappointment on the Cape." A pitcher hides an arm injury while negotiating a minor league contract; another leaves early to tend to his dying father. And nearly all look to the following year's major league draft as a barometer of their worth. Far more than a baseball book, The Last Best League is an engrossing story about dreams fulfilled and dreams destroyed, about Cape Cod and the rites of summer, about coming of age in America.
"The Cape Cod Baseball League, which began in the 19th century as local entertainment for summer residents, has evolved into the jewel of American amateur baseball. Sanctioned by the NCAA, the league invites the best college players to come to breezy seaside communities to work on their game during what amounts to their off-season — late June through mid-August — without sacrificing their amateur status. And come they do, to one of the 10 teams sponsored by small towns and New England businesses, staffed by volunteers, the players hosted by local families and given day jobs as clerks, seafood haulers and day-camp counselors. Collins, a former editor of Yankee magazine and once a Dartmouth second baseman with dreams of the big leagues, brings a local historian's eye and the heart of a fan to a chronicle of one Cape Cod League team, the Chatham A's, during the 2002 season. He has produced a book that will be a treat to casual fans who might not know the process by which college players are courted by agents — graded as to character, body type and bat speed, and then tagged with a price. Collins wisely focuses his story on a handful of the most promising Chatham players, most memorably Wake Forest's slugging third baseman Jamie D'Antona, an extremely likable nutcase, for whom readers will find themselves rooting hard. There is also the undersized Blake Hanan, the brainy Princeton righty Tom Pauly and the sphinxlike load of a pitcher, Tim Stauffer. Their crusty manager, John Schiffner, adds a little spice and tobacco juice to the mix. Along the way, readers will gain an appreciation for summer on Cape Cod and the place of baseball, as it once was, in the heart of local communities. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Apr.) FYI: About a dozen of the players on the Chatham A's were drafted by major league teams, including Tim Stauffer in the first round and D'Antona and Pauly in the second." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The story of a single season in the world's finest amateur baseball league.
This coming-of-age account is also the story of a single season in the world's finest amateur baseball league.
About the Author
Jim Collins is former editor of Yankee magazine, a native New Englander, and a former college baseball player at Dartmouth. To research The Last Best League, he relocated his family from New Hampshire to Chatham, Massachusetts, attended every game, and was given complete insider's access to the team and players. He is an accomplished magazine writer whose work has twice been included in Best American Sportswriting.
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