Knocking on Heaven's Door: Six Minor Leaguers in Search of the Baseball Dream

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The rich slice of Americana found in minor league baseball presents a contradictory culture. On the one hand, the minors are filled with wholesome, family-friendly entertainment-fluffy mascots, kitschy promotions, and earnest young men signing autographs for wide-eyed Little Leaguers. On the other, they comprise a world of cutthroat competition in which a teammate's failure or injury can be the cause of quiet celebration and 90 percent of all players never play a single inning in the major leagues.

In 'Knocking on Heaven's Door', award-winning sportswriter Marty Dobrow examines this double-edged culture by chronicling the lives of six minor leaguers--Brad Baker, Doug Clark, Manny Delcarmen, Randy Ruiz, Matt Torra, and Charlie Zink--all struggling to make their way to 'The Show.' What links them together, aside from their common goal, is that they are all represented by the same team of agents--Jim and Lisa Masteralexis and their partner Steve McKelvey--whose own aspirations parallel those of the players they represent.

The story begins during spring training in 2005 and ends in the fall of 2008, followed by a brief epilogue that updates each player's fortunes through the 2009 season. Along the way Dobrow offers a revealing, intimate look at life in minor league baseball: the relentless tedium of its itinerant routines and daily rituals; the lure of performance-enhancing drugs as a means of gaining a competitive edge; the role of agents in negotiating each player's failures as well as his successes; and the influence of wives, girlfriends, and family members who have invested in the dream.

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What People Are Saying

Alexander Wolff
"Marty Dobrow is a patient listener and sure-eyed observer as he sketches these portraits of a half-dozen people beguiled by baseball. The result is as lively, intimate, and engrossing a book as Hoop Dreams was a movie."--(Alexander Wolff, senior writer, 'Sports Illustrated' and author of 'Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure')
Jerome Mileur
"The best account of the life of minor league baseball players I have read. The reader feels the despair of each player's struggles and the joys of their eventual successes, however brief they may be."--(Jerome Mileur, former owner of the Harrisburg Senators and author of 'High-Flying Birds: The 1942 St. Louis Cardinals')
Dan Wetzel
"It took an extraordinary writer in Marty Dobrow to dig so far past the box scores and sports cliches and deliver this remarkable story. It's about the human drama that you'll never find in the highlight shows. The memorable characters and fast-paced prose make it difficult to put down."--(Dan Wetzel, national columnist, 'Yahoo! Sports,' and author of 'Glory Road')
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558498426
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2010
  • Pages: 370
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Table of Contents

Prologue. "If They Make It, We Make It" (Agents) 1

Part 1 Spring Training 2005

1 Crash Davis Territory Doug Clark 11

2 Can't Miss Brad Baker 19

3 Fluttering Away Charlie Zink 36

4 Manny Being Manny Manny Delcarmen 51

5 A Dream Deferred Randy Ruiz 66

Part 2 Opening Day to the All-Star Break

6 "It's the Life-the One Everyone Wants to Live" Baker 83

7 Opposites Attract Delcarmen Zink 93

8 Baseballtown Ruiz 104

9 "They Got Him!" (Agents Matt Torra 119

10 Waiting (on Deck) for Godot Clark Torra 141

Part 3 The Second Half

11 Suspended Disbelief Ruiz 159

12 The Three Hardest Outs in the Game Baker 168

13 Goose Bumps Delcarmen 174

14 "If You Make It, We Will Come" Zink 187

15 At Heaven's Door Clark 199

Interlude. The Off-Season

16 There's Always Next Year, Sometimes 217

Part 4 Opening Day 2006 to August 12, 2008

17 Going Home Again Delcarmen 235

18 A Giant among Legends Clark 239

19 Knocldn' after Midnight Ruiz 247

20 "Just Hoping to Have It Be Over" Torra 266

21 On the Big Screen Baker 269

22 "The Path of the Knuckleballer Is Rarely Linear" Zink 275

Epilogue. The Strangest Luck 292

Acknowledgments 303

Notes 307

Index 315

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