Minor Players, Major Dreams

Overview

Brett Mandel, tired of his nine-to-five job, dreamed of a life of baseball instead: not merely as a spectator, not in weekend pickup games, but in professional baseball. Unlike millions of other dreamers, he made it happen. In 1994, he convinced the newly formed Ogden (Utah) Raptors of the Pioneer League to allow him to join the team and write a book about the minor-league experience—and the Raptors’ first year in baseball.

The Pioneer League is a rookie league, designed for ...

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Overview

Brett Mandel, tired of his nine-to-five job, dreamed of a life of baseball instead: not merely as a spectator, not in weekend pickup games, but in professional baseball. Unlike millions of other dreamers, he made it happen. In 1994, he convinced the newly formed Ogden (Utah) Raptors of the Pioneer League to allow him to join the team and write a book about the minor-league experience—and the Raptors’ first year in baseball.

The Pioneer League is a rookie league, designed for first-year professionals, fresh from college—or even younger. It is the first step many take toward the major-league career that will open to very few. Most are destined to last only a brief moment, but that moment is full of promise and was particularly so for the Ogden Raptors, a new team for a city that had a proud baseball heritage but had been without a team in recent years. Minor Players, Major Dreams is a wonderful insider’s view of the low minors and the young men chasing dreams as big as the skies they play under in Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Alberta.

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Editorial Reviews

Benjamin G. Rader
"Mandel has given us a riveting insider’s account of the experience of playing minor-league baseball. A must for all aficionados of our National Game."—Benjamin G. Rader, author of Baseball: A History of America’s Game
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
While it's no Ball Four-major-leaguer Jim Bouton's hilarious demystification of baseball-Mandel's book has a lot going for it. A weekend ballplayer since college, Mandel paid for his own contract for a chance to be on an independent rookie-league team in Ogden, Utah, and to write a book about it. Only his teammates managers, and ownership were in the know, and the result is his chronicle of the 1994 season riding the pine for the Ogden Raptors. The book's best bits are glimpses of ordinary baseball life-real manager swearing, real bus-ride trivia games, real too-much-beer dismissal stories-and Mandel sprinkles them around but leaves you wanting more (how do you play Flip? And what are the 20 other names for ground balls hit past second?). The story follows the season but occasionally doubles back on itself, and Mandel, sometimes awkwardly, splices interviews into the framework of home stands and road trips. The only real problem with Minor Players is Mandel's insistence on dream-theme pedantry combined with less-than-stellar writing (sunlight "radiates," "glints" and "floods" within the first page and a half), but when he's describing the games, or the ballparks, or the surprise of seeing Red Sox great Luis Tiant take the field as an opposing team's pitching coach, the shortcomings are forgiven and Mandel makes an appropriate and likable spy. Bonus appearances include those by the Silver Bullets (suspiciously the only women who make it into the tale, and not far into it at that), and Rich Morales Sr., erstwhile White Sox shortstop and father of the Raptors' second-in-command, Rich Morales Jr. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
A baseball fan chucks the 9-to-5 world to write about a season in minor-league baseball.

In the spring of 1994, avid rec-league baseballer Mandel, 25, ditched his job as an assistant city comptroller in Philadelphia and took to the road with the players and coaches of the Ogden (Utah) Raptors, an independent class-A rookie-league outfit playing in the Pioneer League. Clad in a team uniform, and with pen in hand (all team personnel were aware that he was chronicling their season), Mandel took to the diamond, albeit seldom in game situations, in an effort to get inside the heads of players, coaches, and managers. For some, like Shane Jones, a protean slugger at the college level who was not drafted by a pro team, the Raptors offered the first step toward possible stardom. For others, like manager Willy Ambos, it was likely the last act of their baseball career. Mandel records his subjects' lives as they win some and lose some, spend endless hours on the bus, talk baseball, and engage in youthful hijinks. Occasionally, one gets the sense that the educated, older, more sophisticated Mandel feels out of place, and with good reason. His stint with the Raptors is part wish-fulfillment and part journalistic enterprise, and not the singleminded pursuit of a lifelong dream. Accepting gladly his status as bench-warmer, Mandel observes, "Sometimes I felt more like a pet than a teammate." However, as pet (or as Boswell to a bunch of ball-playing Johnsons), Mandel was at least assured of not being cut from the team, a luxury that his fellow Raptors did not enjoy—and a fact that sometimes seems to elude him.

While his descriptions and characterizations are evocative, even poignant, the author appears tentative about how to approach his subject, producing a narrative that veers uncertainly from documentary to nostalgic celebration.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803282322
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1997
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 0.59 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 8.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brett H. Mandel serves as assistant city controller in Philadelphia. This is his first book.
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