The Last Best League: One Summer, One Season, One Dream

The Last Best League: One Summer, One Season, One Dream

by Jim Collins
     
 

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Every summer, in ten small towns across Cape Cod, elite college baseball players gather in hopes of making it to The Show. The hopes are justifiably high: The Cape Cod Baseball League is the best amateur league in the world, producing one out of every six major league players, from Nomar Garciaparra and Frank Thomas to Jeff Bagwell and Barry Zito. In this meticulously

Overview

Every summer, in ten small towns across Cape Cod, elite college baseball players gather in hopes of making it to The Show. The hopes are justifiably high: The Cape Cod Baseball League is the best amateur league in the world, producing one out of every six major league players, from Nomar Garciaparra and Frank Thomas to Jeff Bagwell and Barry Zito. In this meticulously reported and brilliantly crafted narrative, Jim Collins chronicles a season in the life of the Chatham A's, perhaps the most celebrated team in the league. Set against the backdrop of a resort town on the bend of the outer Cape, the story charts the changing fortunes of a handful of players battling slumps and self-doubt in their effort to make the league playoffs and, more important, impress the major league scouts. There's Jamie D'Antona, a likable, party-loving, power-hitting third baseman from Wake Forest. Thomas Pauly, a Princeton pitcher who doesn't take his talent very seriously. And Tim Stauffer, an earnest player from Richmond and one of the country's most sought after right-handed pitchers. Who will make it? And why?

We learn about everything from the physics of wooden bats and the physiology of elbows to the psychology of slumps and the lure of drugs. In the course of a single dramatic season, with euphoric wins and devastating losses, we come to know the intricacies of the major league scouting network and the rapidly changing profile of major league baseball. And the way one small town grows to love a group of young men on the brink of stardom. In the tradition of Friday Night Lights and The Boys of Summer, The Last Best League is about dreams fulfilled and dreams destroyed, about Cape Cod and the rites of summer, about coming of age in America. It offers a rare, unguarded view of celebrity-in-the-making. Diehard fans will revel in seeing baseball as it was meant to be played. The rest will at last understand what the game is all about.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Collins is taking us into Field of Dreams territory, in other words. As the great commercial success of the book and movie of that title makes plain, plenty of people love to go there, so The Last Best League may be just the summer-reading ticket for them this year.—Jonathan Yardley
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Perhaps the best off-the-beaten-path book of 2004...Collins does a masterful job.
Portland Phoenix 9/2/05
"The Finest baseball book I've read since Roger Angell was a rookie."
All-Baseball.com 7/22/05
"A very enjoyable read."
Publishers Weekly
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. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sportswriter Collins offers an insightful look at the Cape Cod Baseball League, which brings together many of the NCAA's top players to compete in an abbreviated schedule each summer. The league has served as a steppingstone for several major league stars, including Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, and Barry Zito. The author focuses on the Chatham Athletics, led by manager John Schiffner. Collins traces the evolution of the 2002 Chatham A's, a team saddled with injuries, subpar performances, late arrivals, and untimely departures, with oft-injured southpaw pitcher Scott Hindman receiving a $170,000 contract, which, as he acknowledged, amounted to "seventeen thousand dollars for every inning I pitched in college." Slugger Jamie D'Antona battled his own immaturity and the league's wooden bats before returning to Wake Forest, while All-American pitcher Tim Stauffer was drafted in the first round but lost nearly $2 million in signing bonuses after informing the San Diego Padres about his sore arm. On a happier note, Tom Pauly grew during his stint with the Chatham A's, which then led to his stellar performance at Princeton, followed by his inking a lucrative deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Recommended for all public libraries.-Robert C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

Fuel Baseball magazine, Spring 2010
“In the tradition of The Boys of Summer, The Last Best League is about dreams fulfilled and dreams denied; it’s about Cape Cod and the rites of summer; and about the way one small town grows to love a group of young men coming of age in America.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780738209012
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
03/15/2004
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.01(d)

Meet 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.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Boulder, Colorado
Date of Birth:
January 25, 1958
Place of Birth:
Aurora, Colorado
Education:
B.S. in mathematical sciences, Stanford University, 1980; M.B.A., Stanford University, 1983
Website:
http://www.jimcollins.com

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