Forget the steroid-addled, overpaid, and unmotivated players: America’s pastime is still alive and well, and is still the heartfelt sport it’s always been—in the Minor Leagues. And nowhere is this truer than in Kentucky, whose rich baseball history continues to play out in the four teams profiled in this book. Following these teams through the 2010 season—the triumphs, struggles, and big league hopes and dreams—the book tells the larger story of baseball in America’s smaller venues, where the game in its purest form is still valued and warmly embraced.
The story begins before the season with national-anthem singing tryouts in Lexington, then tags along with players, staffs, and fans at home, in the office, and on the field, offering a rare glimpse of the unglamorous reality of Minor League ball. From the front-office staff in Bowling Green planning kooky promotions, to a trainer grocery shopping for a team on forty dollars a day, to a new wife coming to terms with her husband’s transitory lifestyle, to a father struggling to make it back to the Majors and a Cuban defector blowing everyone away with a 100-mph-plus fastball these are the people who live to make baseball happen, in all its nitty-gritty glory.
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About the Author
Katya Cengel is a freelance writer based in Richmond, California. A staff reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal for eight years, she reported from the former Soviet Union, Europe, and Africa and has published in Esquire and the Wall Street Journal.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations viii
Part 1 Lexington Legends: A Tale of Obsession
1 The Legend behind the Legends 3
2 The Man Who Would Be Alan 19
3 A Loyal Following 36
4 Past Legends and Future Stars 51
Part 2 Louisville Bats: A Lesson in Discontent
5 Great Expectations 73
6 Pitch Perfect 86
7 The Faithful 99
8 Diminishing Returns 110
9 The Star Who Almost Landed in Louisville 120
Part 3 Bowling Green Hot Rods: The Business of Baseball
10 America's Other Pastime 133
11 The Start-Up Sprint 145
12 The Businessmen 157
13 Kings of the Road 164
Part 4 Florence Freedom: The Humble Life
14 Falling Down 185
15 Closer to Ordinary 197
16 Strike Two 214
17 A Long Way to Go 218
18 Back to Reality 231