Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I love the title of this NPR piece: “Zen and ‘The Art of Fielding:’ Baseball as Life.” Appropriately released today (unless you live under a rock and don’t know that this week is the opening round of postseason baseball), this review almost guarantees that I’ll at least give the book a try. I’m guilty of using (overusing) baseball analogies to describe just about any life situation, because, well, baseball is life. And life is like baseball — you win some, you lose, sometimes you get rained out. You have to play ’em one game at a time.

In one of my former newsrooms, my boss and I never had a conversation without talking about baseball in some way, and he and I invariably used a baseball analogy to describe whatever situation we were trying to explain. For example, I just didn’t head off an argument with an irate source. I took the bat out of his hands. When I wanted a certain page designer on my editorial team, he told me I was trying to take his best utility infielder; I countered with the observation that this designer was the Derek Jeter of infielders (I got the page designer, who proved me right time and time again).

You can see this even in the movies. No, not the baseball movies (which usually are terrible depictions of the sport — Bull Durham being the lone exception). Just watch The Untouchables. When Capone decides to, um, discipline one of his underlings, how does he do it?

Ok, he beats him to death with a baseball bat (wooden), but my point is he uses a baseball analogy before he whacks the guy:


What draws my admiration? What is that which gives me joy?


           A man stands alone at the plate. This is the time for what?

For individual achievement.

There he stands alone. But in the field, what?

Part of a team. Looks, throws, catches, hustles.

Part of one big team. Bats himself the live-long day,

Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and so on.

But if his team don’t field…what is he?  You follow me?

No one.

         Sunny day, the stands are full of fans. What does he have to say?

              “I’m goin’ out there for myself. But…I get nowhere unless the team wins.”

You just can’t beat that — that’s life (or in this guy’s case, the end of his) in a nutshell.

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