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Where Nobody Knows Your Name
Cover of Where Nobody Knows Your Name
Where Nobody Knows Your Name
Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball
From the acclaimed #1 bestselling author . . . a riveting journey through the world of minor-league baseball

"No one grows up playing baseball pretending that they're pitching or hitting in Triple-A." —Chris Schwinden, Triple-A pitcher

"If you don't like it here, do a better job." —Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager

John Feinstein gave readers an unprecedented view of the PGA Tour in A Good Walk Spoiled. He opened the door to an NCAA basketball locker room in his explosive bestseller A Season on the Brink. Now, turning his eye to our national pastime, sports journalist John Feinstein explores the colorful and mysterious world of minor-league baseball—a gateway through which all major-league players pass in their careers . . . hoping never to return.
Baseball's minor leagues are a paradox. For some players, the minors are a glorious launching pad toward years of fame and fortune; for others, a crash-landing pad when injury or poor play forces a big leaguer back to a life of obscure ballparks and cramped buses instead of Fenway Park and plush charter planes. Focusing exclusively on the Triple-A level, one step beneath Major League Baseball, Feinstein introduces readers to nine unique men: three pitchers, three position players, two managers, and an umpire. Through their compelling stories, Feinstein pulls back the veil on a league that is chock-full of gifted baseball players, managers, and umpires who are all one moment away from getting called up—or back—to the majors.
The stories are hard to believe: a first-round draft pick and pitching ace who rocketed to major-league success before finding himself suddenly out of the game, hatching a presumptuous plan to get one more shot at the mound; a home run–hitting former World Series hero who lived the dream, then bounced among six teams before facing the prospects of an unceremonious end to his career; a big-league All-Star who, in the span of five months, went from being completely out of baseball to becoming a star in the ALDS, then signing a $10 million contract; and a well-liked designated hitter who toiled for eighteen seasons in the minors—a record he never wanted to set—before facing his final, highly emotional chance for a call-up to the big leagues.
From Raleigh to Pawtucket, from Lehigh Valley to Indianapolis and beyond, Where Nobody Knows Your Name gives readers an intimate look at a baseball world not normally seen by the fans. John Feinstein gets to the heart of the human stories in a uniquely compelling way, crafting a masterful book that stands alongside his very best works.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the acclaimed #1 bestselling author . . . a riveting journey through the world of minor-league baseball

"No one grows up playing baseball pretending that they're pitching or hitting in Triple-A." —Chris Schwinden, Triple-A pitcher

"If you don't like it here, do a better job." —Ron Johnson, Triple-A manager

John Feinstein gave readers an unprecedented view of the PGA Tour in A Good Walk Spoiled. He opened the door to an NCAA basketball locker room in his explosive bestseller A Season on the Brink. Now, turning his eye to our national pastime, sports journalist John Feinstein explores the colorful and mysterious world of minor-league baseball—a gateway through which all major-league players pass in their careers . . . hoping never to return.
Baseball's minor leagues are a paradox. For some players, the minors are a glorious launching pad toward years of fame and fortune; for others, a crash-landing pad when injury or poor play forces a big leaguer back to a life of obscure ballparks and cramped buses instead of Fenway Park and plush charter planes. Focusing exclusively on the Triple-A level, one step beneath Major League Baseball, Feinstein introduces readers to nine unique men: three pitchers, three position players, two managers, and an umpire. Through their compelling stories, Feinstein pulls back the veil on a league that is chock-full of gifted baseball players, managers, and umpires who are all one moment away from getting called up—or back—to the majors.
The stories are hard to believe: a first-round draft pick and pitching ace who rocketed to major-league success before finding himself suddenly out of the game, hatching a presumptuous plan to get one more shot at the mound; a home run–hitting former World Series hero who lived the dream, then bounced among six teams before facing the prospects of an unceremonious end to his career; a big-league All-Star who, in the span of five months, went from being completely out of baseball to becoming a star in the ALDS, then signing a $10 million contract; and a well-liked designated hitter who toiled for eighteen seasons in the minors—a record he never wanted to set—before facing his final, highly emotional chance for a call-up to the big leagues.
From Raleigh to Pawtucket, from Lehigh Valley to Indianapolis and beyond, Where Nobody Knows Your Name gives readers an intimate look at a baseball world not normally seen by the fans. John Feinstein gets to the heart of the human stories in a uniquely compelling way, crafting a masterful book that stands alongside his very best works.
From the Hardcover edition.
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    1

    Scott Elarton

    Starting Over

    There is no aspect of baseball that has changed more in recent years than spring training. Or, more specifically, spring training facilities.

    Once, the winter homes of most baseball teams were old, dank, and cramped—minor-league facilities that served for six weeks each year as the headquarters for an entire baseball organization. The ballparks were older too, havens for fans who wanted to get close to players, but often creaking from age with outfield fences that looked as if they had been constructed shortly after Abner Doubleday invented the game.

    Even in Vero Beach, where in 1947 the Brooklyn Dodgers set up what was then the model for a spring training facility—Holman Stadium and the facilities around it became known as Dodgertown—there was the feeling of being in a time warp. The dugouts never even had roofs. They were just open-air cutouts along the baselines where players either sunbathed or baked—depending on one’s point of view—during games.

    Through the years, almost all the older facilities have disappeared. Dodgertown sits empty now during the spring, used on occasion by local high school teams while the Dodgers train in a brand-new multimillion-dollar headquarters built for them in Arizona. Because spring training has become a big business, local governments in both Florida and Arizona have lined up to build modern baseball palaces for teams, complete with every possible amenity players could ask for—from massive weight-training areas to sparkling training fields to sun-drenched stadiums that look like miniature versions of the big-league parks the teams play in once the season begins.

    There is no better example of the modern spring training facility than Bright House Field, which has been the spring home of the Philadelphia Phillies since 2004, when it was built for $28 million to replace Jack Russell Memorial Stadium, which had been the Phillies winter home since 1955. Jack Russell, as it was known in the Clearwater area, was the classic old spring training spot: the stadium was made of wood, and the paint was peeling in every corner of the old place when the Phillies moved out.

    The old spring training clubhouses—in baseball no one talks about locker rooms, they are clubhouses—were cramped and crowded with players practically on top of one another, especially at the start of camp, when between fifty and sixty players might be in a room designed to hold no more than thirty to thirty-five lockers.

    Jack Russell was one of those dingy old clubhouses. The Phillies’ clubhouse at Bright House Field could not be more different. It is spread out and spacious with room—easily—for fifty lockers. There are several rooms off the main area that are strictly off-limits to anyone but Phillies personnel, meaning players can rest or eat their post-workout or postgame meals in complete privacy without tripping over unwanted media members or anyone else who might have access to the main clubhouse area.

    Even though he had been out of baseball for most of four years, Scott Elarton felt completely comfortable walking into the Phillies’ clubhouse in February 2012. Many of the players had no idea who he was because professional athletes’ memories rarely extend back more than about fifteen minutes. In baseball world 2012, Cal Ripken Jr.—who retired in 2001—was an old-timer who played in a lot of games, Willie Mays is a distant memory, and Babe Ruth is the name of a league for teenage players.

    Elarton had won fifty-six games as a major-league pitcher in spite of numerous injuries,...
About the Author-
  • John Feinstein is a columnist for The Washington Post, Golf World and Golf Digest. He also hosts a daily radio show on the CBS Sports Radio Network; is a contributor to The Golf Channel and is an essayist for CBS Sports Television.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine John Feinstein is no stranger to taking a huge sports topic and breaking it into manageable glimpses for listeners. And count him among the group of authors who succeed at narrating their own words. Being that this is his reporting, he clearly knows the right emphasis and appropriate tones. Here, he opens the world of minor-league baseball, where players either dream of making it to the big leagues or strive to make it back. He finds an assortment of people--players, managers, an umpire--and alternates between their stories. He does an especially good job of weaving in facts and details (exactly how much does a minor league player make?) while keeping their stories straight. No imitations here, no drawls--just the facts and anecdotes, about ballplayers and their dreams. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
  • The Denver Post "[T]errific...[R]eading this book will make you fall in love with baseball all over again."
  • USA Today "One of the best sportswriters alive."
  • Parade
    "Feinstein's work, like that of the best American sportswriters, is richly detailed and emotionally articulate...Feinstein's storytelling is compelling, his understanding of the structural cruelties and emotional consequences of winner-takes-all competition acute."--The Guardian (UK)

    "Feinstein takes readers down the dusty roads of minor league baseball with a vivid look at the players dreaming of a shot at the big leagues."
  • The Washington Post "John Feinstein, one of our best-known sportswriters, explores...baseball's International League, one of the two AAA leagues, just below the majors....With many of us counting down to opening day, this is a fitting time for a book whose subtitle might well be 'hope springs eternal -- every spring.'"
  • The Wall Street Journal "[P]oignant ... [2013] marked the 25th anniversary of 'Bull Durham,' and I'm pretty sure a lot of people still think that's how things go in the minors. Mr. Feinstein clears the perspective on the realities of minor-league life so that the reader can move on from Nuke LaLoosh imagery. And for the average baseball fan, this is no minor accomplishment."
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Life In the Minor Leagues of Baseball
John Feinstein
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