Doug Glanville: The Game From Where I Stand: A Ballplayer’s Inside View

by Rachel Baker on July 8, 2010

I like some baseball books.  I like the little tidbits one can pick up about how major league ballplayers live and the struggles they strive to overcome.  I don’t necessarily like to read the baseball books about a winning team and I don’t like to read the “tell-all” books that some baseball players write about things that shouldn’t be talked about.  In a very real way, I think the fraternity known as major league baseball should be sacred and abide by an axiom like “what happens in the MLB, stays in the MLB” when it comes to airing dirty laundry.   Are there guys doing steroids? – yup.  Are there guys having extra-marital affairs? – yup.  But really is it any of our business? –  nope, not in my opinion.   I don’t care how the guys act when they are out at the clubs when they are on the road.  I don’t care which ones are doing drugs; and while I completely understand why it’s important for some fans to know – I just want to see a talented athlete bust it up the line or hit the game winning run in, or pitch a complete shutout.  That’s it.  I want to enjoy seeing the kind of athleticism that makes one wonder why is yoga so difficult when there are people out there can contort their bodies in unnatural ways 162 days a year?  That’s all.

I never played any sports.  I don’t have an understanding about what an enormous feat it is to be a major league baseball player.  Even the guys who are never deemed All-Stars, but ride the bench every day waiting for that pinch-hit opportunity have accomplished something amazing that I will never truly understand.  I don’t know what kind of dedication and drive it takes for someone to work their whole lives just to have one at-bat against some of the greatest pitchers in modern history…and not strike out.  To me, the position player job is to go out catch the ball, then come in and hit the ball.  That’s about all I can truly wrap my head around.  Until now…

I just finished reading The Game From Where I Stand by Doug Glanville.  Doug Glanville was a first round draft pick out of college for the Chicago Cubs, returned to college, finished his degree and became the first African American Ivy Leaguer to make it to the majors.  He was a center fielder who played for the Phillies, the Cubs, and the Rangers between 1996 through 2004.  He’s also been writing a baseball column online for The New York Times titled “heading Home,” as well as giving his insight as a baseball analyst for XML satellite radio.

What is significant about this book in my opinion is it’s written not just about the game, as much as things he learned from the game.  Glanville does an excellent job of explaining what the job of the center fielder is; as well as what the job of the lead-off hitter is.  For the first time, I actually understood why if Jose Reyes goes 0-4 in any given game, the rest of the team may have some difficulty getting it together.  After reading Glanville’s book, I actually understood what it is that makes Carlos Beltran a great center fielder.  The psychological nuances of the game is something I have always tried to understand, but don’t really.

Glanville also does a great job of adding little tidbits about how baseball lessons can translate into life lessons.  When talking about trying to learn to hit a curve ball, he says:

What I found was that your approach doesn’t have to any different from the one you use when dealing with any other curve ball that life throws at you.  We spend so much time cruising along, looking to hit the straight and dependable fastball, that the audacity of something different can cause us to forget the tactics that once gave us comfort and success.

The Game from Where I Stand is a thoughtfully written book, that gives a reader insight into how players deal with the baseball related elements of their lives (from preparing for the game and coping with streaks and slumps to responding to trades and dealing with injuries) to the more personal psychological elements of the game that affect them on a personal level (from dealing with race issues and relationships to handling a family crisis to dealing with the awareness that one’s career is almost over).  Rather than raking guys through the coals and spreading dirty laundry all over the locker room, Glanville only talked about what he knew as fact – his joys and his pains.  He discussed tips of the trade he got from other ball players, but he never really says anything that doesn’t have to do with the game of baseball where someone else’s name is involved…what happened in Montreal, away from the media markets of the U.S. , stayed in Montreal.

In the section entitled ‘Integrity of the Game,’ he talked about the impact of steroids to some degree, but more importantly, the reason why it’s important that the names of those who used steroids don’t get out.  This section was interesting to me.  As fans, we want to know if our heroes used game enhancing drugs; but we don’t often think what integrity of the game means.  It’s not just playing the game drug free.  For a player, it means understanding what the reach of the problem is – and if all the names come out, it’s likely that in the future that players will not buy into the confidentiality agreements when asked to be forthcoming.

When reading Danville’s book, I couldn’t help but be reminded that these guys I watch 162 days a year (give or take a few), aren’t just athletic gods, but real people with real issues they have to deal with.  This game we call baseball isn’t just about seeing the ball and catching the ball.  There’s a lot involved.  There are real people involved.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the stories about baseball players, but also to those who want a better understanding of who these guys are, on and off the field.

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