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RA Dickey “Where I Wind Up”

RA Dickey with Wayne Coffey

I know the book has been out for two years and RA Dickey has since left the New York Mets, but I finally got around to reading it.  As a baseball fan, most books about baseball are short on content but surprisingly this book kept it going throughout.   You will appreciate the look inside Major league clubhouses, the art of pitching and mainly the trails and tribulations of a journeyed major league baseball player.

Unless you are a baseball geek, you probably don’t know Dickey’s story.  Like any good biography we get to see his rise to glory and all of the crash and burns along the way.    His story is unique because he is ballplayer that had to endure more than most to get to the big leagues.  A big league player that doesn’t ink his first big multi-million dollar contract until well into his late thirties is about as rare of a baseball story as you can get.  Sometimes the story is heartbreaking to read and you have to put the book down for a while.

RA Dickey’s story just doesn’t begin how he became this professional baseball pitcher, but probes into his psyche and his mental make-up.  Some kids are born into poverty and have to overcome disadvantages but Dickey had hardships from his family situation.  He was such as good ball player as a young man that he was writing his own ticket to the big leagues.

Like many promising athletes, Dickey endured injuries that were a constant reminder of how easy it is to fall from grace.  Somehow Dickey hung in there and at his darkest moment he found his saving grace in his wife and religious faith.  During his long path to redemption and when his career was at its nearing end, he was introduced to a new pitch, the knuckleball.

Dickey, was at first pessimistic about throwing this pitch but came to realize that this would be his only chance to get back into the big time.  It took a couple of years of relentless tinkering and tutoring from others who had mastered the pitch before he achieved any kind of success.   Baseball fans will love this section of the book that tells how he began to grasp the technique of this obscure pitch.

Dickey does make it back to the bigs as a reinvented pitcher.  It was a little rough at first but he began to find his stride and measured success with the New York Mets.  Dickey does achieve the pinnacle of pitching by winning the Cy Young Award in 2012.

The book is aptly named “Where Ever I Wind up” because Dickey has played for a multitude of organizations in towns all over the United States.  His wife and children were subjected to a lot of this movement and this is as much as a testament to them as it is to him.  This story that is written honestly with very personal insights and of course this book has a happy baseball ending.

 

The Sports Gene by David Epstein

I don’t ever recall reading or seeing many books about the science of athleticism, in particular, one the handles the subject of genetics and the athletic body.  The Sports Gene not only educates, but it provokes thought and introspection.

Who hasn’t wondered why some athletes run faster or longer, are stronger or have better hand eye coordination?   The Sports Gene tackles these subjects, with such chapter titles as; “The Warrior-Slave Theory of Jamaican Sprinting”, “Beat by an Underhand Girl”, “The Talent of Trainability” and “The Big Bang of Body Types”.  Each chapter presents the condition, such as why Jamaican’s are world class sprinters which is a small island, and then Epstein proceeds to present his theory using data, interviews and examples.

There is plenty to chew on as far as what it takes to become an elite athlete and the theories behind practice and developing muscle memory.  This book attempts to develop theories about the debate of nature versus nature.  I appreciate that Epstein engages the readers and keeps the science at a very accessible level.  Epstein also skillfully handles the topic of genetics and race which is always a sensitive subject.

I am ready to reread the book because I poured through it so fast because of it being so intriguing.  Every sports fan should read this book because you will never look the same at elite athletes again.  You will begin to understand how they become elite and how they separate themselves from other competitors.  As far as you me gaining to insight to how we can improve our athletic prowess, practice, practice, practice.

Born to Run Book Review

Author: Christopher McDougall

Bruce Springsteen did not inspire this book, but an Indian tribe in Mexico did. It has nothing to do with music but has everything to do with running.   I heard about this book as being entertaining, thought provoking and myth breaking in it approach and it delivered. Prior to reading this book, I knew nothing about running. If I ever decide to pursue running I would have a solid basis of book knowledge.

The book pulls together storytelling, history and technology in one page turning combination. The book introduces to the readers, a case of real life characters that all have a love for long distant running.   The author answers some big questions such as; why did our ancestors outlive the stronger and smarter Neanderthals? Why do expensive running shoes increase the odds of injury?   Just the fact that these questions are being asked is enough for me keep plowing through this book.

Born to Run centers around the discovery of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico and their and running habits.   The book credits them as the greatest long distance runners in the world. Their simple approach to running is what is so captivating. They have no real secrets except they enjoy running more than anything else. They can run forever without the perils of injury and training. It is amazing testament to our all of ancestry and how running has always be part of the human experience.

Along the way the author, Christopher McDougall intertwines his running abilities, other ultra-marathoners and the Taramhama. He puts together a great story of these cast of characters coming together for a conclusion.   Also, McDougall puts together his arguments and theories about running and the current state. Lastly, the one thing I can pull from this book that I can always remember; if you are running, just relax and enjoy the experience. If its feels like work, you’re working too hard. Well, we have to see about this.

Open by Andre Agassi

Before I even opened this book,  I had a preconceived opinion of Andre Agassi.  For me, he was the guy who had the lion mane of hair, oddball tennis outfits and was married to Brooke Shields.  He was guy in the camera commercials that blurted out the slogan, “image is everything”.   I knew he won a few major tournaments and played well into his thirties.  The book, “Open” was recommended based on it how well it was written with its depiction of the tennis world and the life of a professional athlete.

As I read page after page,  I was transfixed into Agassi’s life path and how he ended up where he did.

Agassi is adamant about stating his reluctance and distaste for the sport in which he was a champion.  The story details his early life with his father’s pressure for him to succeed at tennis.  The main reason I couldn’t put this book down is the way the writing is so vivid in its events and situations in hand.

He describes in great detail the events in his early life that shaped his upbringing.  One of those events that I remember most is the challenge match he had with the Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.  Agassi was young lad at the age of ten, his dad bet Brown ten thousand dollars that Andre could beat him in a match.  The most prevalent and underlying thread throughout the book is the influence that his dad had over his demeanor.  His dad’s persona shaped Andre’s life, both good and bad.  Agassi lays out chronologically in a riveting storytelling style the key points that influenced his decisions.

My most enjoyment from this book is the way Agassi describe his thoughts about his opponents, most especially his arch rival, Pete Sampras.   Agassi breaks down his championship matches, from his strategy, to his training regimen and mental state.  It’s such a fascinating read to hear about the struggles to gain a mental and physical edge on opponents.

Lastly we get to read about his walk with fame and how he dealt with it.  You get to go behind the scenes in which celebrities live in.  Agassi holds nothing back and when you finish reading it, you learn, you’re entertained and you can recommend to not just sport fans but to anybody.