A season in the trenches—well, on the diamond, anyway—with the Washington Nationals.
“There is no other sport with an everydayness, a drum-drum-drum beat like baseball,” writes Washington Post baseball reporter Svrluga (National Pastime: Sports, Politics, and the Return of Baseball to Washington, D.C., 2006). That’s not the only time in this slender volume where he makes the same observation, but the repetition fits nicely with his theme, borne out by a title that comes from a player’s observation that the work lies in getting up every day of the season and grinding it out: “Head down. Eyes forward. Don’t think about the games that have passed or how many are ahead. Don’t think about the city you’re in or the state of your swing. Keep grindin’.” One of the many virtues of this book—born, as the author recounts, from a pitch to his Post editor to show the everydayness of the game—is its shifting focus from star players like Ryan Zimmerman to baseball wives and their legendary power to all the middlemen and go-betweens involved in the game to the fans who keep coming back game after game to see their heroes. Svrluga laces the narrative with bits of reportage and history, noting that in the early years of the pro game, the schedule was far less demanding, with players usually having more days off back to back than days on—much different from the way things are today. Above all, the author’s peppy narrative is about numbers: the 1,198 games Zimmerman had played at the time of writing, the 9,397 women who showed up at the stadium on Ladies’ Night, the 162 games of the regular season, half at home and half on the road, with “just one equivalent of a weekend, the all-star break.”
It’s no grind whatsoever to read Svrluga’s flowing prose. An illuminating and entertaining must-read for the baseball obsessed.