A meticulous, heartfelt chronicle of a baseball minor league's struggle to return to the game the fun and intimacy that's all too often missing from the major league game.
Fatsis, an AP correspondent, followed the Northern League, an independent six-team circuit with franchises in Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, Manitoba, and Ontario, over the course of its second campaign. Unlike most minor leagues, which enjoy financial and developmental support from the 28 major league clubs, the NL teams relish their privateer status and relative freedom from the corporate world of pro ball. Founded by Miles Wolfe, an experienced baseball executive who had wild success as general manager and owner of the class AA Durham (N.C.) Bulls, the league was dedicated to one goal: to return the game to the fans. It is a thought echoed by Marvin Goldklang, chairman of the league's St. Paul (Minn.) Saints franchise. His message to the majors: "You don't own baseball...Nobody owns this game.'' Although the teams are comprised primarily of cast-offs and also-rans (and a few aging former major leaguers, including former Chicago Cub All-Star slugger Leon "Bull'' Durham and mercurial Boston Red Sox hurler Dennis "Oil Can'' Boyd), some still harbor dreams of getting a shot at the bigs. Through his profiles of such hopefuls as Stephen Bishop, an unpolished outfielder with great athletic potential and personal charisma to match, or Vince Castaldo, a fiery third baseman, Fatsis reveals who truly owns the game: the players, who on this level possess only the hope that they can make a major league team notice them--or else leave the game on their own terms. Fatsis scores another point by demonstrating that fun (for the fans, not the players or management) is the real name of the game.
An altogether balanced, revealing and enjoyable study.