Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere

Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere is Lucas Mann's personal narrative of his experience following the Clinton Lumberkings, a single A minor league affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, through the course of an entire season. It is not a day by day account of the games and players so much as it is the author's observations and perceptions of the players, the fans, and the city of Clinton, Iowa, viewed through the context of the historical and economic history of the city, as well as the author's personal background.

Mann provides an interesting history of the city's birth, growth and decline into what it is today, a working class town with a subpar reputation (and about 25 minutes from my hometown). This city is one in which the current team of young, unpolished, inexperienced itinerants of professional baseball are laboring to leave behind in order to move up the developmental ladder.
Along the way, some players are seen as probably having reached the zenith of their professional baseball careers and will soon have to pursue alternative careers outside baseball. Some players are seen as having an opportunity to advance to the next level or two, but not of making it to "the show;" too few players are seen as having the most realistic potential to realize their ultimate goal.

The transitory nature of minor league baseball, particularly at low level single A level, is set against the long standing loyalty of a core group of baseball fans who, despite the economic downturn experienced by the city, stayed and found some consolation and stability in the team which continued to play in their city through some rough years. Although the team can and does change from season to season, even from month to month, these steadfast fans chronicle the team season to season, year to year, in their own ways. In doing so, they are able to accept and adapt to the change they have experienced in their own lives and in their own city.

Overall, the book was an interesting read and thought provoking far beyond the context of minor league baseball. It's an interesting view of a city, its minor league baseball team, and its fans.