I have a confession: I don't read for pleasure as much as I wish I did. My day job requires reading (computer text or written pages) almost every minute of every day. Eventually, it will almost certainly blind me. As a result, I don't read books like I used to. Back in college, I really enjoyed Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck, and a host of others. It's kind of disappointing, really. But, thanks to Hurricane Irene, Sunday presented me with no electricity, nothing to do but repeatedly mop the water out of the basement, and the time to read a great book -- a baseball book, nonetheless -- cover to cover.
"Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit" is by a former Yale pitcher and 2002 Angels' 26th round draft pick Matt McCarthy. If you are looking for connection between McCarthy, Yale, and former Twin Craig Breslow, look no further: they are former teammates, best friends, and Breslow plays a rather significant supporting role in McCarthy's true life story of his time as a minor league pitcher.
Without giving the ending away, let's just say that there's a reason that you have heard of Craig Breslow, and a reason that you probably have not heard of Matt McCarthy. But this book isn't about "making the big leagues"; rather, it's about the strange journey there from the viewpoint of someone who could have attended Yale on academic merit alone. Thus, the reference in the title to being a "misfit."
McCarthy is not unlike many of the people who read this blog. He's exceedingly smart (I like to think regular readers of this blog are a cut above the rest), having studied molecular biophysics and chemistry; he's funny; and he loves baseball. Unlike us, however, he was a pitcher that was able to throw just over 90 miles per hour, and was a lefty, to boot. This got him drafted, and that's where the book really begins. The next 200 or so pages chronicle his first minor league season playing in Provo, Utah, for the Provo Angels, the then rookie league affiliate of the L.A. Angels of Anaheim. McCarthy kept an incredibly detailed journal, not only of his on-the-field stats and information, but also of the exploits of being a low-level minor leaguer. The timing of McCarthy's career is interesting: guys such as Prince Fielder, Bobby Jenks, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, and other "household names" of MLB, all figure into the book, as they came up around the same time McCarthy was playing.
I should note that the book has received a little criticism, as well. There are some fairly lurid stories involving now-major leaguers, a handful of R-rated anecdotes involving McCarthy's manager and teammates at Provo, as well as allegations of steroid use, which was at a peak level in the early 2000s, by some of McCarthy's teammates. Some names were named, and certain facts from the book have been disputed.
All in all, this is a great, quick read. If you're at all into minor league baseball, you will likely enjoy this book. If you ever wonder what guys on the Beloit Snappers, or Elizabethtown Twins, go through on a daily basis, this will answer your questions, and then some. If you wonder what low-level minor leagues eat, where they stay, how they travel, and how they bond with each other, this is a book for you. And if you simply want to read some funny, gross-out stories about what 18 year old minor leaguers do when they are bored, this will give you a laugh. Here's the link to the book's website, where you can find out more about Matt McCarthy.
Final rating: 4/5 stars.