I went to a summer sleep away camp from the age of nine through sixteen. I say I ’went’ even though ’sent’ might make for a better story (if I were a more interesting person), since I really did like being there, which was strange since most of the day was meant to be spent in athletic pursuits playing all sorts of sports games and I never enjoyed playing any. I shone the brightest during wood shop or some other creative activity and I would usually stay in the shop well past the end of my bunk’s allotted time.
I never played basketball, I hated it. Hockey I avoided as well. Baseball wasn’t so bad when I was at the mound, but I never managed to hit a ball past any base lines. The only sport I could say I looked forward to was volleyball since I didn’t have to do much. I would just stand in the spot my team captain figured would have the least chance of being reached by an incoming ball and let whatever ball that did come my way bounce off my hands. I once asked a teammate on a timeout why he smelled like oranges. I didn’t realize until I was older that what he smelled like was sweat (we were the same age.)
My most vivid sports memory is from a volleyball playoff game on a court right behind my bunkhouse. My mind was somewhere else and the hem of my shirt was in my mouth. A high flying ball landed right at my feet. All the players and spectators stared at me in silence for what felt like an eternity until one yelled out, ”how about you stop eating your shirt and play the game.”
I’ve never followed sports. I know who A-Rod is for the same reason I know who Kim Kardashian is even though I’ve never seen her show. I am more familiar with Derek Jeter’s work on SNL than his day job. And even though I’ve never had any interest in playing or following competitive sports, I bought The Art of Fielding since I had read about its publishing in a magazine a few months ago.
There’s been a lot of criticism about the cliche characters, the not so believable late in life self-realization of the college dean, the ending scene on the lake, and the subplots that seemingly have nothing to do with the main story. I don’t need to parrot those reviews, which you can find on your own, but at least as someone with no prior interest in competitive sports, least of all college competitive sports, I did find myself interested and even fascinated with the baseball related aspects of the book. The rules and politics of professional baseball, the MLB drafting process, and the quotes from the fictional guide The Art of Fielding all kept me interested even without the beer and hot dogs.