The Cactus League

Emily Nemens. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-11794-8
In Nemens’s insightful debut, it’s 2011 and players of the L.A. Lions professional baseball team are reporting for spring training at their new facility, Salt River Fields, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Under a hot Southwestern sun, a sportswriter waits to interview the team’s golden boy, left fielder Jason Goodyear, whose handsome façade belies some unsavory secrets. Readers see Jason glancingly from eight different points of view: a put-upon batting coach whose mantra is “what would Joe DiMaggio do?”; a baseball groupie who sets her sights on him; a sports agent forced to cover up his client’s misdeeds to protect a Nike contract; the team owner with his own façade to maintain; a pitcher desperately trying to hide a painful elbow injury; the organist at the field where the Lions play; the seven-year-old son of a drug-addicted single mother who runs one of the concessions at the field; and Jason’s ex-wife, who finds herself reduced in the pecking order with the other players’ wives. Largely plotless, the book is a vivid collection of stories, as each character is brought to life in convincing detail, though the sportswriter’s interstitial musings can be intrusive. Still, this debut entertainingly illuminates people and problems usually overlooked in the sports pages. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 10/23/2019
Release date: 02/04/2020
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-79972-663-0
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