cover image Joy in Mudville: A Little League Memoir

Joy in Mudville: A Little League Memoir

Greg Mitchell. Pocket Books, $19.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-671-03531-0

It happens every spring--fathers coaching their Little League children as if they were top-roster players for the Yankees and Braves instead of a group of 10-year-olds. As Mitchell (The Campaign of the Century) describes in this book about his coaching stint in Nyack, N.Y., the season actually begins with the winter draft. From this point through the playoffs, he treats readers to an exciting glimpse of the psychological, emotional and strategic considerations inherent in running a team. Mitchell writes with wit and humanity of the balance between the good of his son versus that of the group, between playing to win and making players feel good. Many of the predictable dramas--such as the games between Mitchell's squad and a hyper-prepared team helmed by an uptight coach--are here, as well as coaches' shrewder tricks, like enlisting assistants whose sons are good ballplayers. If Mitchell comes off as a little obsessed, there is more than enough self-aware humor and erudition (he is as likely to quote John Cheever as Yogi Berra) to make up for it. He also includes a number of worthy digressions from his own baseball past, as well as social topics like the dearth of African-Americans playing youth baseball. Mitchell spends more time describing the game than characterizing the kids, but what goes on in his head is as interesting as anything that happens on the field. (Mar.)