|Tropicana Field, St. Petersburgh FL|
In September Nights: Hunting the Beasts of the American League East, Rays' pitcher James Shields recounts the final month of the 2010 regular season during which the Rays competed for their second pennant in three years. For the 28 year old, the team's current success is in stark contrast to his earlier years with the organization when it made a name for itself in being a "perennial loser". Yet, while Shields is ecstatic with the teams success (SEVEN of his ten years with the organization have been spent losing), he struggles with inconsistency throughout 2010. Within these competing narratives is a compelling story that will interest any baseball fan.
|The Tampa Bay Devil Rays logo (1998 - 2000)|
The Rays are exploding with young talent. This is an advantage they hold over the aged Yankees and Red Sox. However, with a limited bankroll, the team can't afford to retain this talent for long. In 2010, the Rays lineup included Matt Garza, Carl Crawford, and Joaquin Benoit. All of those guys have since moved on to more lucrative situations. Though in the case of Crawford, his big payday didn't translate into championship glory since he sold his services to the Red Sox. For Shields, it's difficult to know that a team with such chemistry will be taken apart at the end of the season. But, that's part of professional baseball and the team just has to make the most of their time together.
|Tropicana Field - The white roof|
September Nights isn't a literary masterpiece. But, it is an authentic (featuring overused words by baseball players (athletes in general), including: "filthy" and "overnasty" (??)) and thorough account that invokes some of the "September" magic of baseball. For Rays fans, it's a chance to relive each game as narrated by one of the star pitchers on the team. For general baseball fans, it's a chance to get "behind-the-scenes" and to appreciate how far this once insignificant franchise has come in the past decade.
An essential must-read read to help pass time until Spring!
Shields' description of Rays manager Joe Maddon confirm my suspicions: he's a cool skipper. Anyone with black hipster (or as Shields calls them, "Buddy Holly") frames and that mane of silver hair would have to be kind of cool.
Each chapter opens with a photo of how Shields holds each of his pitches.
Jays fans: 2010 was a bad year. And, it gets underlined on a week-by-week basis in this book. Enjoy! :S