Friday, May 9, 2014

The Cost of Everyman Trying to be Superman

Relationships are hard. So is professional baseball. And when hitting singles and doubles isn’t enough, when you want to hit home runs and “go all the way,” a competitive guy is prone to trot out some white lies to gain an advantage.

James Bailey's “Nine Bucks a Pound” is the story of Del Tanner, an ambitious first baseman trying to work his way up through the Minnesota Twins organization and get his time in the limelight. He’s also trying to balance the demands of a relationship with the love of his life who wishes that Del’s career didn’t take him so far from home.

But baseball doesn’t only take Del far from the hearth – it leads him far astray from his personal value base. Compelled to show baseball higher-ups that he has the power to “go long,” Del succumbs to the temptations of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) for just a brief period – but long enough to boost his stats and ensnare him in a widening net of scandal and innuendo.

James Bailey, author of the well-received novel “Greatest Show on Dirt,” does a wonderful job portraying an average man caught up in the big business of Major League Baseball, with its voracious demands that a man be better than average. Bailey has clearly done his homework, delving far beyond the headlines into a shadowy world where the innocent have no business. He's created an absorbing tale with strong human drama, a lot of good baseball, and some surprisingly good sex scenes. For men who don’t read fiction, this is a good place to start. For women who wouldn’t think of reading a baseball novel, this is your chance. Think of it as curling up on the couch with your boyfriend to watch his favorite team in action. There’s plenty in that scenario for you.

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