I’ve read many books about baseball and watched just about every baseball movie ever made. Some baseball stories reach us in a way that others don’t and some immediately turn us off. Bull Durham is a great baseball movie because every detail about the game feels real…the conversations on the mound, the life in the minors, the bus trips, the superstitions, the women, it all rings true. Same goes for Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding, just released this year. When I read that book, I kept waiting for Harbach to miss on a description of Henry Skrimshander’s footwork or the thoughts going through Mike Shwartz’ head while at or behind the plate. But Harbach knew the game of baseball and there is never a moment in reading the book when my reading rhythm was disrupted by a poor description of the game. True baseball fans put the book down when they read a baseball story that describes a runner touching home as “scoring a point” or turn the channel when they see players walking outside the stadium in their uniforms or wearing their team hat to dinner. If you love the game, you have a hard time seeing it portrayed incorrectly.
As I was writing Intangibles, I realized I was writing something more than a baseball psychology book…I was writing a book for baseball fans. Here are some thoughts on how I hope my writing connects with the baseball reader, not just the baseball player:
Written for the Baseball Soul
I’ve always marveled at the great baseball writers. Mike Lupica always stood out to me on The Sports Reporters on Sunday mornings on ESPN and his Summer of ’98 was such a personal narrative, with the McGwire/Sosa home run chase as foreground. Gary Smith was and still is my all-time favorite sportswriter because no matter what the topic, he was always able to describe the emotions, tell the untold thoughts, breath humanity back into the athletes who had been boiled down and reduced to sound bytes, highlights, and brands. He did this while making readers feel like we had known these characters our whole lives. And his greatest magic was to find a way to write a final paragraph that left me breathless. A. Bartlett Giamatti’s essay, The Green Fields of the Mind changed the course of my life (I’ve written how it influenced me in my chapter “Why I Wrote This Book”). I still can’t read it without it bringing tears to my eyes. These writers all speak to the baseball fans’ soul. They capture the timeless nature of the game. They have been my influences as I’ve developed my own writing style. Intangibles includes stories about great characters in the game. My chapter about Mental Aspects of Pitching (MAP) is really a story about pitching coach, Jim Colborn. My chapter on Life and Death wouldn’t have been the same if Derek Hankins hadn’t jumped right out of Norman Rockwell scene. And you couldn’t make up better baseball names than Bobby Kingsbury and Cameron Blair. I’ve studied the history of the game, I dream of one day owning a 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle, and I get choked up when Roy Hobbs tells Pop Fisher, “My dad wanted me to be a baseball player.” My love of the game is woven into every sentence in Intangibles and I believe it’s this connection with the soul of the game that helps me find stories like the ones I’ve written hidden in the daily grind of my own work. I’m proud to share these stories with all baseball fans.
The Road to The Big Leagues
For the baseball fan who spends more time on the back fields at Spring Training, this book is for you. Every player takes a different path to the big leagues and the player development process is not often described in print. In teaching the mental game, I felt it was important to put my lessons into context, not simply list a bunch of exercises to be attempted haphazardly. I wanted my readers to learn about my philosophy for improving performance, but I wanted to do so in a way that hadn’t been done before. What should jump off the pages as you read Intangibles is an appreciation for just how difficult it is to make it to the big leagues as well as just how much effort goes into the playing and the coaching of the game. Professional baseball players, coaches, and staff members sacrifice large portions of their lives to the game. I wanted to write about their struggles, let readers understand the pensive looks from the on-deck circles, the thoughts swirling through the shortstop’s head as his cleats smooth the dirt between pitches. I’ve heard many fans, analysts, and scouts speculate as to what a player was thinking on the field when a pressure moment created a hero or a goat. My goal was to tell those real stories with intimate details so you’d know exactly what those players were thinking.
Dealing with Failure
The book is about winning the mental game in baseball and in life. In real life, the story doesn’t always have a feel-good ending. I’m proudest that this collection of stories introduces readers to professional ballplayers they may not have known because they didn’t make it to the big leagues. I’ve written that baseball fans might read Intangibles simply to “appreciate the psychological struggle each player endures in his own way as he struggles against great odds and talented peers.” There are lots of clichés in baseball about dealing with failure. There aren’t lots of books that put the reader in the dugout, sitting next to a pitcher the morning after he failed, wondering what went wrong, and thinking through what he needed to do to make it right. I’m extremely grateful for the players I’ve written about as every player named in my stories gave me written permission to tell his story to you. I believe the result is a collection of authentic moments that teach life lessons, not just baseball lessons.
Geoff Miller will be discussing his book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life in San Diego at Barnes & Noble, Grossmont Center on Sunday, Oct. 12 at 2pm.
Click here to RSVP and for event details.
For free sample chapters of Intangibles, please visit:
For more information, please contact Geoff Miller at email@example.com.