I’m kind of shocked to see how many people liked this book. I’m the perfect audience for this book; I’m a baseball fan, I live in Chicago and I’m interested in youth programs that deal with inner city kids. But wow, Hardball: A Season in the Projects just didn’t do it for me.
First of all, it was aggravatingly overwritten. Coyle added plenty of details, I assume in an attempt to paint a full and vivid picture. What resulted were paragraphs of overly flowery, dull and pointless prose that did nothing to further the story. As he tried to add dialouge and mimic the ‘street kids’ language, he just sounded like every other uptight white guy who’s awfully proud of himself for spending time ‘in the projects’. I was a little embarrassed for him.
The pages and pages of play by play baseball business were pointless. As I said, I’m a huge baseball fan. But reading chapter after chapter of moment by moment commentary on a strike out is boring – no matter how much you like baseball. Yes, I cared how the kids did and yes I wanted to know who was struggling and how their games turned out, but I didn’t need this much detail.
Writing aside, I had some issues with the author’s clear bias against Al, the man who actually founded the league. Al was from the projects and was an African-American man. Initially he was portrayed somewhat sympathetically but eventually he was reduced to being some crazy guy who, and I’ll quote, “must have been killed a nigger once.” Based on the information in this book it seemed clear that Al wanted control of his league and had trouble letting some of that control go to the volunteer coaches. It also seems somewhat understandable to me, that as a man who’d lived in the projects all his life, there would be some resentment of a bunch of rich, white dudes coming in and telling him how to run his league and how he could best impact these children’s lives.
Overall I did not like the writing and I did not like the angle the author took. I did learn a few things about Cabrini-Green but you could shave 200 pages off this book and still get as much out of it.
Currently reading: You Shall Know Our Velocity! – Dave Eggers