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Before the Title, Past
A Nonfiction Column
By Jeff Shelby

"Who’s on first?"

      Like many young males growing up, I dreamed of being a baseball player. I would stand in the driveway for hours, firing a tennis ball at a chalk square on the garage door, pretending to be Nolan Ryan or Tom Seaver. I played Little League, went to the batting cages and my family had season tickets for the San Diego Padres, as I was cursed with living in a city that was more concerned with the beach than batting averages. (Okay – growing up in San Diego wasn't exactly “cursed.”) So every spring, I am energized with the arrival of each new season and the anticipation of games on summer afternoons. Here are a few of my favorite baseball reads:

Little League Confidential: One Coach's Completely Unauthorized Tale of Survival
by Bill Geist
Geist is a well known humorist, often seen on CBS and described as a younger and less acerbic Andy Rooney. His account of coaching his child’s Little League season is as honest as it is funny and any adult who has spent any time working with kids in an athletic capacity will appreciate this book.

Game Time: A Baseball Companion
by Roger Angell
Angell is widely regarded as the greatest writer ever to have tackled the subject of baseball and this book has compiled his essays from the past forty years. His writing covers every aspect of the game, profiles some of its greatest players and always makes me feel like I’m ten years old and I need to go play catch in the backyard.

Ball Four
by Jim Bouton
One of the first books that I ever read from cover to cover, it was the first sports book written by someone on the inside who told it like he saw it. Bouton alienated teammates and fellow players with his no holds barred look at baseball in the 1970’s and paved the way for the slew of player written books we see every year now. None are as good as Bouton’s original.

The San Diego Padres Encyclopedia
by David Porter, Joe Naiman
So maybe not everyone views the Padres in the same way that most view the Yankees, but I do. They were the team I grew up with and the team I still root for, though I live several states away. I had a cat named after Dave Winfield, the Padres greatest all time player, I cried the day he signed with the Yankees, I cried the day Ozzie left for St. Louis and I cried when they beat the Cubs in 1984 to reach their first World Series. (And then Dad and I drove around the neighborhood honking the horn of the old Dodge Colt like we’d won the lottery.) Everything you ever wanted to know about Southern California’s most ignored team is in this book and no one appreciates it more than I do.

Play ball!

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