Jim Collins is former editor of Yankee magazine, a native New Englander, and a former college baseball player at Dartmouth. To research The Last Best League, he relocated his family from New Hampshire to Chatham, Massachusetts, attended every game, and was given complete insider's access to the team and players. He is an accomplished magazine writer whose work has twice been included in Best American Sportswriting.
Sportswriter Collins offers an insightful look at the Cape Cod Baseball League, which brings together many of the NCAA's top players to compete in an abbreviated schedule each summer. The league has served as a steppingstone for several major league stars, including Todd Helton, Nomar Garciaparra, Frank Thomas, Jeff Kent, and Barry Zito. The author focuses on the Chatham Athletics, led by manager John Schiffner. Collins traces the evolution of the 2002 Chatham A's, a team saddled with injuries, subpar performances, late arrivals, and untimely departures, with oft-injured southpaw pitcher Scott Hindman receiving a $170,000 contract, which, as he acknowledged, amounted to "seventeen thousand dollars for every inning I pitched in college." Slugger Jamie D'Antona battled his own immaturity and the league's wooden bats before returning to Wake Forest, while All-American pitcher Tim Stauffer was drafted in the first round but lost nearly $2 million in signing bonuses after informing the San Diego Padres about his sore arm. On a happier note, Tom Pauly grew during his stint with the Chatham A's, which then led to his stellar performance at Princeton, followed by his inking a lucrative deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Recommended for all public libraries.-Robert C. Cottrell, California State Univ., Chico Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fuel Baseball magazine, Spring 2010 "In the tradition of The Boys of Summer, The Last Best League is about dreams fulfilled and dreams denied; it's about Cape Cod and the rites of summer; and about the way one small town grows to love a group of young men coming of age in America."
The Cape Cod Baseball League, which began in the 19th century as local entertainment for summer residents, has evolved into the jewel of American amateur baseball. Sanctioned by the NCAA, the league invites the best college players to come to breezy seaside communities to work on their game during what amounts to their off-season-late June through mid-August-without sacrificing their amateur status. And come they do, to one of the 10 teams sponsored by small towns and New England businesses, staffed by volunteers, the players hosted by local families and given day jobs as clerks, seafood haulers and day-camp counselors. Collins, a former editor of Yankee magazine and once a Dartmouth second baseman with dreams of the big leagues, brings a local historian's eye and the heart of a fan to a chronicle of one Cape Cod League team, the Chatham A's, during the 2002 season. He has produced a book that will be a treat to casual fans who might not know the process by which college players are courted by agents-graded as to character, body type and bat speed, and then tagged with a price. Collins wisely focuses his story on a handful of the most promising Chatham players, most memorably Wake Forest's slugging third baseman Jamie D'Antona, an extremely likable nutcase, for whom readers will find themselves rooting hard. There is also the undersized Blake Hanan, the brainy Princeton righty Tom Pauly and the sphinxlike load of a pitcher, Tim Stauffer. Their crusty manager, John Schiffner, adds a little spice and tobacco juice to the mix. Along the way, readers will gain an appreciation for summer on Cape Cod and the place of baseball, as it once was, in the heart of local communities. Agent, Stuart Krichevsky. (Apr.) FYI: About a dozen of the players on the Chatham A's were drafted by major league teams, including Tim Stauffer in the first round and D'Antona and Pauly in the second. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.