Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cooperstown Dreams Park: The Book that Sums Up the Experience


Josh Berkowitz, a Jewish dad and diehard Boston Red Sox fan from Massachusetts, wrote a book about an unlikely youth baseball team that competed in the premiere U10 national tournament at Cooperstown Dreams Park, in Cooperstown, NY. Josh was the coach of this unique team.

My son, Nic, played in the U12 version of this premiere event two years ago. My site is loaded with information about the Cooperstown Dream Park tournament. Countless parents and coaches, from many teams across the country, visit my site every month to read my CDP information. Visits to this content make up a significant portion of the 40,000 or so pageviews I get each month.  I guess that is why Josh reached out to me to review his book.

In the book, Josh writes about how fear held him back in life, so I am wondering how he mustered up the courage to ask me, a Catholic Yankee fan, to review his book. That takes some guts. I have nothing against Jewish people whatsoever, but I have a strong bias against Red Sox fans so a positive review was not a given.

Regardless, Josh's publisher sent me a copy of the book. The postman delivered it on Friday as an ominous dark cloud passed over my house. Then strong winds followed shortly. I could sense something foreboding. I got up to take a look and then went outside to take down the umbrella that covers our backyard table. I saw the mail truck fight the wind while leaving my development. I ran around to the front of the house to get the mail hoping to get there before the rains poured down. I had to hold on to my Yankee hat as I made my way. I could hear wood from nearby trees creaking under the pressure, almost screaming in pain against the forceful wind. This spooked me a bit. I quickly grabbed the mail which contained a small package, some bills and a letter from Mitt Romney that happened to blew out of my hand. I ran after the letter even though Mitt is probably a damn Boston Red Sox fan too.

The winds continued to intensified. Trees started to fall and electric and cable lines fell to the ground. I ran back to the house and suddenly found myself alone with no electricity, no internet and no cable TV. It would remain that way for 2 days. I did have a small white package to open.

I watched my American flag struggle to hold on to the pole as I ripped open the package. I considered getting the flag down, while I pulled the book called Third Base For Life: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons and Baseball by Josh Berkowitz from the envelope. I looked at the flag again. It was not safe to go outside, so I decided to let the flag fend for itself. The house was still bright from natural light, so I grabbed a Yuengling beer and I started to read the words of the Red Sox fan with some reluctance.

The book opens on the first day of school at Rashi, a private Jewish Day School in Newton, Massachusetts. A place where teachers indoctrinate innocent boys to hate the Yankees, I thought to myself as I read. I almost did not get past the second page.

With nothing better to do, I read on. I soon realized that Josh and I have a few things in common. We both love baseball. We love Italian food (It's the only food he mentions in the book besides Kosher food, but Josh is not Kosher). We both have teenage sons who play baseball. We both have loving supportive wives. And we both realize that our kids have more confidence than we ever had.

Before I knew it, I was emotionally invested in the compelling characters. Josh describes the real life quirky people so masterfully that you instantly feel for them and feel sorry for them. There is a kid with a diabetes pump, a hemophiliac, a mexican born boy adopted by a gay Jew and his partner. There is a bully you'll hate for awhile and the "private jet" rich kid. The list reminded me of my post that listed all of the stereotypical types of youth baseball players.  And of course Josh mentions lots of over protective parents, irrational fans and clueless coaches. If this were a fiction book you would criticize the author for creating characters who were too far fetched.

Josh also described the Cooperstown Dreams Park youth baseball tournament experience in such vivid detail. If you had already been to Cooperstown Dreams Park you will likely feel like you were there again. I welcomed back memories that distracted me with delight. If you are going to Cooperstown Dreams Park in the next year or so, read the book, you will appreciate the experience even more when you get there. By the way, Josh's description of the pro-like caliber of the 10 year old players is not exaggerated. My son played on an amazing 10 year old team that finished 2nd in the CABA World Series beating an All Star Team from Puerto Rico and another from Panama. Some 10 year old kids can really play the game at a high level.

Josh weaves his story skillfully with both pleasant and sad twists that will keep you reading. And throughout the story he tactfully teaches kids and dads alike the importance of overcoming the fear that holds us back.

If you love youth baseball and feel good stories you will enjoy this true David vs Goliath story about an all Jewish youth baseball team. In this story, however, there are 95, no make that 94 Goliaths. I won't ruin the ending by telling you the story. I can tell you that very few of the rocks tossed by the sling of David were very accurate or effective, but as Bill Murray famously chanted in the movie Meatballs - It just doesn't matter.  It just doesn't matter.  It just doesn't matter.

The Main Point

Josh, this book is inspiring to all of us who have let fear hold us back. Thanks for putting yourself out there and writing it.

And I hate to admit it but I guess there are some damn Red Sox fans may have merit after all.


11 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tip - we loved Cooperstown Dreams Park - so I am going to buy it. Sounds like a good summer read.

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  2. I'm going to Cooperstown with my son later this week. I am going to read it during the car ride to the park. Thanks.

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  3. I want this book damn! Where is it sold?

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    Replies
    1. Click the ad on the top right of my home page and you can buy it there.

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  4. I'm going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in late August - can't wait! SO many cool stories!!!

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  5. Catch some professional-like baseball from 12 year old kids at the Cooperstown Dreams Park about 5 miles outside of town. You will be amazed.

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  6. Just finished the book. A great read. I just gave it to my assistant coach who was with me when we went to Cooperstown Dreams Park last summer. He is looking forward to reading it too. Our team finished 90th so I could relate.

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  7. Interesting read. Thank you for sharing how youth baseball changed your whole perception of life in a positive manner. I'm sure others would be inspired by your experiences.

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