Thursday, January 25, 2018

Steve Kluger - Changing Pitches

Scotty Mackay is an American League pitcher who, at thirty-six, has to hit the comeback trail to save his all-star career, All goes well until he gets teamed up with a young catcher he detests: pretty boy Jason Cornell. Jason has lots of teeth, poses for underwear ads, and has blue eyes ... and Scotty's favorite color is blue. By August, Scotty's got a major-league problem on his hands. 

Comment: I had my eye on this book for a long time, mostly since I've read other books by the author and having enjoyed them.
This, however, wasn't as well done in my opinion, perhaps because it was the first published by the author and some content feels wrongly dealt with.

In this book we have Scott McKay's story, he is a 36 year old baseball player who is quickly approaching the end of his career. Scotty feels his arm isn't strong anymore, his technique isn't the best anymore but suddenly he seems to have an increase in his performance and his team starts to climb the ladder to first place. In the meantime, a new player comes to the team to replace an injured one. Scott feels a connection with that player even though he claims to hate him prior to knowing him. But as time and games go by, everything seems to be going well, and Scott sees himself being in love with a man, something he never thought about. How can Scott deal with all the pressure issues in his life and still maintain his sanity?

This story is readable as one comes to expect from the author, there's an epistolary feel to the plot, since most of the information comes as a diary notation or bulletins on the team's main board or similar things. This is mostly fun because the narrative doesn't get boring nor heavy to go through but it's also a game in reading between the lines when he need to sort of "guess" what the purpose of some things actually is.

Scott is a sweet and funny guy and I liked knowing him and how he thought about things. He is in a stressful situation since he knows his performances as a professional player aren't what they used to be but he still tries to help and be important for the team. He also has this love/hate idea of a new player, Jason, that comes to his team but he realizes he just can't help but enjoying being in his company and the two seem to be a good match both during the games and as simply friends.
All the character interactions and the hows felt very cute and it was fun to read about the guys, about their tastes and ideas, about how they saw the game and so on.

However, this book, despite its fun narrative and situations provided two issues for me, personally, namely one that I think I need to explain a bit why.
First, the less complicated issue was the baseball content. I have no idea about this game, it's not something we have in my country so I know no rules, and the only thing I could talk about it is from what I've seen in movies. While I wasn't as bothered, this is clearly a story about baseball players and I commend the author for the precise notions about it but...ehh, not easy for those who have no concept of the game.

As for the biggest issue for me here...
Spoilers ahead!!
This book is focused on Scotty and his life, how he sees baseball and, apparently, his attraction and love for a fellow player. Scotty is never characterized as a gay man, but he is thinking about his friend/colleague that way. He is also living with his girlfriend, someone we can understand he loves too and that has shared a lot with. Scotty even finds professional help to process the new feelings he has and why. At this point I wasn't sure about the path the story would take but it felt Scotty was probably gay and didn't know who to tell that to his girlfriend or admit it to his friend Jason.
I can only speculate on the real aim of this novel, is this a coming out story, is the gay approach just a step for something else, who knows. 
The reality, however, is that although Scotty is in love with Jason and eventually bravely tells him that, they remain friends - that is what one can understand  - Jason accepts Scotty's feelings but he is committed to someone else so no physical relationship between them. And Scott, after several psychological sessions, comes to realize he just didn't think he would be able to take the step to propose to his girlfriend but when he does, everything in his life makes sense, including the fact he transferred his fear of marriage to the love he felt with someone "safer", alike him, a guy like Jason.
Isn't this weird? I can understand the reasoning but it's quite disappointing to have a situation get interesting, exciting to see develop to have the explanation it was just a "misunderstanding" after all. Therefore, is Scotty gay or not and if not the explanations for everything feel ridiculous.
This book was originally published in 1984, so maybe the end is explained because of that. But I still feel it wasn't done right, or fair to the complexity of the whole situation.

Nevertheless, I still want to read the other book by the author I haven't tried yet.
Grade: 7/10

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