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Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks [Paperback]

Zack Hample
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 27 2007 Vintage
Whether you’re a major league couch potato, life-long season ticket-holder, or teaching game to a beginner, Watching Baseball Smarter leaves no territory uncovered. In this smart and funny fan’s guide Hample explains the ins and outs of pitching, hitting, running, and fielding, while offering insider trivia and anecdotes that will surprise even the most informed viewers of our national pastime.

What is the difference between a slider and a curveball?
At which stadium did “The Wave” first make an appearance?
How do some hitters use iPods to improve their skills?
Which positions are never played by lefties?
Why do some players urinate on their hands?

Combining the narrative voice and attitude of Michael Lewis with the compulsive brilliance of Schott’s Miscellany, Watching Baseball Smarter will increase your understanding and enjoyment of the sport–no matter what your level of expertise.

Zack Hample is an obsessed fan and a regular writer for minorleaguebaseball.com. He's collected nearly 3,000 baseballs from major league games and has appeared on dozens of TV and radio shows. His first book, How to Snag Major League Baseballs, was published in 1999.

Frequently Bought Together

Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks + The Unwritten Rules Of Baseball: The Etiquette, Conventional Wisdom, and Axiomatic Codes of Our National Pastime + Baseball Field Guide: An In-Depth Illustrated Guide to the Complete Rules of Baseball
Price For All Three: CDN$ 37.30

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. "Professional fan" Hample (How to Snag Major League Baseballs), who falls squarely in the "deeply serious geek" category, has put together an invaluable resource for armchair fans. A former college shortstop, four-time attendee of Bucky Dent's Baseball School and an obsessive baseball collector, Hample covers basics like what to watch for in pitchers, catchers, hitters, fielders and base runners; he also provides answers to such nagging questions as why spectators stretch in the seventh inning and why most ballplayers grab their crotches. He explains the difference between a change-up and a split-finger fastball, breaks down a box score and offers an extensive glossary of baseball slang that defines both a "courtesy trot" and a "dying quail." Other sections address free agency and fair balls, umpires and uniform numbers, stadiums and superstitions. Trivia abounds, including the names of the 10 switch hitters honored in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and a record of inside-the-park homeruns. Hample hits the equivalent of a reference-book homerun with his witty, loose and readable style-taking a friendly for-a-fan-by-a-fan approach that doesn't hide his enormous depth of knowledge. Highly recommended for baseball watchers, Hample also schools amateur players and coaches with well-illustrated examples of some complex pitching, hitting and base-running scenarios.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Hample is known in the blogosphere as the foremost snagger of major-league baseballs (read all about it at snaggingbaseballs.mlblogs .com). Here he turns to ink and paper with a Baseball for Dummies-type guide that, thanks to its irreverent, tongue-in-cheek style, will also appeal to fans who left the dummy stage long ago. He covers such topics as the amateur draft, grips for various pitches--slider, curve, splitter, etc.--and what managers talk about on their visits to the mound. There is discussion of the seemingly obvious (the role of starting pitchers) and the more arcane (when not to slide), and there is plenty of genuinely fascinating historical trivia (how the letter K came to be the scorekeeper's symbol for a strikeout). All in all, this is a light but informative tome that will be just the ticket to get fans in the right frame of mind for opening day. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, fun, fun! Aug. 16 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Want to know the game better? Want to have more fun watching those games on TV? A true fan share well his love for the sport!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Can't miss home run March 29 2013
By Eephus
Format:Paperback
Great book. For any type of ball fan. I'm a lifelong baseball fan who watches well over 100 games a season and I loved this book. I find it hard to believe that hard ball fans of every type would not totally enjoy this read. Parts of it may need an update since it was written in '07, but all in all it's a great piece of work. Informative, funny, and easy to navigate. Everyone who picks it up, from non baseball fans to hardcores, always end up checking it out for awhile. Many have ordered it right away. Hample has done a great job here.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Watching Baseball Smarter will appeal to youngsters around 9-12 who are eager to grab as much baseball knowledge as possible by attending and watching games on television. For those young people, scoring, colorful terms, and obscure rules can make the game seem more mysterious than it is. At the same time, learn those elements of active watching and a youngster can develop the basics to enjoy being a lifelong fan.

If someone had given me this book at that age, I would have treasured Watching Baseball Smarter above all over gifts I got that at that time. I would have been most thrilled by the illustrations of how the various pitches are thrown.

Remember that observation when you consider if you know any budding fans who would be thrilled to have this book.

As for the claim that the book is also for semi-experts and deeply serious geeks, I don't think so. I didn't see any material that wasn't well known to me by the time I was 15. And I was hardly a semi-expert or a deeply serious geek. I just enjoyed watching and attending the games.

Don't give this book to a serious baseball fan; you'll embarrass yourself if you do.

Here are few questions to test your ability to enjoy the book:

1. What is the infield fly rule?

2. What is a double switch?

3. What is a catcher's earned run average?

4. What is a safety squeeze?

5. How do you keep score?

If know all five, this book isn't for you. If you know four, you'll get an occasional nugget from the book. If you know three or fewer, this book is a good choice for you.

On this reading, the main pleasure was from remembering when I first learned the material and from an occasional bit of trivia that was new to me.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gret book Aug. 2 2010
Format:Paperback
i always wanted to know more about the game. this book makes a lot of sense.
Al
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  130 reviews
75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for beginners--but not for "Deeply Serious Geeks" Aug. 20 2007
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The subtitle of this well crafted work: "A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-Experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks." For the first two categories, right on! Geeks are not going to learn a whole lot that they already do not know. That aside, though, this is a nice work.

Examples of what is in some of the chapters: Chapter 2 focuses on "Pitchers and Catchers." The first part of the chapter describes basic pitches (and how they are thrown)--fastball, curveball, slider, change-up, split-finger fastball, knuckleball, screwball, spitball (naughty, naughty!), eephus, and gyroball (does it even exist?). Each is described, with a bit of humor added here and there.

Chapter 5 explores "Fielding." There are brief descriptions of what each position has to do. As an old second baseman, I enjoyed reading about the basics of the double play and so on.

Chapter 6 examines "Stadiums" (but should this not be "Stadia," to use the proper Latin term?). One of the more enjoyable features is the description of some unique fields. Think Fenway Park or Wrigley Field. But why not talk about the cool stadium in Cleveland?

Chapter 9 takes a peek at "Random Stuff to Know." E.g., Why K for strikeout on scorecards? What about uniform numbers? The seventh inning stretch? And so on.

This book is a lot of fun. Even hard core baseball fans might enjoy it for its style, even though they may not learn a great deal that is new. For beginners and intermediate fans, though, this will be quite a pleasure!
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting and entertaining July 17 2007
By Doc Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I really liked this book a lot...I learned quite a bit about baseball and I enjoyed the author's sense of humor. I don't think the book quite lives up to its subtitle: ...for beginners, semi-experts, and deeply serious geeks. It probably won't be quite basic enough to totally please the absolute beginner...but still not a bad choice either. Likewise I think that most semi-experts and serious geeks are going to be looking for something more than what is offered here. Nevertheless, I'm sure there are a lot of people out there that will really enjoy and learn from this book, the way I did. I'd recommend it for people with at least a very basic knowledge of how baseball is played, who want to learn more about a truly fascinating game.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars makes watching more interesting June 11 2007
By Karen J - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's easy to read and entertaining. The book is well-edited - chapters are split up in such a way that makes it easy to find immediate answers during a game, yet it flows cohesively enough to make it an entertaining read on a quiet night. I like the extensive dictionary of baseball terms and phrases. It has lots of whats, but frequently also includes the whys behind things like the history of certain stats and the main reason the MLB did away with spitballs. There's lots of insider info, interesting facts and anecdotes; everything from how to read a box score to unusual attributes of ball parks. This book is loaded, and any baseball fan will enjoy it.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars heads up baseball fans March 30 2007
By michael fierman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
this book is a must read for anyone interested in getting the most out of watching a baseball game. even the most knowledgeable fans will find lots of new and interesting information in this extremely thoughtful book...but not to worry, it is extemely entertaining and funny as well. in addition to the well laid out text there are references in italics linking to a prodigious glossary at the end containing every imaginable baseball term. this is a welcome addition to the literature especially as it comes right at the beginning of the new season.
31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Gift and Tactical Book Without Peer Oct. 6 2007
By Robert David STEELE Vivas - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I strongly disagree with the reviewer that says that there is not much here that has not been said elsewhere. While I am new to baseball, at the age of 55 vastly more familiar with soccer, football, and basketball, my youngest son loves the game, and I have spent time looking for the perfect book that can both help him see the nuances, and help me follow the game.

This book is nothing less than extraordinary. It would be a superb gift for any high school or college student who loves the game, and for any parent or grandparent new to the game. Personally I think it has a great deal of information that those who consider themselves avid fans have NOT noticed, but you can decide that better than I.

Here are some of the nuggets in this book, which is the tactical complement to the strategic companion by another author, "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game." The two books together constitute an instant reference library from any baseball affecionado.

1) 1 in 100,000 make it to major leagues from among those who strive to get there.

2) Going to college is a superb way to perfect your skills and shorten the time to selection for minor leagues--a tiny handfull get to go straight to the majors.

3) Five tool players can field well, throw hard (and accurately), run fast, hit home runs, and hit a high batting average.

4) Any major leaguer, however "bad" they might appear on a given day, is the best of the best and has spent a lifetime getting there.

5) Awesome concise clear description of the many kinds of balls that a pitcher can throw to a batter.

6) Runner on second can see catcher's signals and signal to the hitter more often than not. I had no idea.

7) When bases are loaded, a fast ball is more likely, hit to it and improve your batting average.

8) Amazing list of all the *many* reasons a coach might walk out to talk to a pitcher.

9) Leg strength is critical for all players and helps power the ball.

10) Run bases on a CURVE for faster rounding of bases.

11) A catcher can be the team's reference librarian, a goldmine of knowledge about hitters built up over a lifetime of observation.

12) Strike zone defined by each player, not a fixed box. From the kneecaps to a line halfway between the belt and the shoulders.

13) Outstanding section on umpires, who can spend thousands on a school and endure 8-12 years in the minors on bare subsistence salaries. If they do make it to the majors, then they earn a six-figure salary.

14) Lovely section that clearly illustrates and explains all of the symbols needed to record every move in a baseball game.

15) Umpires WILL remember every slight over the years, and when borderline calls need to be made, the slights will come home to roost.

Superb glossary.

I am giving this review and the book to my 12-year old, in the hopes that he will read every word and refer back to this book many times in the years to come.

This book is a GEM. Ignore the faint praise by other reviewers.

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