Watching Baseball Smarter: A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks — by Zach Hample

When I picked up Zack Hample’s new book – Watching Baseball Smarter – I was really looking forward to gaining some new insight into how to watch a ballgame and get something totally different out of it. I’ve been watching baseball almost my entire life – and I felt like I had a good idea what to look for – but here comes a new book promising to show me new stuff. So you can imagine my excitement.

While Watching Baseball Smarter is filled with a lot of very interesting stuff – if you’ve been around baseball for a long time or have played baseball in high school or beyond, you probably won’t find that much new information in it.

However – I think that for most baseball fans, this would be a really insightful read. It will probably answer a lot of those questions you’ve asked yourself during a game – like why a hitter rubs his helmet during at at-bat. It’s to ask the second base umpire to move because he’s right behind the pitcher and it’s making it hard for him to watch the pitch.

If you’re not sure if Watching Baseball Smarter is worth your time, here are twenty questions that get answered in the book — if you don’t know the answers, then it’s probably a good read for you.

  1. Why do some players paint their fingernails white?
  2. What is the Grapefruit League?
  3. Which positions are never played by lefties?
  4. What does “hitting for the cycle” mean?
  5. Who was the first pitcher to ever receive ligament replacement surgery?
  6. What does it mean when the third-base coach flings both arms and hands to the ground?
  7. What is the Wheel Play designed to prevent?
  8. At which stadium did “The Wave” first make an appearance?
  9. How long can an official scorekeeper wait to reverse a decision?
  10. Why do some players urinate on their hands?
  11. Who was the first pitcher with a losing record to win the Cy Young Award?
  12. Who’s the only Hall of Famer to jump straight from college to the major leagues?
  13. Who’s the shortest player in Major League history?
  14. How much meal money do minor league players get per day?
  15. What’s the difference between a split-finger fastball and a forkball?
  16. What does it mean when the batter pats the top of his helmet a few times?
  17. Can a hitter switch from one side of the plate to the other during an at-bat?
  18. Who’s the only president in the last 100 years who didn’t open at least one season with a ceremonial first pitch?
  19. What are people referring to when they mention the “pine tar incident?”
  20. What was the last team to play on AstroTurf?

Answer all of them, and you should probably be writing baseball books. Otherwise, it’s probably worth reading Watching Baseball Smarter by Zach Hample. You’ll be amazed what you don’t know.

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