There are books that you find yourself spending a lot of time with — some because they’re just long, others because the thoughts and concepts contained within are difficult to understand and process. But once in a while you run into a book that you spend a good amount of time with simply because it’s good, engaging, and it stimulates your mind.
I would add Far From Home by Tim Wendel and Jose Luis Villegas to that list.
It’s not often that I get to review books from National Geographic, which is a shame because they are generally some of the nicest ones I get to read. The first thing you notice about this book is how great it feels to hold — it’s thick, sturdy and just appears to be full of great content.
At only 160 pages, it’s by no means overwhelming – and with over 100 photos, you don’t find yourself plowing through page after page of text. The words share the spotlight with the pictures – which I think you’ll find yourself spending quite a bit of time looking at. Each looks like it was scrutinized thoroughly before being added to the book, as they each capture an essence of the subject that you will be able to read and ponder just as if someone had tried to translate it to words.
The story of the Latino ballplayer is one that has been part of the baseball narrative for over a century – yet it doesn’t seem to garner the public’s attention. I certainly won’t use this venue to make a cry for more public attention towards the Latino story — nor do Wendel and Villegas use Far From Home for that purpose.
What it does is provide a relatively brief but still worthwhile synopsis of the numerous Latino experiences in baseball, dating back to the 1870s. While there is a historical aspect to the book, it doesn’t approach the subject with the approach of a typical history text.
If anything the book results in a story of humanity – individuals who battled a prejudiced America, language barriers, cultural differences and other hurdles to become not just star players, but men who put on the jersey and became part of the baseball lore of numerous cities across America and in their home countries.
If names like Clemente, Cepeda, Minoso, and Marichal were part of your vocabulary, you’ll enjoy this book. If you cheer for players named Rodriguez, Pujols, Cabrera and Ramirez, this book will provide the backdrop for what brought baseball into these players’ lives and what in turn they bring back to baseball.
The story of Latino ballplayers in America is a rich and fascinating one, and one that if you know it will make you appreciate what you see on the field that much more. Far From Home makes that story accessible and engaging to anyone who picks this title up, and while it might not warrant a permanent spot on your bookshelf, it is one that definitely warrants time in front of your eyes.
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