Book Review: Baseball Between Us, by Mike and Matt Luery

Posted by Kurt Smith on Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Most baseball fans dream of seeing every major league ballpark. Of course I do in this line of work.

And if one were asked who their ideal companion for such a trip would be, most likely the answer would be a father or a son or both.

Mike Luery, a reporter from Sacramento, never got the chance to visit the major league ballparks with his father, but fortunately, he did manage to take his young son to every major league ballpark in North America—a total of 32, since they also visited Shea Stadium in New York and the Metrodome in Minnesota before they were replaced by new ballparks. He documented the dream journey is his book “Baseball Between Us”. 

The subtitle of the book is “A Road Map to a Winning Father/Son Relationship”. Mike’s son Matt, at the start of the trip(s), is a young man entering college—and like with his daughter Sarah, Mike frequently attempts to persuade him to go to a college near a favorite ballpark.

Like me, Luery is a Baseball Geek. Throughout the book he tells stories of baseball history, gets antsy about the idea of missing the first pitch of a ballgame (and delightfully describes why), and frequently has to hear barbs from his wife and children about his sometimes irrational (in their minds) devotion to the game.

The book dedicates a chapter to each ballpark they visit; Luery tells the stories of how they get to the ballpark (which is never easy with a teenager who wants to sleep until noon), where they stop to eat, the nearby landmarks they visit, and the many discussions they have along the way that range from political to philosophical. Luery also describes the ballpark itself—the history, the construction, and anything else that might interest a baseball fan.

Surprisingly, the book isn’t all sweetness and light—a refreshing reality from what you’d expect. Luery’s relationship with his son is strained at times. Matt is a fairly typical idealistic teenager, who sometimes seems to be still in the parents-are-so-uncool stage. At times his actions towards his father border on disrespect, or perhaps the rebellion that every young man seems to have a need to engage in to prove himself. The worst moment, in this observer’s eyes anyway, happens at Fenway Park, where Mike pays $600 for tickets for his brother and nephew to join them—who then all leave him to sit by himself after a rain delay for the rest of the game. Luery patiently takes it all in stride, but I know I would have been pretty upset.

But as the trip goes on, Matt begins to appreciate the game, the country he is seeing so much of, and that his father isn’t so square after all and was once young and rebellious himself before having to pay bills and support a family. The turning point seems to be when Mike takes him to visit the home he grew up in, only to find it boarded up and covered with graffiti; and he visits the grave of the sister he lost at age 20 and finds himself pulling weeds around it. He is clearly affected by all of this, as anyone would be, but his son becomes sympathetic to his father like he never has been to that point, and the tone of the trip changes from there.

For the rest of the book, the two treasure their trips together much more, and Mike’s patience with his son is rewarded by the two becoming the best of baseball buds. They finally finish the job of seeing all of the ballparks at Target Field in Minneapolis, the fantastic new home of the Twins. In keeping with his changed attitude towards his father, Matt at the end changes his mind about counting ballparks that no longer exist on the list of major league ballparks visited…something he had disputed earlier in the book.

After the Target Field chapter, there is an outstanding epilogue from Matt, as he tells the story of how much he enjoyed the trips and how much he’s learned about life. He’d make a fine writer himself, if he were to choose such a path. The book concludes with a glossary of baseball jargon, a list of other things to do in ballpark cities, and Luery’s ranking of the ballparks (something fans of ballparks will always take issue with when discussing—he has Wrigley Field eleventh, for crying out loud).

“Baseball Between Us” works best as a diary of a father documenting the greatest times of his life, and telling the story of how he got to do what so many baseball fans dream of doing. It’s a fine read for anyone who has an interest in visiting the temples of baseball in North America, especially with a father or son.

Mike Luery’s blog: http://www.baseballbetweenus.com/


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