Book Review: Man Versus Ball

ManVBallI love to read, especially books about sports.  Today, I want to recommend to you Man Versus Ball, a book written by Jon Hart about his extraordinary sports adventures.  This is a book for people of all ages who would be entertained by Jon’s crazy stunts and other adventures in sports.

Jon is an amateur athlete and author.  He has written for the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor.  The more interesting fact about him is that he has spent a lot of time going on once-in-a-lifetime journeys in the world of sports.  In this book, he writes about his experiences as a ballboy at the  U.S. Open, as a a caddy for a professional PGA golfer, and some of the other even crazier things he has done.

Jon has done some pretty ridiculous things.  Did you know he graduated first in his class from mascot school?  Did you even know there was such thing as mascot school?  After he graduated, he worked as neon gorilla mascot for the Grand Rapids Griffins minor league hockey team.  He takes you behind the scenes on how you get that job and what it’s actually like to be a mascot.

What other weird accomplishments has Jon had?  Well, he is also the world champion in roller basketball (basketball on roller skates).  He also played roller soccer (how do you kick a soccer ball wearing roller skates?!?!) and raced up the Empire State Building.  He got majorly hurt as an amateur “pro” wrestler.  These are a few of the types of adventures he tells you about.

One of the chapters I liked best in Man Versus Ball was about Jon’s crazy adventures as a vendor for the Yankees and Mets.  Jon was at Yankee Stadium in September 1996.  The Yanks were playing for a spot in the playoffs.  Eventually, the Yankees made it to the World Series, and Jon got to be there for the whole post-season, for free.  But he had to walk the the aisles, selling wienies to drunk and rowdy Bleacher Creatures in the Yankee Stadium outfield.  Man Versus Ball spends a few pages explaining the tricks of hot dog vending at a major league ballpark.  There are lots of them.  Even more interesting, he explains how vendors cheat the system to earn more money by doing things like picking used beer cups off the ground, filling them up again, and selling them.

I asked Jon a few questions about his experiences writing this book.

Matt’s Bats: What inspired you to be an author?

Jon Hart: It was a gradual process. I had been writing articles and funny little stories for different periodicals, and I wanted to get to the next step and write an actual book, something substantial that’ll be around for a while, hopefully. Initially, I wanted to be a ball player, but I was all glove and no stick.
MB: When did you get interested in sports?
JH: I probably got interested in sports as soon as I came out of the womb. I imagine I was playing catch with pacifiers in the nursery. I root for the Vermont men’s basketball. They’re called the Catamounts. What is a catamount you ask? It’s a cat on a mountain! I went to Vermont for school and have been rooting for them ever since. If you’re not familiar with the Cats, watch this and you’ll understand, and you just might become a fan of the Cats too.
MB: Why did you decide to write Man Versus Ball? How long did it take you to write it?
JH: It took way too long. There was self doubt. There was rejection. I quit. I failed. I gave up and went into seclusion a la Bill Buckner. The blank page can be scarier than a 100 mph fastball. But, ultimately, I kept coming back. I didn’t want to write it. I had to. That was my mindset. It took several years. Hopefully, I learned something from the process and the next one will be easier.
MB: What’s your favorite thing to eat at a baseball game?
JH: Everything tastes better at the ball park. At Citi Field in New York, the Shake Shack burgers are can’t miss.  [We also have Shake Shack at Nationals Park!] If they’re toasty, pretzels are a nice treat. Ice cream is good on a hot day, so are ices. Cotton candy is fun, but I don’t like mine blue. If it’s mixed right, not too sweet not too sour, lemonade can be great.

Check out the Man Versus Ball website.  You can see that this isn’t really a kid’s book.  It has some bad words in it, and it’s not the type of book you would find in a school library.  Maybe in a high school library.  That doesn’t mean kids won’t like it, because I thought it was very good and very funny.  I think older kids and adults would like this book better than younger kids.  It only took me about 3 days to read it.  The book is 169 pages.

So, if Man Versus Ball sounds interesting to you, click here to buy your own copy.

SPECIAL ALERT! Jon has agreed to giveaway 2 FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of his book to readers of Matt’s Bats who let him know THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE DONE OR HAVE SEEN SOMEONE DO IN SPORTS.  (An example would be like if you streaked on the field during a game or if you saw somebody catch a foul ball in a bucket of popcorn).  Jon will send a book to one person who:

  1. Sends a tweet to both @MattsBats and @ManVersusBall about THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE DONE OR HAVE SEEN SOMEONE DO IN SPORTS.
  2. Leaves a comment on the Man Versus Ball Facebook Page about THE CRAZIEST THING YOU HAVE DONE OR HAVE SEEN SOMEONE DO IN SPORTS.

You can write your post in both places.  Jon will read the Facebook comments and Twitter messages and pick one winner from each place and send them a book.  But, remember, even if you don’t have a good story, or you don’t win, you can still buy the book from Amazon.com.  I think you will like it if you want to buy it and read on vacation or something.

1 Comment

On a blistering hot day in the early ’90s, I watched a guy struggle into the bleachers at Yankee Stadium with his infant kids in a double stroller on tote bag day, and claim three tote bags on one admission. He stayed for one half inning of baseball. The kids were fried.

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