Bookshelf review: Beaverball

August 24, 2011 · 1 comment

A (Winning) Season with the MIT Baseball Team, by Brooks C. Mendell. Aventine Press, 2009

This one has been sitting on the shelf for awhile, but with the 501 project in full swing, I’m trying to catch up with a vengeance, looking for little gems among the bigger fish.

And we have a winnah! Beaverball is Mendell’s journal of the best season in school history, the 1993 squad that went 22-11 and won the ECAC championship, finally answering the oft-asked question, “MIT has a baseball team?”

The author, currently president of a forest industry and timber market research and education firm, recalls those days with humor and amazement for their success. After all, you don’t go to MIT for the athletics. It’s a Division III school, which means there are no scholarships to lure elite ballplayers. Nor do the professors offer anything in the way of accommodation for games and practices. No, if you play baseball here, it’s because you love the game.

Mendell, a senior at the time, covers the game on the field almost exclusively. There are no frat house shenanigans or toga parties or drunken debauches here. Nor are there complaints about any of his teammates, although you know there’s never the situation where everyone gets along 100 percent of the time. And if one of the players has a beef, doesn’t think he’s getting enough playing time, well, there are plenty of other things he can be doing with his time.

The mutual respect and affection for head coach Francis O’Brien is touching and, for me, was a key component of the book. This is the kind of man you would want leading your own kid: demanding but never overbearing, funny, thoughtful, and genuinely caring. For some reason, Beaverball brought to mind movies such as Remember the Titans and We Are Marshall, as it consider a group with disparate talents coming together for one magical season.

You can view a video of the author discussing his craft here and learn more about the book here.

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