When I read a book, I use a baseball card as a bookmark. I have a pile of baseball cards in my sock drawer(don't ask.), and arbitrarily grab one from the pile when I start a new book. Sometimes I know the player's general history, other times their place in baseball history eludes me until I visit Baseball-Reference.com. That is the case with Mike Scott. I think unless you were mentally awake as a baseball fan during the 1980's, you might've entirely missed the wonder of Mike Scott. My baseball conscience began around 1996.
When the Red Sox are not so great(like 2014 and their recent stretch), I look to books to distract me from the terrible and give me hope that there's an end in sight to watching bad baseball. Mike Scott's 1988 Donruss card was used as my bookmark for Josh Wilker's latest book, Benchwarmer. It is the second book from Wilker, the first of which was Cardboard Gods, of the same name as his blog.
I had no thoughts about Mike Scott, and didn't think to look at his career when he held my spot in Benchwarmer. In fact, it wasn't until near the end of the book that I decided to take a look. If you judge a player by their card, Mike Scott doesn't look like a 20 game winner, a Cy Young winner, a guy who once struck out 306 batters in a single season, the best and only winning pitcher for the Astros in their failed 1986 postseason bid against the New York Mets in that year's NLCS. He looks rather ordinary. He's a bit uneven on his landing foot. His follow through looks kind of lazy. Even the umpire in the background isn't paying attention.
Those who haven't heard of Josh Wilker, and haven't read his blog or his previous memoir might look at his new memoir the same way as I looked at Mike Scott's Donruss card. Who is this guy? What could he possibly know about sports, being a dad, and the failures found in both? He admits freely that he might actually not know anything at all.
In Wilker's first book, he used baseball cards from his collection to compare and contrast his own life(e.g. a card of Mike Kekich, of the infamous Yankee wife-swap, begins a chapter that highlights his own parents unique relationship). In Benchwarmer, Wilker uses words, phrases, and encyclopedia history to relate to his first year as a new parent. In particular the failures, struggles, and uncertainty associated with never winning, losing in spectacular fashion, and figuring out if there is anything beyond that feeling of losing everything.
Benchwarmer is full of self-deprecating humor that highlights Wilker's time as the backup to the backup forwards on an all-Caucasian northern Vermont NAIA College basketball team as well as the struggle he encounters doing simple tasks as a parent along with being a husband. There are some aspects of Wilker's life that are painfully awkward, but the exposure to the full picture of his life in the first year of his son's life gives a view of the same kind of frustration illustrated in the history of benchwarmers that are being cataloged in Benchwarmer.
I can see some readers not being able to get beyond the level of negativity that aspects of the book have, but connecting the dots between Eugenio Velez setting a major league record for consecutive at bats without recording a hit and the struggles of doing anything right as a new parent is done really well by Josh Wilker. Like my assessment on Mike Scott's Donruss card above, Wilker's newest memoir is much better when taking a closer look. As someone who isn't a parent, his outline of connecting his personal failures with those of professional and infamous failures bring a better understanding of what exactly someone might experience in the first days and months as a new parent.