Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 597
In his review of The Art of Fielding, Gregory Cowles, writing for the New York Times, called Chad Harbach’s book a “precious and altogether excellent first novel.” The Art of Fielding, a novel about baseball and campus life with meditative insights sprinkled throughout, was published in 2011.
The Art of Fielding opens with Mike Schwartz, a sophomore at Westish College in Wisconsin, who first sees Henry Skrimshander during the semi-finals of a “no-name” summer baseball tournament. Schwartz does not pay much attention to Henry during the game except to notice, as everyone else does, that Henry is his team’s shortstop and is quick on his feet, not very good at bat, and the shortest guy on the field. But after the game, when Henry goes back out on the field in the blazing heat to field some more balls, Schwartz pays more attention to the scrawny shortstop. Then Schwartz fully appreciates the “grace” of Henry’s every move. When the kid removes his shirt, Schwartz is amazed at the boy’s skinny arms, which are not much wider than Schwartz’s thumb. However, when Henry scoops up a ball that had been batted his way, Schwartz cannot believe the ease of the young boy’s throw or the explosive speed of the ball as it makes its way back to the catcher. No matter where the ball is hit, Henry mysteriously is there to stop it. Schwartz concludes that the boy must have known where the ball was going even before it was hit.
When this after-game workout is finished, Schwartz feels disappointed. He wants to see more. He wishes he had taped the session so he could rewind it to see it again. Instead he watches the boy leave the field. Schwartz knows that he has waited all his life to see that much talent, that much genius on the field, and he knows that he cannot allow the boy to get away from him.
Now Henry is registering at Westish College. He feels, deep inside, that he should not be here. He is not even sure how he won the chance. It all had to do with Mike Schwartz, but it happened so quickly he has not yet adjusted to the fact.
Henry has always played shortstop in baseball, beginning when he was nine years old. It has always been a challenge, though, to convince his various coaches throughout the years that he could really play. Most coaches were ready to sit Henry on the bench, if not completely dismiss him from the tryouts. Henry was always so much smaller than the other boys, and Henry could not hit. However, when and if the coaches finally gave Henry a chance in the field, he became a star.
Henry’s skills at shortstop carried him through high school. During his senior year, Henry felt the end of his baseball days approaching and became depressed. He knew that playing ball in college was completely out of the question—that is, until he met Mike Schwartz. Schwartz arranged everything. He talked Henry’s father into allowing Henry to go to Westish. Schwartz even convinced the college’s administration to make special arrangements so Henry could attend. That is why Henry is on campus. His new journey is about to begin. When he is finished registering, Henry finds his dorm and meets his roommate, Owen Dunne. Although Owen is Henry’s complete opposite, to Henry’s surpise, Owen owns a copy of Henry’s favorite book, The Art of Fielding, written by the infamous big-league shortstop Aparicio Rodriguez.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 523
That Thanksgiving is the first holiday Henry does not spend with his family. Most of the time during the break, Henry is in the college dining hall, washing dishes at his new job. That night, when he gets back to his dorm, he is happy to hear his parents’ voices on the phone—until they start complaining about stories they heard...
(The entire section contains 15586 words.)
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