Jesse Katz

Some of us who played little league baseball still cringe at the memory of taunting parents, chin-tickling fastballs, and the “fat kid,” a head taller than the rest of us, who sent every pitch over the deepest outfielder. And most who played little league quit by the time they reached high school; unless you’re a star, there’s not much future in it, not much fun. But in retrospect, there were also coaches like Jesse Katz, a Los Angeles journalist who coaxes his young son into the sport he once played. The Opposite Field (Crown, $25) is both Katz’s midlife memoir and a manual for baseball dads who dare to take on the little league establishment, as Katz did in his predominantly Hispanic and Asian suburb. In short order, he goes from father to coach to commissioner of a league full of disgruntled parents, sweetheart concession deals, fractured families, hidden infidelities, criminal mischief—and, oh yes, kids happily playing baseball. The child of Portland liberals (including former mayor Vera Katz), Katz’s own journey takes him from Bennington to Nicaragua to East L.A., where he becomes a gang reporter and marries into la comunidad. He’s a Jewish gringo, doubly suspicious in the eyes of many. Yet he incorporates all those doubts, and his own, in an extremely readable, engaging tale. (Nor surprise that Katz shared two Pulitzers at The Los Angeles Times.) The book’s candor, generosity, and tolerance should be a lesson for any parent coaching any sport here in the Northwest. BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Jan. 27, 7 p.m., 2010