The book: “Just A Minor Perspective: Through The Eyes of a Minor League Rookie”
The author: Eric Pettis
The vital stats: Amazon Digital Services, 97 pages/3042 KB, or 41,000 words, $2.99
The pitch: Eric Pettis was a junior at El Camino Real High in 2005 who threw the two-hitter in a 5-1 upset of Chatworth to clinch the L.A. City title at Dodger Stadium. That was probably the most important game in ECR’s baseball history since Randy Wolf won the City title with a one-hitter more than 10 years earlier.
After four seasons at UC Irvine, the first and last as a starter, the middle two as a top reliever, the All-American Pettis wasn’t picked until the 35th-round by the Philadelphia Phillies in the June, 2010 draft.
That was No. 1,107th overall, if your counting. Pettis was.
He took the challenge and that summer posted an 8-0 record and 1.37 ERA with seven saves in 20 games at short-season low-A ball for Williamsport in the N.Y.-Penn League. That earned a promotion for the start of the 2011 season at A-ball in the South Atlantic League. One month later, it was up to high-A ball in Clearwater of the the Florida State League through the end of the season. Combined stats: 2-3, 2.84 ERA in 47 games, 5 saves (see his baseballreference.com page).
For his troubles, he was cut free.
Back in Chatsworth, waiting to get picked up, or thinking about going to an Independent League team for a shot, Pettis has some more time to promote his eBook, where some of the 16 chapters go with the titles of “Fried Chicken and Hot Air Balloons,” “Messing with the Baseball Gods,” “No-No No-No,” “Pirate + Leprachaun = Change,” and “To the Penthouse.”
An excerpt: While the Amazon.com site allows you to read the first two chapters, try on Chapter 8, preparing for his first start for the Williamsport Crosscutters:
“I promised myself that I would try to keep things as normal as possible, just stay in my routine. Of course, there was that anxious excitement that comes with any big game. I could handle that. It actually helps me stay focused. But the logistics were throwing me for a loop. On the day of your start, you are allowed to arrive at the field later than everyone else. It is left up to the starter to decide when they want to arrive as long as it is more than ninety minutes before the game.
“This was nothing new to me; we had the same system in college. But in college, I was familiar with my surroundings. I knew how to waste time. You see, on the day of your start it is really hard to think about anything other than the game. But that’s not a good idea. It does you no good to be in the game mentality all day. So, you’re left searching to find things to distract you. Normally, I would play video games, or watch a movie, or do some homework to keep me occupied before my starts. But I was in Williamsport now.
“Just me, the TV, and five hours. Flipping through the channels, I was determined to let my mind drift. I finally landed on MTV, there was a ‘Laguna Beach’ marathon running. A show that I would never usually be caught dead watching. A show that I am fundamentally against. A show that… never mind, it’s not important. … Four hours later, my mind was perfectly numb.”
And then a slice of Chapter 12:
“By nature, I am not a social person. I usually won’t go out of my way to try to get to know someone, especially if I am in direct competition with them. But the guys in the bullpen were just too interesting not to connect with. I was immediately drawn to our two Latin relief pitchers. …
“I really wanted them to teach me their language. I had always enjoyed taking Spanish classes in high school. I thought knowing another language was like being a part of an exclusive club. At home in Los Angeles, almost every day I would encounter people who spoke Spanish and had always wanted to understand them. So, I treated our time in the bullpen as a graduate Spanish course. Not a day would go by without me asking them something. There was so much vocabulary to learn. Every other sentence out of my mouth was, “Como se dice this, como se dice that”. My curiosity was never ending. Who needs Rosetta Stone when you can practice with the real thing?
“I quickly found out that Latin players are huge gossips. There are no boundaries. If anything interesting had ever happened to a Latin guy, I knew about it. And their gossip was juicy. A lot what they told me couldn’t be repeated in the raunchiest of books. Let’s just say that I learned more animal anatomy than Jack Hanna ever cared to know. Looking back, I think a lot of their stories were baloney. They knew that I hadn’t the slightest clue about Latin culture. They could have told me anything and I would’ve believed it. Fact or fiction, it sure made for some interesting conversations.”
How it goes down in the scorebook: Major-league material for a Little League price tag.
In the preface he writes that the book was his “2011-2012 offseason project,” something to do while others found “regular jobs to make some money and help pass the time when the season is over. I wasn’t quite ready to step into the real world and hit the job market.” Nor will he make much money from the book, either. But what it does is show publishers that he has potential and wilingness to write — it must be in his DNA considering he says his aunt Char, a prolific best-selling romance novelist (website linked here), encouraged him to go for it after reading the blog postings that Pettis started in June 2010 to keep the family up on his playing career across the country.
Two months later, he had his story.
“Writing was always a great way to decompress when I wasn’t playing,” Pettis said in an interview this week. “I wish I had done it earlier when I got to the minors. We’re on the field 10 to 12 hours a day and this was a great way to get some things off my chest. I can only talk to my family about things on the phone so much. For me, blogging was a great way to release what happened every day and start the next day fresh. It helped me to stay hungry every day.”
Pettis said it was his intent to help up-and-coming players, and their families, know what to expect from the minor-league experience.
“There are so many brand new things that are so unique to minor-league life, so different that you’d face,” he said. “For someone coming up that wants to go through this, they can be more prepared.
“In the baseball community, there are a lot of people you can talk to, but it really won’t help you in the end know what the game’s all about. The book might do better than talking to a friend.”
The quick pitch is to compare Pettis’ first writting efforts with two similarly-structured stories told in recent years. “Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit,” was the 2009 memoir by Matt McCarthy in the Angels’ minor-league system. And then there’s the 2010 already-classic “The Bullpen Gospels” by Dirk Hayhurst as he was in the Padres’ system.
Both wrote very detailed chapters about the miserable conditions, the crassness, the pranks, the misgivings of selling your soul for this grand idea that you could someday be one of the few to make it to the major leagues. McCarthy’s book, however, was so out there he was accused by several of fabricating things for the sake of selling. He detoured to the medical profession when he was released.
Pettis’ work stands on its own merits in dealing with how he describes his lessons learned, staying in his head about what he’s trying to accomplish. His attention to detail is illustrated best in an incident where the entire bullpen was called into the manager’s office for a grilling about who gave a kid an autographed ball marked up with leud drawings. Pettis wasn’t at fault, but he wasn’t going to rat anyone else out. The guilty pitcher came clean, and he was cut — one of their better players, as it turned out.
“It was the first time I personally witnessed the business side of things,” Pettis wrote. “We all were just expendable pieces of a larger whole. No one was untouchable. Step out of line and that was it, finished without a second thought. From that day on, our fun was tempered. We knew not to cross the line again. And while we still played our occasional game, I was refocused.”
With even more of a focus now, the 23-year-old Pettis can hone his writing skills and produce even more material for when the time comes that he’s back on the mound. Sooner, we hope, than later.
“I knew it’d be tough going in; there’s not a lot of glory until you reach the big leagues,” he said. “You have to keep believing in yourself that you’ll make it. I know I can do it. I know it can be a grind. I think you can make it that the prize is so great, it’s worth going through the hardships.”
== Eric Pettis on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/eric_pettis