Sometimes, we have a defining moment in life, where everything becomes clear. Nick Grimes, a 45-year-old pitcher for a local league, is chatting with his catcher, a younger guy who really doesn’t love baseball and wonders about his future.
“I guess it comes down to finding your passion,” Grimes says.
Once “a baseball-playing fool,” Grimes took a circuitous route, but he finally found his passion and what mattered most in life. He’s the central character in Mike Reuther’s latest book, “Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic: One Man’s Trip Through This Crazy Thing Called Life.”
Reuther is a longtime reporter for the Williamsburg Sun Gazette, “a long-suffering” New York Mets fan who has written about politics, health, local government and sports. He also plays in Sunday summer leagues for older adults.
Reuther has written several books; his previous effort, “Nothing Down,” was about a pitcher who loved baseball so much, he was willing to play for free. “Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic” digs deeper, and even at 110 pages, establishes some strong characters and has a more realistic feel to it.
The characters in this book, which takes place in central Pennsylvania, revolve around Grimes. There is Hal Smeedly, Grimes’ best friend who turns him on to his second passion in life, fly fishing. Side note: for the second straight book, a man named Hal serves as the inspirational force for the main character. In “Nothing Down,” pitcher Homer Newbody gained his love of baseball from his Uncle Hal.
Another side note: while Grimes never made it to the majors, his second passion is similar to that of baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams, an accomplished angler who was an expert at tying flies.
Joe Blevin is the grizzled baseball lifer who sees something in Grimes, even when the pitcher is cut by the Detroit Tigers organization. Blevin and Grimes’ father continue to stoke the flames of the pitcher’s passion for baseball, even when the spark is gone.
“No matter how much you love baseball, it will never love you back,” Nick tells his father.
Jess, a waitress Grimes meets while out with Smeedly in a bar in their hometown of Klegersville, yearns for bigger things and wants to be a novelist. She takes an interest in Grimes, and their sporadic love interest through the years (while this is a short book, it zooms through four decades of life), foreshadows the book’s ending.
And finally there is the elusive Sir Jon, “a crazy mountain man” Grimes believes is “probably the most incredible fly fisherman I’ve ever seen.”
Sir Jon is certainly talented, and this enigmatic character speaks sparingly but eloquently about life.
“There’s no luck in life there fella,” he tells Grimes. “Luck is the residue of design. You folks back there in civilization. You don’t ever seem to grasp that.
“Live for oneself and not for others.”
That’s what Nick Grimes does. He shakes free from a bad marriage, makes a comeback to scratch his baseball itch, becomes successful as a fly fishing guide and settles down with that waitress-turned-author.
Reuther remains an engaging writer who creates believable characters. They are people readers can identify with. Every person, no matter how accomplished he or she might be in life, has faults. Reuther never loses sight of this as he writes.
That’s what makes “Baseball Dreams, Fishing Magic” so effective. The book’s moral — and its hook — comes right out of a chorus from Rick Nelson’s “Garden Party”:
“But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well
You see, you can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.”