Category Archives: Sports Talk

Top 9 Sports Books Of All-Time

It’s time to highlight my favorite sports books of all-time. There will be a mix of fiction and non-fiction thrown in. Please feel free to comment on your favorites below.

  • Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game By: Michael Lewis
  • What can I say about Moneyball? Well before it was a movie, it was a book. Not only did it follow one of my favorite general managers, but also one of my favorite Major League teams. I loved Michael Lewis’ writing style. He really captured the essence of who Billy Beane is, and what he stands for.
  • The Natural By: Bernard Malamud
  • This one was a fun one for me, because I saw the movie way before I ever read the book. Boy was I surprised by the outcome. I don’t want to give anything away, but if you’ve never read this great classic, I highly recommend you do. You won’t soon forget it.
  • Clearing the Bases By: Mike Schmidt & Glen Waggoner
  • Michael Jack Schmidt is one of my favorite ball players. Even though I was born toward the end of his career, I grew up hearing about his baseball prowess. In this autobiography, Schmidt takes a hard look at himself and a look at the game as it stood at the time of publication. I appreciated his candor, and found myself even more in love with him after I finished.
  • Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia By: David L. Cook
  • Again… another book turned into a movie. I had the privilege of reading this before it became a movie. Even though the movie was shall we say, dry, the book was not. It holds your attention like any well written tale should and draws you in, making you care for the protagonists throughout.
  • The Habit of Rivers By: Ted Leeson
  • I know… some may not consider fishing a sport, but I do. Especially the great sport of fly fishing. Ted Leeson takes you on a journey through the Northwest. This book is riddled with humor, sensitivity, and of course fishing.
  • A River Runs Through It By: Norman Maclean
  • Again, I saw the movie before I ever read the book. I mean, how could you not, it’s one of the best stories ever told. The movie was great, but the book: even better. This novella takes you on a ride. You feel like you’re actually there with the author experiencing everything along the way. I loved this book! There’s probably a pretty good reason why it’s won so many awards.
  • Quiet Strength By: Tony Dungy
  • Who doesn’t love Tony Dungy? He’s a man of God, a wonderful person, and an excellent coach. I wished I would’ve had the honor to play for a man of his integrity at the highest level. Nowadays sports are inundated with coaches who can’t say five words without dropping the f bomb. The man’s a genius. I’m so happy for him that he was able to lead his Colts to victory in the Super Bowl.
  • Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf By: Ben Hogan
  • Whether you are just starting in the sport, or have been playing for years. This book will teach you something. It is absolutely timeless. The lessons I learned from this book lowered my handicap by four strokes, no joke. Anyone can go out and hack it up on the course, but if you want to get serious about the game, check this out, you will not regret it.
  • Beyond belief: Finding strength to Come Back By: Josh Hamilton
  • Who doesn’t love Josh Hamilton’s redemption story? The thing you may not know about Mr. Hamilton is what he has had to go through to get to where he is today. This book paint’s the picture for you. I could not believe everything he has had to battle, and I’m sure still continues to battle for that matter. I want to applaud him for fighting to overcome his demons. Keep battling Josh, and God Bless.

 

 

There you have it folks! I’d love to hear your thoughts on your favorite sports books. I’m sure your selections are a bit different, but hey, they should be.

If you look close enough you can get a taste of my writing style by looking at the picture above. 🙂

My Hall Of Fame Ballot Is Cast

After everyone has written down, or thought about their New Year’s resolutions, the time has come. No I’m not going to bore you with details of my weight loss plan, I’m talking baseball here people. Tomorrow is the day that we find out if our favorite players got the call from the hall.

I am including a list of my choices for this year’s ballot below. I take this list seriously, as if I got to vote along with the writer’s. Agree or disagree, I hope to see a list of your own choices in the comments.

My list (You can choose up to ten):

  1. Ken Griffey Jr.
  2. Trevor Hoffman
  3. Mike Mussina
  4. Mike Piazza
  5. Tim Raines
  6. Jeff Bagwell

Here’s why I chose who I did:

  • Ken Griffey Jr.- I don’t think there is any deliberation needed here. Griffey is likely to be the first unanimous vote in the history of the HOF. Any statistical analysis is superfluous at this point.
  • Trevor Hoffman- Who remembers Trevor Hoffman coming in from the bullpen to ACDC? The loud bells that rang out told the story. Even though Hoffman did not have over-powering stuff, his change-up and his ability to locate all of his other pitches made him one of the best. I loved watching him, and he is fully deserving of the call.
  • Mike Mussina- This one’s a mystery: why Mussina is not in the HOF is beyond me. His 270 career wins in the most hitter friendly division in baseball, goes unrecognized. Just for your information: he pitched for eighteen years in the AL East. He also fielded his position better than most ever could, with seven gold gloves to his credit.
  • Mike Piazza- Probably the best hitting catcher of all-time. Yeah he wasn’t the best defensively, but you cannot argue his offensive production. Career .308 hitter, while playing the most grueling position in all of baseball is no small task.
  • Tim Raines- To tell you the truth I am surprised he is still on the ballot. The guy was an iron man in the sport. He played for twenty three years, that’s right twenty three! He dominated the eighties, and though he may have fell off late in his career, the guy’s stats speak for themselves.
  • Jeff Bagwell- Even though his career may have been shorter than most in the HOF, his stats dictate he should be inducted. With a nagging injury that shortened his career, he still amassed 449 home runs, and a career .297 batting average over fifteen years.

Here’s some highlights of their careers:

  • Ken Griffey Jr. – Career .284 hitter, 630 (6th all-time) career home runs, 1,836 (15th all-time) career RBI, 2,781 career hits, 1997 MVP, 13-time all-star, 7-time silver slugger, 10 gold gloves.
  • Trevor Hoffman- 2nd all-time in saves (601), 7-time all-star, career 2.87 ERA, 1,035 Games pitched, career WHIP 1.058.
  • Mike Mussina- 270 career wins, 2,813 career strikeouts, 5-time all-star, 7 gold gloves, career WHIP 1.192.
  • Mike Piazza- Career .308 hitter, 427 career home runs, 12-time all-star, 10-time silver slugger, 1993 NL rookie-of-the-year.
  • Tim Raines- Career .294 hitter, 808 (5th all-time) career stolen bases, 2,605 career hits, 7-time all-star.
  • Jeff Bagwell- Career .297 hitter, 449 career home runs, 2,314 career hits, 1991 ROY, 1994 MVP, 4-time all-star, 3-time silver slugger.

The twenty six others that were on the ballot were tremendous talents. I however, don’t feel they belong in baseballs elite class, do you?

Author Spotlight Interview

I was honored to be interviewed by a fellow author named Ben Mariner. Please check out the interview below, and click on the link to visit his website..

Indie Author Spotlight: J.D. Dudycha

Paint the Black is the story of Jack Burke, a young man drafted into Major League Baseball straight from high school. Although his talent on the pitching mound is rivaled by very few even at his young age, it’s Jack’s personal life that causes a constant stream of grief, injury, and crumbling personal relationships. For Jack, professional baseball is his lifelong dream, but he quickly finds out that being on your own and navigating the treacherous waters of life isn’t as easy as he thinks, despite getting exactly what he wants. When Jack’s life goes into a downward spiral, help comes from an unexpected source and he’ll never be the same.

This is not your typical sports novel. Yes, the back drop for everything is baseball, but the story has so much more depth. It’s much more of a character piece than a focus on a team and their struggle to become number one. J.D. Dudycha manages to tell the struggle of one kid trying to keep his head above water in a world he really isn’t truly ready for without making that entire struggle focused solely on the game of baseball. Jack’s life revolves around baseball (for the most part) but the story revolves around Jack and the myriad bad decisions that he can’t seem to help himself from making. The whole thing is kind of like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You can see Jack barreling toward something that will screw him over, but you can’t do anything to stop it.

What I really like about this book is that it’s accessible to everyone. J.D. spent a lot of time in baseball himself, and that knowledge really shines through in the story, but even someone who knows nothing about sports – like myself – can easily follow along and not feel like they’re missing something. I think that’s where so many other sports related novels go wrong.

Baseball fan or not, it’s hard not to sympathize with Jack’s plight and cheer him on as he finds his way to redemption.

Now let’s meet the author!

J.D. Dudycha is a former college baseball player and coach. He has over ten years of experience in baseball at the collegiate level. After the birth of his son in 2012, J.D. retired from coaching to be a stay-at-home dad. Since his retirement, he developed a love for writing, an outlet he so desperately needed in the absence of baseball. Though his stories are fictional, he has drawn from his personal life as well as his expertise and knowledge of the game to craft his novel. J.D. lives with his wife and son in Denver, Colorado, where he also enjoys golf and fly fishing.

First things first, give us a Tweet synopsis of the book (140 characters or less):

A gritty, in your face story of redemption. Jack Burke, whose talent on the baseball diamond is hard to replicate, it’s off where he finds trouble around every corner.

I personally feel like you made this book comprehensible for all readers despite their level of baseball knowledge. Was it difficult to translate your own extensive knowledge into something anyone could grasp?

Most of the baseball scenes inside Paint the Black, came from personal experience. I wrote them in a way that the average reader could still understand the overall concept, and in depth enough that an avid baseball fan could admire the expertise.

My editor, who was brilliant by the way, was unfamiliar with inner workings of the sport. So I felt if she could understand the overall flow of the storyline, than anyone could.

My hope is anyone can pick this book up. It reads as a character driven piece that just happens to revolve around the game of baseball.

You’ve spent a lot of time in the world of baseball. Do Jack Burke’s trials and tribulations mirror your own, or was your time in baseball a little less eventful?

Jack, along with every character inside Paint the Black, has a little bit of me in them. I tried to take the best of me and worst of me, and put it to page. I loved developing Jack, and Dallas, my two favorite characters in the book. They are both similar in a way, but also different. Dallas brings Jack down, but it’s Jack who makes the choices. Nobody made him do the things he did. He made his own decisions, and had to live with the consequences.

I never got to Jack’s level, but let’s just say I was close.

It seems that some of the things that Jack goes through in Paint the Black are becoming more and more typical in professional sports. What advice would you give a young athlete looking to go pro?

You know, I think a lot of what Jack went through could be related to anyone’s story. He didn’t have to be a ballplayer to get sucked into the lifestyle he chose. He could’ve just as easily been a construction worker, or businessman. I would tell any young man whose thrust into the world without a life preserver: rely on God, and he will never steer you wrong.

Also, do not let your sport/job define you! I personally lived for so long with that mind set, and it nearly cost me everything.

Christianity plays a big role in Paint the Black, as I know it does your own life. What made you decide to veer away from the typical sports novel and focus on the aspect of faith in the face of adversity?

When I retired from the game in 2012, I was left with a hole in my heart. Baseball has been a part of me since I could hold a glove and bat. I had so many memoires, no stories from the game. God put it on my heart to share this particular story with the world, and my hope is many can relate.

I wrote Paint the Black, with the end reader in mind. This novel is not your prototypical Christian fiction book. It’s not filled with rainbows and butterflies, its real life. Jack struggles with some harsh things (alcohol, drug abuse, ect) and I felt baseball was the perfect backdrop for it.

Let’s talk baseball movies: Bull Durham or Major League?

Ooh, you struck a nerve there. I hold a special place in my heart for Major League. I kid you not, I can recite the first five minutes of dialog word for word, even to this day. Although, Bull Durham, is a classic, Major League will always be my number one choice.

If your book was adapted to the big screen and they asked you to fill the role of your choice, which character would you choose?

That’s tough, because the actor would need to be a baseball player first, and then an actor. And since Kevin Costner is too old to play Jack, I would say: Tyler Hoechlin of Teen Wolf, Road to Perdition, and 7th Heaven Fame. I actually coached against him in a collegiate summer league. Kid can play ball and act. He would play Jack Burke.

What baseball team from any era do you wish you could play for?

I am a huge fan of baseball history, and even though I am not a Yankees fan I would’ve loved to have played for them between 1940 and 1960. 

After over 100 years of failure, do you think the Cubs will ever win the World Series again?

I hope so, because it would be tremendous for the sport of baseball. The Cubs have such a following throughout the nation, and their fans have been waiting forever, for that elusive championship. I hope 2016 is the year for the Cubbies.

What can we expect next from J.D. Dudycha? 

Another baseball story. Are you surprised? In all seriousness, my next novel is set to come out in February 2016. It is entitled Sitting Dead Red. The story follows a collegiate ballplayer who has to overcome a cheating scandal, an abusive father, and PTSD from a death of teammate. Much like Paint the Black, it is hard hitting, and in your face. I can’t wait for people to see it!

How Can Sports Impact Your Soul

Article I wrote for Christian Life News

How can you make an impact in sports? A simple question to ask, but not so simple to answer. I would bet those of you who are reading this have played a sport or two in your time. Maybe you were the star quarterback in high school; the ace on the pitching staff in college; or maybe you played professionally. The question I want to ask is: What do you remember most about your playing experience?

For me, the answer is simple…my teammates…the guys I went to battle with day in and day out. It’s about the memories I made on bus trips, the hotel, or in the dugout. We became family, brothers, at least for the years we were together.

The relationships we make in sports are hard to duplicate. There is something about the camaraderie. We’re all striving toward the same goal. We know for a fact those 25 to 30 guys have our back. They’d go to war for us, on and off the field.

It is one such relationship that I would like to highlight today. I played baseball collegiately, both in junior college and at a university. One relationship still sticks out in my mind, even to this day. It is a relationship with a young man who personified what it meant to follow Christ.

Being a Christian is not always easy, especially in an egocentric field like athletics. But it is in that world where the most unselfish people are easily recognized. That young man carried himself with an air of confidence that did not lend itself to selfishness. It was a quiet confidence; a confidence one has when he follows Jesus Christ.

I was like most athletes—selfish, ambitious, and filled with ego. I was in the game for only one reason—to make it all the way. My friend, on the other hand, played the game with honor. He played for a higher purpose—to glorify God no matter the outcome. Win or lose, he was the same. Something about him stuck out to me. I was interested in how he was different. He didn’t get into trouble, he wasn’t a demagogue, and he kept his nose clean and did his job when he was called upon.

He constantly invited me to Bible studies in his dorm room, offered advice when he thought I needed it, and listened without judgment. He was a shining light in the midst of my darkness.

It wasn’t until after college when I found myself hopeless that I began to search for the God he tried to show me all along. In my mid-20s I was at a crossroads. Without baseball, the game I loved, I became so depressed that I searched for a reason to live.

It was in the stillness of the night where God found me. A seed that had been planted six years prior came full circle. I cried out to the Lord, begging Him to show Himself. He did. He showed Himself in the people that I had met in my life that He planted along the way. He planted my friend and teammate. He planted my wife and our church-going friends. He gave me a spotlighted runway that I was too senseless to see in the first place. And without those people, who knows if I would still be here today?

So I ask you: How can you make an impact in sports? Simple. Be the guiding light in some young man or woman’s life. Show them the power of Christ through your actions, and maybe someday someone will write about you.