Day 9 of (at least) 30 baseball book reviews in 2021: To mom, with love

“A Season With Mom: Love, Loss
and the Ultimate Baseball Adventure”

The author:
Katie Russell Newland

The publishing info:
Harper Horizon
(Harper Collins)
256 pages
$24.99
To be released April 6, 2021

The links:
At the publisher’s website
At the author’s website
At Powells.com
At Vromans.com
At L.A.’s The Last Bookstore
At PagesABookstore.com
At Amazon.com
At BarnesAndNoble.com
At Indiebound.org
At Bookshop.org
At ChristianBook.com
At Target.com

The review in 90 feet or less

Katie Russell’s drive to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums during the 2015 season wasn’t just a personal pursuit, but an emotional mission.

Maybe you’ve already come across the foundation of her story as told in People magazine, Parade Magazine, USA Today and the Huffington Post, and by ESPN, ABC News and Good Morning America. We’re drawn in by these person stories of love and honoring a parent. Links to all those stories are already on her official website. (The story is so good, she has an agent helping her on ways to tell it).

Yet Katie Russell Newland’s drive to get married during the year of COVID, that’s part of this trip as well, and it becomes part of the payoff to where this book — perhaps so small and unassuming that if you’re searing for it on the baseball shelves you’d likely overlook it — eventually takes us.

Newland’s diary entries to her late mother tell her own cancer recovery story, and gives stadium-based perspective on each of her stops. It finishes with throwing the first pitch at a Sept. 22 game at Wrigley Field before a game with the Cubs – the team she and her mom followed in the Garden District of New Orleans., via WGN.

The forward by Peyton Manning adds some context as well about how he knows the Russell family while growing up in New Orleans. Katie is the fifth of six kids from Anne, and was 32 years old when her mom died at 69, yet “too busy rushing through my daily life to pause and realize that the secret to understanding who I was could only be unlocked by knowing who she was.”

As she adds in the intro: “Yes, this book is about baseball. But it’s also a love story … of a mother and daughter and our passion for the Chicago Cubs, the perennial underdog.”

Chapter 4, she found Dodger Stadium, and “a palm tree welcomed me with a wave as a slight wind blew through its fronds.” Katie zeroed in on why the visiting team laid down an effective bunt.

“Bunting is a small act of belief,” Katie continues in the chapter labeled “BElieve.” “Ask any kid who dreams of playing baseball. At no point in her dream does she think, ‘And I stepped up to the plate and bunted.’ … Back at Dodger Stadium, I watched those players bunt and thought back to my decision to finally attempt our baseball dream and the small acts of belief it took to make our dream happen, Mom.”

(For the record, the Dodgers were playing Seattle that game, and the bunt was laid down, according to the official account, was likely placed by Mariners starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma in the fourth inning, moving the runner to second, and then having him score on the next hitter’s single).

She goes on to discuss what sparked her ballpark trip, inspired as well by an Oprah Winfrey show she attended in Houston, finding the power of stillness, and having that also help her pursuit of a doctoral degree amidst her own cancer treatment.

By Chapter 23, she circled back to Southern California and was at Angels Stadium on August 4 for a chapter that dissected why to “BE Grateful.” That Angels-Indians game went 12 innings before Giovanny Urshela’s two-run homer in the 12th gave Cleveland the eventual win. At one point, the Indians’ Carlos Carrasco had thrown a one-hit shutout through nine innings but had nothing to show for it. Katie’s focus ended up on watching Albert Pujols strike out in the fourth inning.

“(Strike outs) put you on a different path if you allow them. It’s the strikeouts that coach you to make a change. The best players learn from the outs and use them as a guide to hitting home runs.”

She was also thought she was reeling from food poisoning at that game, and it ended up being much worse.

And that’s as much as want to give away.

How it goes in the scorebook

XO.

Which is how she signed off on each chapter.

If you need an early Mother’s Day gift, and mom is a baseball fan, scoop it up.

Amazon.com currently lists it in its best sellers among those dealing with lymphatic cancer, baseball biographies and friendship books. How’s that for covering all the bases?

Our favorite corresponding endorsement is from the guy in the middle:

We asked Chris Mortensen if he’d heard about Katie’s story through his relationship with Peyton Manning. Mort replied:

And by the way, the Cubs, who ended their World Series drought a year after Katie’s ballpark trip, began the 2021 season today at Wrigley Field with a 5-3 loss to the Pirates.

More to cover

== Her official video for the book:

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