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Starting and Closing: Perseverance, Faith,…

Starting and Closing: Perseverance, Faith, and One More Year

by John Smoltz

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John Smoltz is one of the best pitchers to ever play major league baseball. For over twenty years he pitched for the Atlanta Braves, chosen eight times for the All-Star team and winning the Cy Young Award for best pitcher in 1996.

He pitched in the starting rotation for fourteen years when an injury caused him to move to the bullpen and become a relief pitcher. After three years in the bullpen, he asked to rejoin the starting rotation. Many people, particularly in the sports media, asked him why he did this. His response: Why not?

Smoltz begins the book with three things people need to know about him:
1. All he ever wanted to do was win
2. He's not afraid to fail
3. He never did anything in his baseball career just to set a record, or to be able to say that no one else has done what he has done

Smoltz lived in Michigan, and his grandfather worked at the Detroit Tigers stadium. Young John grew up going to Tigers games, and he loved the Tigers. He was thrilled to be drafted by his hometown Tigers to play baseball, and disappointed when they soon traded him to the Atlanta Braves.

His disappointed turned to happiness when he realized that the Braves were willing to work with him, that they valued their young players and worked hard to make him a successful pitcher. (The Braves are known for their excellent farm system.)

Injuries plagued Smoltz throughout his career, and he pushed his body through the pain, hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery, which could end his baseball career. He eventually had the surgery, but with his amazing work ethic, he began a grueling rehab program and came back to pitch again, although as a closer.

As a person who worked best with a steady routine, Smoltz found it difficult to get used to the unpredictability of being a reliever. As a starter, he knew which day he would pitch, so his mind was set. He could play his favorite hobby, golf, on his off-days. He said that "by going to the bullpen, I sacrificed two things that really helped me tick; knowing what was coming and feeling like I was in control."

Besides baseball, two other things motivated Smoltz: golf and being a born-again Christian. He described the moment he knew that his relationship with God had to change, and how his life changed for the better because of it. He soon became a popular speaker at 'baseball church' gatherings, and later founded a Christian school in an Atlanta suburb.

Now that he is retired, Smoltz has set his sights on joining the Champions Tour in golf , and Tiger Woods has said that publicly that Smoltz is the best amateur golfer he has seen. Smoltz frequently played golf with his pitching teammates, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, and you can feel the joy on the pages where describes their bonding over golf.

Smoltz was not re-signed by the Braves after twenty years, and he joined the Boston Red Sox for a final season. He describes the sadness he felt at leaving the team he helped to bring to 14 post-season playoffs, although with only one World Series title. I found his analysis of the toll that pitching in so many consecutive post-seasons took interesting, and I have to say it never occurred to me how damaging it could be.

Boston was a disaster, and Smoltz was happy to be picked by up the St. Louis Cardinals after the Red Sox released him halfway through the season. He was happy to be able to contribute to the Cardinals playoff run, but wistfully says that he wished he could have ended his career in Atlanta.

Starting & Closing is not your typical sports memoir; Smoltz really concentrates on his last season, sprinkling little parts of his life throughout. You get a real feel for what makes this intriguing man tick, why he was so successful in baseball although plagued with injuries, and how his changed relationship with God made him a better man and a better pitcher. ( )
  bookchickdi | May 15, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062120549, Hardcover)

I wasn't afraid to fail. It's really as simple as that.

As a seven-year-old kid pitching a ball against a brick wall, John Smoltz decided to be a professional baseball player when he grew up. And from that simple decision until his last season on the mound in the major leagues, it was his faith, work ethic, and love for the game—even more than God-given talent—that propelled him through challenges that would have ruined other athletes.

Starting and Closing chronicles John Smoltz's final season in a major league uniform, capping a legendary career that included fourteen years as part of one of the most dominant starting rotations in baseball, a Cy Young Award, and a World Series title—all while battling and overcoming "career-ending" injuries. At age forty-one, Smoltz was making yet another unlikely comeback from his fifth surgery. Recounting the story of a season that tested his perseverance and deepened his faith, Smoltz flashes back to watershed moments in the skeptic-defying journey from being one of the best starting pitchers of all time, to closer, to starter again.

One of the most intelligent, talented, and passionate players in the game, Smoltz delivers insights into modern major league baseball, its place in popular culture, and the value of competition. He writes with unflinching honesty about becoming a true Christian and finding in his beliefs the peace and strength to stay focused—through postseason triumphs and defeats, upheavals in his personal life, and the sting of being sent to the bullpen. What emerges is an inspirational story of spiritual growth and family values, from a man who believed not just in himself but in God's plan for him—and one more year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:35 -0400)

Filled with insider information, personal stories, and inspiration, the Cy Young Award-winner, future Hall of Famer, and one of the best-loved men in Atlanta Braves history opens up about his long career in professional baseball.

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