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Life Behind the Mask: Memoir of a Youth…
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Life Behind the Mask: Memoir of a Youth Baseball Umpire

by Michael Schafer

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A nice read. The best part of this book are the stories, of all sorts, that you would expect from a Little League umpire. I certainly got some chuckles out of a few.

The connecting exposition can be a bit slow, and the rules lessons a bit strained, but all in all worth reading - especially for those with kids who play, or those involved in coaching and umpiring. ( )
  JoK | Jan 12, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It's clear from reading this book that the author, Michael Schafer, has the right attitude toward being a youth umpire. He repeatedly emphasizes the idea of youth baseball as being fun for the participants, and he tries to demonstrate that over-involved parents rarely contribute much positive to their kids' enjoyment. Personal story sections alternate with more detailed discussions of some of baseball's more obscure rules. Baseball fans will find the rules discussions quite interesting, while more casual readers may well find themselves completely lost.

Schafer would have benefited from more rigorous editing. He tells the same aspects of certain stories more than once an in virtually the same exact language and the book as a whole is a bit disjointed. I wish more of his personality came through the book, because it reads a bit flat and dry and I sense that for Schafer his work as a youth umpire is neither of those things. There is an excellent book potential hidden here, but even the finished product is worth picking up for parents of young baseball players or, especially, aspiring youth baseball umpires. ( )
  rosalita | Jan 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The book has two audiences: those who are interested in the specifics of baseball rules and those who are interested in hearing personal stories about life as a baseball umpire. This book combines both, though not strongly. I liked how the rules sections broke up the personal sections, but too often they are disjointed and do not connect well. As with most books by umpires, I find myself constantly wondering what the other side of the story is on the personal side--the author paints himself as always right (an umpire's mentality) and leaves no room for error on his own part. This tires quickly, though it is abundantly clear that the umpire loves baseball, the children he deals with, and sportsmanship. ( )
  redsauce | Nov 21, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Michael Schafer is a very good baseball umpire, a man as dedicated to teaching the game as he is to making certain that the youth baseball games he officiates are played fairly and by the rules. Unfortunately, he is not as good a writer as he is an umpire. Life Behind the Mask is a book that will benefit youth league umpires and managers much more than it will interest those who have children or grandchildren playing the game. It is essentially a book in which baseball's rules are illustrated by stories and fictional situations, especially the more obscure and complicated rules. It is not nearly the book it could, or should, have been;

There are so many side-stories in kid baseball these days that Life Behind the Mask could have been a book filled with heartwarming stories about comebacks, kids who overcame great physical difficulties to play the game, parents who go the extra mile to coach teams, little girls competing with the boys, (to be fair, there is one good story about a little girl who pitched underhanded to the boys and did quite well with her surprising delivery), etc. There are thousands of personal stories out there and I'm sure that a man who has been around kid baseball as long as Schafer has knows dozens of them in great, firsthand detail. But, although a handful of such stories are included in the book, they are few and far between - and are usually used to illustrate some obscure baseball rule. This is simply a book that has none of the feel of a memoir despite being labeled as one on its front cover.

Frankly, I could not finish Life Behind the Mask - something that hardly ever happens to me when I commit to reviewing a book. If I make that commitment, I expect to read every word that the author wrote, including dedications, notes, and acknowledgements. But despite being an obsessed baseball fan, I am bored by all the "what if" rule interpretations that the author chooses to focus on here. He convinced me to abandon the book when he described two very complicated, and rather rare, situations where the infield fly rule was triggered and asked his readers what their calls would have been in each instance. Only at the end of that section does Schafer tell the reader that he will not be revealing the correct interpretation of the rule. Cute? Funny? I don't think so. End of book.

Youth baseball umpires searching for tips on rule interpretations and suggestions about handling managers, parents, and young players might want to read this one. Others are very likely to be frustrated by it. ( )
  SamSattler | Aug 26, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author has been a youth baseball umpire for 35 years. He loves the game and is certainly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the game. A reader who is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the game will probably love this book. I did.

However, it might be just a bit too rules-oriented for the casual fan and probably not something a non-fan would enjoy. He's got some great stories to tell but, many times, he talks about fairly obscure baseball rules and how they interact.

I enjoyed it a lot but realize that it's probably not for everyone. His writing style is not exactly dazzling, which makes this a somewhat slow read. ( )
  lindapanzo | Aug 22, 2012 |
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