To help me ease into my spring/summer/early fall mental hiatus, I corralled Baseball The Magazine off the increasingly barren Barnes & Noble shelves (seriously, whoever's handling distribution duties for the chain's Upper West Side magazinatorium needs to step up his/her game). In theory, the publication would appear to fill a serious market chasm: while fantasy-baseball dorks have 337 previews from which to choose, few titles bother to cover youth baseball even peripherally.
In practice, however, Baseball The Magazine functions about as intelligently and efficiently as the Royals' front office. About four pages in, one realizes that the publication is a mere cog in some kind of multimedia/marketing play designed to sell bats and hype grassroots tournaments. As such, we're treated to profiles that read as if they were written by sports-information directors, generic photos seemingly plucked from college Web sites and press releases masquerading as stories. Frankly, I'm kinda embarrassed that the cover duped me into expecting something legit.
Roughly 826 different items get lumped under the heading of "Headliners": a "watch list" for both the Clemens and Wallace awards, quickie predictions for division I teams, a feature on United States Specialty Sports Association Baseball (which, best I can tell, is either a loose affiliation of tournaments or the baseball equivalent of "Fight Club") and more. "Around the Horn" offers a few piddling youth-league photos, while the blurbs that comprise "Product News" rhapsodize about "new dimension[s] in performance technology." By the way, that description is assigned to a baseball bat, as opposed to, say, a next-generation nebulizer.
Baseball The Magazine's writers seem to lack even passing familiarity with this great language of ours. Florida State coach Mike Martin certainly deserves the professional plaudits thrown his way, but you can't take seriously the cover story's panegyrics about "this amazing man" whose "veins run garnet" and "heart is gold." I do, however, applaud the writer of "Coaches [sic] Notes" for his refusal to conform to conventional norms of hyphenation.
Meanwhile, remember all the what-about-the-children-won't-somebody-PLEASE-think-about-the-children hand-wringing about the possibility of editorial sponsorship/product placement within magazines? Baseball The Magazine, god bless its mercenary soul, crosses that line unrepentantly. Someone/something called the Wuesthoff Rehabilitation Network sponsors the "Health Tips" column on concussions (a worthy item, for what it's worth), plus Easton Sports attaches its name to the semi-coherent "Line Up" guest column. In a real publication, maybe this would give me pause. Here? Meh.
Finally and definitively, the profile on Eastern Carolina coach Keith LeClair has thrown down the gauntlet for all aspirants to the Magazine Rack Worst Opening Paragraph 2006 throne: "As you grow older, you learn that life is really a lot like a chain. And each experience, each new thing or person, sad or happy, becomes a link on that chain. The link represents not just the item or the situation, but everything that contributed to the end result, and the links that you gain connect you to other people who have passed through, or are still a part of, your life... [this goes on for 150 more words]... For a group of young men in Greenville, North Carolina, the link in their life that represents Coach Keith LeClair and the East Carolina teams that he coached, will be among the most treasured, most important, links of all." I mean, wow.
To cut to the chase: the minds behind Baseball The Magazine may know a little something about the game, but they don't know diddly about publishing. Apologies for wasting everybody's time with this one--I'll try harder come the end of the World Series, honest.