Turning Point Books, 2013
Baseball lends itself as metaphor like no other sport. Boxing might come close, but its inherent brutality and changing cultural tastes have removed it from the public’s awareness.
But baseball endures and permeates our culture, and even a non-fan can appreciate the sport’s dramatic interplay of quietude and adrenaline. In Love Reports to Spring Training, Linda Kittell exploits this richness through a deeply satisfying blend of wordplay and allegory. (I’d better disclose right here that I’ve long admired Kittell as a writer and a friend.)
Love is a baseball pitcher, and this book examines his life from the mound and the dugout, moving through time and his life with grace and introspection. Throughout Kittell’s imagination, the baseball conceit is playful, poignant, and rugged.
“Love Ponders Friendship” through his game relationship with the catcher Gonzalez: “We worked at it/ talked a lot, and never really worried/ where we’d end up.”
In “Love’s Resolve,” Love is confronted by his manager Craft with the fact that he’s getting old: “It’s nothing new, nothing/ you don’t already know. It’s just/ in baseball/ it comes a lot faster.”
A loving meditation on life and accomplishment and time, this book is never oppressive nor maudlin as it could well be. Indeed, the tone is set with Love’s memory of summer evenings with his father playing pitch and catch. Even though in the present, “I can’t just throw it past them/ anymore and the slider doesn’t/ slip so quickly/under the bat,” he remembers the advice of his father, like he was waiting for the last throw of that long-ago evening: “the one/he shot straight above me, up past the street light’s glow/and into the dark, me two-stepping a little under it, waiting/for the ball to come back down in my sight,/and drop right into/the pocket of my/six-finger/Whitey Ford/glove.”
Linda Kittell has, for the past 27 years, taught creative writing, research writing about sports, and mythology at WSU.