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A Thing or Two About the Game, by Richard Paik

Former biotech executive Brad is smart, idealistic, and unemployed. When he stumbles into an arrangement to coach the Marlins, a softball team of 11- and 12-year-old girls, he sets out to accomplish something.

But accomplish what? At the outset of the season, he is told that, in this league, it’s not about winning. Brad would just as soon win, but he heeds the directive and chooses a simpler, alternative goal: Teach the game. Coax, cajole, trick and bribe: Teach the girls to run the bases aggressively, throw to the cutoffs, cover bases.

The season progresses; the Marlins improve. Brad comes to understand and care about his players. But as the playoffs approach, Brad becomes increasingly aware . . . of rival coaches bending rules; of parental criticisms freely offered to advance their agendas for their daughters; of off-field tactics that twist and distort purposes. Brad struggles to identify and focus on what matters most. For it’s all too familiar. The conflicting motivations and distracting behaviors that have troubled his paths through life and career: Here they are, once again, penetrating even this small world of girls’ softball.

This story about softball is also a story about people searching for meaning; it’s about sorting through the tangles, and learning a thing or two about a game.

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