A new book about Kentucky’s minor league baseball teams is out. Written by journalist Katya Cengel, “Bluegrass Baseball” (University of Nebraska Press) is an intimate look inside the 2010 baseball season, starring Kentucky’s minor league teams: the Lexington Legends, the Bowling Green Hot Rods, the Florence Freedom and the Louisville Bats. The book documents the highs and lows of the players, groundskeepers, managers and fans of the game’s smaller outfits.
It’s not all kooky promotions and dancing mascots. Life in the minor leagues isn’t easy for the players—the punishing schedules can exact significant physical and emotional tolls. But Cengel also discovered how hard it can be to be a fan.
“You can’t really root for your team, especially for the Louisville Bats,” she says. “Towards September, when the major league teams can add to their roster, they’re going to take a lot of those guys who are doing really well, and so the playoffs are there but they’re left with not the same team.”
Cengel started the project when writing a Bats story for The Courier-Journal, where she worked as a staff features writer for eight years. She found herself intrigued by the transient lives of the players and the intense pressures of the minor leagues, where players are either on their way up or on their way down.
“There’s always that hope that you’re just one phone call away from the majors, but you’re also one phone call away from being released and that’s it, that’s your dream, so it’s exciting but it’s also heartbreaking,” said Cengel.
“They’re all so young, too,” she adds. “Every night, you have to perform. So you can have a good game Monday night, and come back Tuesday and you’re tired and not doing so well and they’re like well, maybe we’re taking you out of the starting rotation.”
Cengel will read from and sign copies of “Bluegrass Baseball” at the following events in Louisville and Lexington this week:
Wednesday, Aug. 29
2720 Frankfort Ave.
Thursday, Aug. 30
Morris Book Shop
882 E. High St.
Friday, Aug. 31
Lexington Legends game
Whitaker Bank Ballpark
Saturday, Sept. 1
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
800 W. Main St.
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 2
Louisville Bats game