Our 3-year old son has recently become obsessed with baseball. It actually started with him being forced to watch music videos of High School Musical 2 that his older sisters played over and over and over again. One of them, “I Don’t Dance” features a baseball game in the video (frankly the song should be called “I Don’t Play Baseball” because the guys on there obviously have no athletic ability).

Anyway, I really don’t care how or why his obsession began, only that it is in full force because baseball is the quintessential father/son bonding sport. Nothing is more satisfying to a father than playing catch or pitching to his son.

I think that is the reason why I quickly fell in love with the new book “Home, Away” by Jeff Gillenkirk which I received for free to review from the publisher, Chin Music Press, about a month after our son started dragging me outside to hit some balls.

At it’s core, the book is about the relationship between a father and son with baseball as the backdrop.  It’s also about what a father is willing to give up to care for his son, something as an at-home dad, I clearly understand.

The book revolves around Jason Thibodeaux, a 6’4″ left-handed 98 mile an hour pitcher, who red shirts his junior year of Stanford to care for his new born son while his wife finishes law school. He discovers that while he misses baseball, he enjoys being a dad a lot more than he thought he would. Unfortunately, he didn’t enjoy being married and soon after re-starting his career with Stanford, he got divorced.

The divorce got messy, mostly because Jason assumed that since he was an at-home dad for a year, the courts would at least give him joint custody. They didn’t. He got upset about having his son ripped out of his life and eventually lost all contact with his son.

This is often the end of the story in most of these situations in real life. But this is where this story actually gets better. After years away from his father, his son starts to get into trouble. Drugs, sex, and apathy take hold of him in his teens. His mother, as a last resort, turns to Jason for help, who got his baseball career going again and had recently signed a $42 million contract.

With his son heading down the wrong path, Jason decides to retire from baseball and forgo his millions. He becomes an at-home dad again, sacrificing everything else he loves and has worked hard for, in exchange for the only thing that really matters – his son.

In many ways this book made me angry. I was angry that the courts could easily assume Jason was an unfit father even though he gave up his career for a full year to care for his son, something I have seen happen to a couple of my at-home dad friends who have gone through divorce.

I was also angry about what Jason’s pitching coach, Bill Vucovich said after Jason’s wife left with his kid: “Christ, man, none of our dads were there. I’m not there for my kids. That’s what mothers are for!”

A lot of moms and dads still believe that to this day which is what I think is the theme of this book – proving that dads matter for more than just the paychecks they bring home.

Toward the end of the book Gillenkirk tries to bring everything to big Hollywood ending which, frankly, is a little unrealistic and, although well-written and sufficiently dramatic, was probably unnecessary.

That didn’t stop me from finishing the book in 5 days, however, which has to be a record for me who has 4 kids wearing me out all day long.

I believe “Home, Away” is an excellent examination of the father and son relationship set to the most important father/son sport: baseball. The descriptions of the sights, sounds and smells of the game are rich and vivid; the emotions of the characters are raw and real.

I think you, too, will quickly read through and enjoy this book about a father and the sacrifices he is willing to make for his son;  sacrifices not too dissimilar to the ones many of us have made.

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