Bat Boy: My True Life Adventures Coming of Age with the New York Yankees by Matthew McGough, LAW '01, 288 pages. New York: Doubleday, 2005. $22.95.
This summer, an average of 50,000 people per game have crammed into Yankee Stadium to watch the New York Yankees’ quest for a 27th world championship. At critical moments during any given game, some fans might gaze into the Yankee dugout and wonder what strategy the coaches and players on the bench are discussing—what pitch the left-hander should throw in a three-ball count, for example, or whether the first basemen should move a few steps closer to the line to prevent an extra-base hit. But as Matthew McGough (LAW ’01) makes clear in this entertaining memoir of his two years as the Yankees’ bat boy, baseball is sometimes the last thing on their minds.
For example, he recalls the time when Kevin Maas and Gary Weil called upon him to settle a rather academic bet. Maas, a back-up first basemen with a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley, and Weil, the Yankees’ strength and conditioning coach, were having a lively debate over the significance of Avogadro’s number. They turned to McGough to mediate the discussion. McGough, then studying at Regis High School in Manhattan, informed the duo that Avogadro’s number was 6.02 x 1023. Maas conceded the bet and Weil enthusiastically gave McGough a high-five. One can only hope that a wayward television camera caught this surely awkward exchange in the dugout.
McGough also deftly describes the time when former Yankees catcher Matt Nokes helped him attempt to launch a potato into the stadium’s left-field stands as a physics experiment. “You could launch a potato three hundred fifty feet,” Nokes declared, reminiscing about a homemade cannon he made as a boy. Despite the absurdity of the plan, Nokes told McGough to gather all the necessary items. “We’ll need lighter fluid. Can you get some lighter fluid?” However, after numerous failed attempts, there would be no pile of mashed potatoes awaiting an unsuspecting fan in the left-field seats that evening.
A lifelong baseball fan who had spent many evenings cheering on his beloved Yankees from the right-field bleachers before joining the team in 1992, McGough also writes about the thrill of meeting his boyhood idol, first baseman Don Mattingly, and the joys of shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice. He also writes about the menial chores of a bat boy and how, Avogadro’s number notwithstanding, his studies sometimes suffered when he tried to study on the subway. McGough’s two-year career with the Yankees, however, did not ultimately harm his academic career. He went on to Williams College, the alma mater of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, then to Fordham Law School and a clerkship with a district court judge at the federal courthouse in Manhattan.
McGough’s concise and engaging narrative about his two seasons in pinstripes shows the humorous and human elements of the game that so often don’t show up in the box score in the morning paper. Whether or not you share McGough’s passion for baseball and the Yankees, this charming memoir provides an up-close and personal account of a boy’s dream coming true.