“Third Base For Life: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Baseball”, By Joshua L. Berkowitz: Baseball Book Review

Sunday June 3rd, 2012


(Vantage Point Books:  2012)

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  There are very few things in this world that get me emotional in this world. Baseball. Yes, I have a very deep-rooted relationship with the game. For the hardcore fans out there, you definitely know what I mean. But then there is family. My wife. My two boys. That is my ultimate passion. My family is my everything. With my oldest son starting his first season of baseball, I thought that it would be an appropriate time to review Third Base For Life. For like the author of the book Joshua Berkowitz, I don’t just get to watch my son playing baseball. I am also his coach. When I heard about the book, I was very excited. Jewish father, coaching his son and baseball team. This was too good to be true. Being a dad is a role that I take very seriously. It is my most important position. I get to take my children, my boys that I helped bring into this world- to teach them, love them, and help them grow into young men one day. To read about the journey of fatherhood through baseball, this was a book that I could not miss.

To start, here is a blurb on our featured book:

Third Base for Life is the true story of twelve bungling and inept fourth grade boys from a small Jewish day school in Newton, Massachusetts who band together to challenge the top ten-year old baseball talent in the country at Cooperstown Dreams Park, one of the nation’s most prestigious youth tournaments. Every summer since 1996, ten thousand elite players from California to Florida visit Dreams Park in upstate New York to measure themselves against the very best. Major League Baseball’s annual draft is replete with players who at one time in their lives graced the diamonds of Cooperstown.

Third Base for Life is the first hand account of how an ordinary father who has not played baseball since Little League, manages to put together a group of kids from his son’s small religious school and somehow gain admittance into a tournament (and a world) where they simply do not belong. The story spans a year and half of the author’s life as he reluctantly gives into his son’s wishes and, against his better judgment, organizes a team of Jewish “Bad News Bears”. The ragtag group must learn to play baseball, come together as a team, face formidable opponents and deal with tragic illness. Ultimately, as they square off against other teams from across the country whose talent is light-years beyond theirs, the author and the boys learn that losing can bring gifts of its own while finding strength to confront one’s fears can be a reward in and of itself.

Third Base For Life was a fun book to read. Berkowitz got it right. Good length of book, well laid out and terrific flow. He is a great storyteller and the book moves at a nice pace. I was impressed that Berkowitz dug deep and shared so much about himself, his team and his family. I felt like I was sitting a sports pub, watching a ballgame on tv and listening to Berkowitz tell me the story of his son’s baseball teams and their adventures. I felt very connected to the Rashi Rams, the Modern Day Jewish Group of Underdog Ballplayers as they went out to the famous Cooperstown Dreams Park to face some of the brightest baseball talent in the country. Berkowitz didn’t try to make the book over the top. He kept it simple, like the game of baseball. He told it like it is. Two very important qualities that I look for in a book is a strong believable storyline and good flow. Third Base For Life passed those two tests with flying colors.

As I have said in previous book reviews, the best books are those where the author puts a great deal of himself or herself in the story. Berkowitz had the advantage of not hiding behind a character, but to be able to make his story the central focus of the book. When one gets over the fact of putting their personal life on public display for all to see, the story of one’s personal life always makes for the best tale. It is what we know. It is what we have lived. Third Base For Life is as much a personal diary of the author as it is a baseball story. And I was more than ok with that. The curiosity within me grew with each chapter. I asked myself questions like: what was Josh thinking? How would this group of kids from a Jewish private school possibly survive such an intense baseball tournament? But then I started to get deeper thoughts. The dad in me starting to kick in. How would Josh’ s son Gabe perform in these games? Would he pitch well? How would the father-son relationship fare under such intense pressure? Then I started to think of my own experiences and challenges as a baseball coach on my son’s team. To balance the dynamic of being a loving father and looking out for my son, while meeting the needs of the other kids on the team. I could relate to Berkowitz and started putting myself in his shoes. The more I saw myself within him, the more I felt connected to the Rashi Rams and the book itself. As I like to say, the sign of a winning book.

So how did the Rashi Rams do at the end you ask? Did the underdog battle and train hard to beat much stronger and advanced teams? How did they prepare? What were the games like? Did they go out on top? Or did they experience hard life lessons? Was the team happy after the tournament or miserable? Well…you know that I am not going to give away the storyline. Not part of the mandate folks. But I will tell you this. After reading this book, I would be very pleased to hear if Berkowitz had some Hollywood executives working to make this book into a movie. A good book never has a quick and easy storyline. There are challenges. There are ups and downs. Highs and lows.  Reading to the end of many chapters, I found myself continually saying “one more chapter…one more chapter”, to find out what happened next. I was hooked. This is a book that went beyond fathers and sons in baseball, although that is the main theme. It is still at its core a baseball book. A grassroots book about baseball. About what kids go through in this game, from the preparation, to playing and their emotions after the last out is recorded. All baseball fans can appreciate a book that is devoted to baseball at such a strong level. Plus there is a great deal of Sandy Koufax references. Great baseball and Koufax go hand-in-hand.

I will conclude my thoughts of Third Base For Life with this sentiment. I will admit that I cried on more than one occasion during my readings. Not an easy thing to admit as a guy, but it’s true. What brought on those kind of emotions, you ask? Yeah…it was the father and son dynamic. Reading about Gabe’s progression as a ballplayer with his dad as his coach and thinking of my own son playing ball and my role. Yes Josh Berkowitz, you got me misty eyed. A famous man once said that “there is no crying in baseball.” When it comes to our children playing the game, I disagree. When it comes to our kids, there are tears of joy. There are tears of joy. But there is always emotion. I love my kids. I love baseball. Thus I loved Third Base For Life.

***Click here to learn more about Third Base For Life (site http://www.thirdbaseforlife.com). To purchase the book on-line, jump over to Amazon or your favorite book retailer***

About the Author:

Born and raised in Boston, Joshua Berkowitz is an avid Red Sox fan. His days of playing baseball sadly ended with Little League, but fortunately Josh landed on his feet. He currently practices internal medicine on the north shore of Boston and enjoys spending time with his wife, Sheryl, and their two children, Gabriel and Shoshana. When not writing or seeing patients in the office, Josh cherishes spending time with his family. His passions include floating aimlessly on the Saco River in Maine, hiking with his Newfoundland pup and tossing a baseball with the kids.


Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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About Jonathan Hacohen

I practice daily yoga. Most foods are organic. If you catch me in the supermarket, it will be in the produce aisle. Warrior 1 Yoga was born from my wish to help people be healthy and happy. I preach the 4 key's to life: nutrition, exercise, water and sleep. This is my journey - I am hope to meet you along the way to share a similar path!

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