Review Summary: Brilliant! Moving! A wonderful romance and homage to baseball.
Matt Blanco has had a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career as the first baseman for the legendary Brooklyn Eagles, but age and a knee injury are threatening to end it. That’s when rookie Ignacio Rodriguez walks into his life. Matt has a policy of not getting involved with anyone for fear that they might share his secret with the world: that he’s a gay professional athlete. But this new rookie has him wanting to throw that policy out the window.
Iggy Rodriguez just got everything he ever wanted: a position in the starting lineup of the Brooklyn Eagles, his favorite team since he was a kid. Even better, he’s playing alongside his idol Matt Blanco. A locker room encounter one day reveals that he and Matt have even more in common than he would have guessed.
When Matt and Iggy fall for each other, they have a hard road ahead, their path to happiness blocked by injuries, trades, and the New York media hungry for a scandal. Fate has pitched them a game-winning run, but will the choice between love and baseball make them with a no-hitter instead?
Matt Blanco, first baseman for the Brooklyn Eagles had been with the team for 13 years. He was in his late thirties which is old for a baseball player and in addition his knee was wrecked, something he was hiding from the team officials because he didn’t want to be traded. 25 year old Ignacio (Iggy) Rodriguez had just been acquired by the Eagles as the new third baseman, and when Matt saw Iggy on the field he was taken with him because he was exactly the kind of man he liked – young and Latin.
Matt had been Iggy’s hero for at least a decade and meeting the future Hall of Famer in person was a dream come true, but there was a dynamic he didn’t expect when they met for the first time alone in the locker room – they realized that they were both gay. They were screwed, literally, if the press, fans and their teammates discovered their sexual orientation, but that didn’t stop them, even though initially Iggy tried not to get involved with Matt. Every time Matt made a move on him and he thought they had something going on, Iggy would disappear, but they were drawn to each other “like lightning to a rod” and eventually they connected.
Despite the great sex Matt wondered if Iggy was just star struck and if so, could his initial hero worship turn into something deeper even though they were worlds apart in age (10 years), major league experience and future outlook and prospects. Iggy was a rising star and Matt was facing retirement sooner rather than later if his knee didn’t heal. He was realistic about how little time he had left to play the game he loved; baseball was his life and he had given it his all, but Iggy was becoming just as important to Matt, maybe more essential than the game. Was their burgeoning love worth the risk of being outed and losing the job they both loved?
I loved the romance between Iggy and Matt because it was so believable. The sex was all emotions and textures, rough and tender, and oh so hot it could scorch the paint on the walls if not make it go up in flames. Iggy made Matt feel alive, something that had never happened before since he didn’t have relationships, only friends with benefits or one night stands, but he wanted to give up control to Iggy during sex because he was falling for him. He needed to believe that what he and Iggy had was real and not a hook-up, and the intensity of their sexual encounters made him feel it was more than sex for Iggy. As for Iggy he, too, wanted more as very quickly his feelings for Matt became so strong he needed to be closer to him than just being his secret boyfriend – he wanted to share his life in every way. But Matt was very protective of him and didn’t want to jeopardize Iggy’s career by having their relationship leak out to the press, so he resisted committing to the closer bond that Iggy was seeking.
Sooner than expected they had to make the decision neither wanted to when Matt was traded to Dallas. They recognized that living apart 7 to 8 months of the year during spring training and the season wouldn’t work, so they said goodbye. Then Matt was injured in Dallas. Could this be the end of his baseball career and what would it mean to his and Iggy’s relationship?
There is so much to this book and you will experience all the nuances, from the romance which was delicious and unpredictable, to the games that made the story resonate and gave it a layer of excitement and brought so much colour to the story and to the vicissitudes of their relationship. Out in the Field is so much more than a book about baseball, it’s also a love story for the ages. It’s about life and how both Matt and Iggy dealt with their complex relationship and the stresses of being kicked in the teeth and lying to everyone about being gay. Could their intense love for each other be strong enough to withstand the impact on their careers of living a lie under the glare of the cameras?
I had been looking forward to this book for a long time and was afraid that I would be disappointed. As an ardent fan of the game I had read many supposed “baseball” romances where the authors knew absolutely nothing about the game and there was very little in their stories to make them credible. In America baseball is not just a game it’s the national pastime, a religion. Football, basketball, soccer, tennis etc. are all sports with legions of fans and I enjoy them but for me there’s nothing like the game of baseball, steeped in its statistics, traditions and history. Kate McMurray’s love of the game was evident throughout this book and I went “Yes!” so many times that I was afraid I would dislocate my arm. Her characters came alive on the page and I kept looking around, thinking I would see them sitting on the couch watching me read their story. There is nothing so pleasurable as reading a book by an author who is obviously on top of her subject matter and does not need to do any research, or at least very little, to keep it real. There is no doubt that baseball was another character in this story. Best of all there was very little angst and nothing was over the top.
There may be comparisons between Out in the Field and The Dreyfus Affair written by Peter Lefcourt in 1993 which I reviewed here, although Peter wrote about a different baseball era. Both Kate and Peter demonstrate a deep love and respect for the game and its traditions, with TDA taking a more humorous approach and OITF being more contemporary and realistic, but in each book the baseball sequences were wonderfully crafted. However, make no mistake, Out in the Field is not just another thinly disguised baseball romance, it’s about two men who loved deeply and were prepared to give up the fame and fortune for each other.
You may wonder whether you would enjoy this book if you didn’t care about or knew nothing about the game of baseball. Absolutely! Baseball just adds a special nuance to the story, and the game sequences give it an intensity and authenticity that push the prose to greater heights, with the excitement of the fans as a backdrop. The story was incredibly complex and the MCs had to deal with some major challenges such as coming out and its implications, as well as expectations (theirs and others) but thankfully, not about race. The characterizations were outstanding, not just Matt and Iggy but secondary characters like pitcher Roger May, Matt’s best friend; Manuel Cruz, the Eagle’s short stop; and Cary Galvin, Iggy’s best pal and a sports reporter. Although they didn’t have a lot of on-page time, Matt’s parents were standouts and his mother was very funny.
In Out in the Field Kate McMurray demonstrates what a terrific writer she has become. She cares about her characters and it shows. This book should be a best seller in print, it’s that good.
In case I wasn’t clear, I highly recommend Out in the Field. Great job!