Tuesday, August 7, 2012

FONTANA by Joshua Martino

Reviewer: Bob Lind, Echo Magazine
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books, July 2012
Pages: 264

When struggling NYC newspaper sports writer Jeremy Rusch first sees the NY Mets' new hitting sensation, Ricky Fontana, he knows the young outfielder is destined for greatness. From the start of his second professional season, there is conjecture that Fontana could easily surpass hitting records set by legendary superstars like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, and Jeremy believes it could easily happen. He hitches his writing career to the increasing popularity of the hitting phenom, while neglecting his personal life, leading to an increasing alcohol problem, to the point where his wife leaves him. 

One night, while leaving a bar alone, Jeremy discovers Ricky Fontana sharing a tender kiss with another man, which seems to instantly explain the ballplayer's hesitancy to talk to reporters or teammates about his private life. Under pressure to try to save his job, Jeremy "outs" him, though in a way that he believed would be supportive and help him be more relaxed in his life. Being the first "outed" player who was still playing major league ball, Ricky faced scrutiny that nobody had before, from the public as well as teammates and coaches. His sexuality somehow became a bigger story than his impressive stats, and he faced daily struggles in his professional as well as personal life. Jeremy can't get Ricky to speak with him, and enlists the aid of the young man he had spotted him kissing.

As an avid MLB fan as well as a gay man, I initially thought the book was unnecessarily dark, and that - in this day and age - an openly gay baseball player would not be that big of a deal. Reading further, I had to admit that the scenarios were all too realistic as to what could indeed happen, and perhaps we are not as far along as I had given us credit to have come. As such, I recommend this well-written book, which likely will have you thinking along the same lines. Five stars out of five. 


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