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Diamond days sure do shine in books

On Sports

At my place, you know it's almost baseball season by the arrival of new books. Some of them are musts before opening day or for fantasy-league players.

There's also a new book by a local legend that will be indispensable if you're a coach at any level. 'From the Third Base Coach's Box' is written by former Cleveland and Wilson high coach Jack Dunn, who also spent 20 years as the head man at Portland State. At this point, it is available only at Lulu.com.

Full disclosure: I played and coached for Dunn and wrote an introduction for the book, so you won't get an unbiased review out of me.

Dunn is recognized nationally as one of the best ever at breaking down the game. His package of drills and tips will help your baseball or softball team get better in a hurry and allow your players to enjoy the game more than ever.

Or, as former Atlanta star Dale Murphy, who played for Dunn at Wilson, said, 'I never had a coach that taught the concepts and fundamentals of baseball better than Jack … there is no better textbook around.'

For fans of major league baseball, I recommend 'Baseball Prospectus 2008,' 'Baseball America Prospect Handbook' and 'The Bill James Gold Mine 2008.' The James book is a treasure - a collection of essays, analysis and little nuggets from James, who has changed the way baseball evaluates players.

All these books are the type you put on your nightstand and peck away at. Each has so much data that if you attempt to read one cover to cover, your head will explode.

From the prospect handbook, which gives in-depth rundowns on each organization's top 30 prospects:

Dallas Buck (Arizona's No. 17 prospect): 'Courage and guile had become Buck's trademarks, but he finally faced reality in the middle of last season and had Tommy John surgery in August. … Interestingly, scouts still liked his pitches when they saw him last year, particularly his changeup and the sink on his fastball, so he still could be a premium pitcher if he gets the power back in his arm.'

Joey Mahalic (ranked No. 30 in the Cleveland organization): 'The Indians raved about him during the Instructional League for his makeup and advanced feel to pitch.'

From 'Baseball Prospectus 2008':

Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston: 'One of the fastest players in baseball. … He doesn't have much power, and his rawness in center will lead to some embarrassing moments, but he's still the Rookie of the Year favorite.'

Eddie Kunz, New York Mets: 'He's a big reliever who throws hard, which is nice, but he fell out of favor with his college team in the postseason, and that's never a good sign.'

James' book is hard to categorize. It's nothing like his classic Baseball Abstract series - I don't think he can muster that level of sarcasm and wit at this point of his life, particularly since he works for the Red Sox and that makes him a part of the establishment. But he's still got his wonderful eye for minutiae and the ability to find answers where most of us hadn't even discovered the questions yet.

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