"Chapter I: April"
Summary: At the beginning of the season, the Twins are a team in the doldrums of an interminable struggle for meaning and purpose, like the Joads on the road to California, the Crachit's on December 23rd, or the Kardashians...anytime. As they take the field for the first time in a cold and forbidding Chicago, there are few notes of spring (a symbol of hope) to be found.
While an initial flurry of subpar performances and predictable defeats confirm that perception, there are some causes for optimism. One impressive pitcher and three solid hitters offer the sense that younger, less experienced players possess a kind of indefatigable patience and ethic that renews the spirits of weary souls. Soon, jaded on lookers are speaking in positive tones, and the initially laughable albatross of the manager's "1,000 Victory" humidor is forgotten.
Yet uncertainty pervades the atmosphere, will these younger talents maintain their performance or flame out like those common symbols of youthful exuberance in literature: foolhardy soldiers and mid-90s boy-bands? Will older veterans act on the model set by their juniors, or lapse into old habits?
Kyle Gibson--long standing Twins prospect, recovered from initial struggles in the previous year to post the best season of the major league starters
Chris Colabello--a journeyman, young by world standards, old within the context of his career, leading a charmed existence.
Josmil Pinto--The third potent hitter, very much in the "quiet giant" genre of characters.
Ron Gardenhire--The wise teacher/sensei/jedi master trope, only with less inventive nicknames
Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins--Two of the wearily-souled veterans, capable but worn by the past. They do not perform much in this chapter, but are likely to factor more prominently as the book progresses
Mike Pelfry--While the novel lacks an antagonist, Pelfry serves as its foil and counterpoint. Every strong outing from Gibson, every hit from the sluggers is balanced by his ongoing collapse, balancing the new life of the season and players with a "memento mori"--or death omen.
Key Quotes Explained:
Team On Base Percentage .353 (#1 in the American League)--The statistic combining both hits (traditionally a Twins strength) and walks (a new focus) demonstrates the growth and development of the team as they grow into a more patient, mature team.
Team ERA for Starters: 6.08 (#15 in American League)--Despite one pitcher's success, the team continues to flounder in this particular area--the ominous presence of Pelfry has particular relevance here.
A Literary Device to Impress Your Teacher/attractive English Major Friends:
Bildungsroman--This is the term for a novel that covers the moral or mental growth of its main character (in this case the Twins), or as people less fond of German might say it "a-coming-of-age-story". At this point in the season, the Twins of 2014 very much resemble a bildungsroman, both in the development and maturation of younger players (Gibson, Dozier, Josmil), inexperienced players (Colabello), and in team philosophy (increasing the walk rate and on base percentage). However, it is notable that the bildungsroman motif must be maintained for an extended time period--and a single chapter may be a little early to make that decision.