Jon Sindell’s “The Mighty Roman” is a great baseball yarn. It tells the story of a young man’s pursuit of the all-American dream of putting your foot on the lowest rung of the professional baseball ladder and trying to find a way to ascend that magical stairway to The Show. And it lovingly tells the bitter-sweet story of what it feels like to slowly wake up from that dream as the reality of the odds stacked against you becomes clear. There is plenty of baseball action packed into this lyrical ode to our national pastime, and any lover of the game will be enthralled with the insider’s view of both the individual competition and the intricate machinations of minor league baseball.
But like many great works of fiction, this tale works on more than one level. It also illustrates the cultural divide that has polarized our country as our hero takes us on a humorous and personal journey of discovery. What our hero discovers is his relationship to his coach, The Mighty Roman, who is an intriguing mixture of Captain Ahab and Archie Bunker, who is not so much a villain as he is a metaphor. The conflict between this hard-nosed manager and his multi-cultural ball club personalizes the story of the ethnic and generational conflicts going on beneath the surface of our every day lives as 21st-century Americans. It’s a really enjoyable read, whichever level you care to focus on.