Rating: 4.5 stars
Matt Blanco is a veteran player for the Brooklyn Eagles baseball team. He is reaching the end of his Hall of Fame career and has the aches and pains to prove it. But he still loves the game and loves his team, even as they move toward bringing in younger players and getting rid of the older ones. One of these new faces is Ignacio (Iggy) Rodriguez, a young superstar third baseman. From the moment they meet, Matt is struck by the gorgeous young man, but as a professional athlete, Matt is deeply in the closet and knows he needs to watch himself around Iggy.
Iggy can’t believe his luck when he is traded to the Eagles. They have been his favorite team since he was a kid, and Matt Blanco his hero (and crush) for years. Meeting the man in person is better than he imagined, especially as he gets to know the real Matt, and not just the famous player. Although both men guard their secret well in front of others, each quickly recognizes that the other man shares their attraction. Even though getting involved with one another is risky, especially since they are on the same team, the men can’t resist one another. Despite their age difference, Iggy and Matt really get one another and begin dating and building their relationship soon after meeting.
The life of a professional athlete is a challenging one, even more so for someone in the closet. There are almost no high-level athletes who are out, and there is homophobia in the locker room and in the stands. Both men are famous players and under intense media scrutiny. Iggy and Matt have to constantly be aware of how they relate to one another, always being careful to never give signs that there is more between them than just friendship. They must sneak around, hiding their relationship and their true selves. As time passes, each man begins to question whether the sacrifices and complications they face to keep their secrets are worth it, and what it would mean to their careers if they are found out.
I really enjoyed Out in the Field and think McMurray did a wonderful job of combining the elements of romance, sports, and coming out struggles all into one compelling story. Matt and Iggy are really great together and it is clear right from the start why they have a connection. They each can understand one another in ways that few people can, and that ability to just be themselves is such a relief. Although Matt worries about the age difference between them, especially as his career begins to draw to a close, it is clear that men work so well together. I really enjoyed the contrast between the younger up-and-coming player with the older veteran and I though it worked well for the story.
It is clear that McMurrray knows her stuff when it comes to baseball and does a great job weaving it into the story. She provides enough detail to understand the game, the workings of the team, and the key dynamics that are impacting Matt and Iggy without being overwhelming. And her love of the game really shines through the book. I don’t think you need to be a sports fan to enjoy this story, however, and I never felt like the baseball details took over the plot. But if you are a baseball lover, I think you will find this book particularly appealing.
At the heart of it all, Out in the Field is really a coming out story. Professional sports is one of those places that homophobia has an incredibly strong hold and being an openly gay high-profile athlete is extremely difficult. We can really feel the stress and pain that Matt and Iggy face, constantly having to hide, always in fear of being discovered. They wish for the simple pleasures of holding hands while walking down the street, or attending events together as partners. As their relationship deepens, they become more aware of what they are having to give up by hiding, but they also know that coming out could mean the end to their careers as well as their reputations. This is such a difficult situation and McMurray does a great job of making us feel their pain and struggles.
Overall I really enjoyed this story and think it was quite well done. It’s a combination of romance, sports, and coming out challenges woven well together into a great story.
Cover Review: I like this cover. It just feels a little different and I like the use of color, especially since it incorporates the Eagles red and blue. Nicely done.
Kate McMurray will also be visiting Joyfully Jay today for an interview and to give away a copy of Out in the Field. Be sure to stop by that post for a chance to win!