Rating: 3 stars
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Zach Glasser knew he had to play baseball. His other option was the family business and that felt suffocating. As a major league catcher, he’s had some success, but every season is a new game and the same stress of whether Zach will be on the roster again. He lives on the road and tries his best to bond with his teammates, but Zach knows he keeps everyone at a distance and lives a half-life. Zach doesn’t think he can have baseball and be gay and he has given up a lot for the sport he loves that doesn’t always love him back.
A new player, Eugenio Morales, only shows Zach what he could have. Eugenio and Zach gravitate to each other naturally and Eugenio wants everything with Zach—well, he at least wants to not be a heavily guarded secret anymore. But Zach won’t come out and doesn’t think he can come out and not lose everything and everyone in his life. And that’s enough for Eugenio to walk away.
Three years after they went their separate ways, the men are in the same place for the All-Star game. The chemistry and ease between them is still there and so are the regrets. The men both want each other and Zach longs for a second chance. Maybe it’s time Zach finally took something just for himself.
I will often pick up a sports book and I have read several baseball stories recently. Many sports stories focus on the players coming out and Unwritten Rules is another one. The book is told in present day, as well as flashbacks going back as long as three years ago, to give us Zach and Eugenio’s story.
A lot of sports stories focus on the great players, but here we get a look at the players that fight their way onto the roster every year. The ones that are decent, even good, players that fill out the team, but never feel secure in their place on any team. Zach is shown to be that player and every day is a grind for him. From his Jewish family that would rather he marry and settle down instead of play baseball, to Zach feeling cut off at times due to wearing a hearing aid, to him fiercely and desperately hiding the fact that he is gay. I wasn’t quite sure if Zach’s status on the team was the way he saw himself or the way it truly was and, since the entire story was from Zach’s point of view, it was not always clear.
Eugenio is not as much of a main character as Zach is. We know some things about him, but more things that we don’t. We never get into his head on how he sees his relationship with Zach or what he wants for his career. Eugenio is also always shown as extremely tired and has trouble sleeping. At one point it seemed like this would become more of his story, but nothing develops from it.
I did like that this was a different side to baseball than is normally seen in the genre, but this story was slow for me to the point of becoming tedious a lot of the way through. The past and present format never gave us much time to see Zach and Eugenio as a couple, even in private. We see them become friends and then start a relationship, but then a lot is off page and their breakup is never shown in detail. Then, we watch them rebuild their friendship, but Eugenio is still off page often. By the end, we know the men want to be together and they do take steps to make that happen. While I am okay with not everything in any story being all wrapped up, there was too much from different angles still left open and there was still much of Zach’s story left to tell and more that wasn’t known. Once Zach started making some changes in his life, well into the book, the story picked up for me for a few moment,s but it wasn’t enough to carry this book through from beginning to end.