Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Summer baseball novel "Wildball" explores an athlete's struggle with faith

Wildball: A Summer Baseball Novel Dealing with the Struggle for Faith

by Brian Engles

There’s no better portrait of the “Boys of Summer” than the Cape Cod Baseball League. The CCBL is a collegiate summer league that’s a pipeline to the majors. In fact, in 2016 one out of every six MLB players had spent a season playing there. 

I grew up on Cape Cod and our league inspired the backdrop of my debut novel, “Wildball.” The book tells the story of Shane Monoghan – one of the top collegiate shortstops in the nation.

Shane travels to seaside Nailer’s Cove to compete in a prestigious summer league, but his season in paradise is haunted by the death of Mike Calloway, the high school coach that both developed Shane as a player and bullied him relentlessly. 

When I started research for the book, I began by learning about the Cape League players and I discovered that faith was a reoccurring aspect of so many of their lives. I knew I needed to investigate the link between religion and sports if I wanted the novel to be accurate. But faith wasn’t a big part of my upbringing, so I made Shane a character that was reluctant to buy into spirituality, despite the great need for it in his life.

Shane’s abusive past makes him feel unworthy of faith. He stays quiet about the true nature of his former coach and that silence has some serious repercussions that play out in “Wildball” that make Shane feel it is too late for him to be forgiven for his sins. 

Despite his complicated relationship with faith, Shane decides to write his own prayer as a way to boost morale for his summer league team, the Burnsdale Brigs. These lines are taken from the middle of the novel when Shane leads his crew in a pre-game huddle:

“Stop my pants from tearing when I’m stealing second base

Protect my pearly whites when the fastball’s by my face

Make my hits soar so the ball never knows an adversary’s glove

Keep my brothers safe, bless up Brigs with all your love”

Shane’s relationship with God is not traditional, but the overall message of “Wildball” is about learning to be honest and vulnerable in a world that makes it difficult to do so, hopefully a theme that is helpful for those who both embrace and question the role of faith in their lives.

“Wildball” is available through Amazon.

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