Hello baseball.  Bobby Valentine is back.  A scary thought for some, and a wonderful score for baseball fans.

Valentine's Way - My Adventurous Life and Times (posthillpress.com) is a winner.  Label the memoir of longtime MLB player and manager Bobby Valentine a home run, grand slam, game winner, or select any other baseball jargon, but this book is the best read to come across my desk in a decade.

Yes. It is that fantastic.

Book cover. Amazon.
Book cover. Amazon.

So much entertainment. So many dots are connected to some of the biggest and most celebrated names this side of Cooperstown by Valentine. A decade playing for five different organizations, coupled with managing three big league clubs, in the minors, and making an unbelievable splash in Japan's Pacific League with the Chiba Lotte Marines, Valentine's Way delivers an endless amount of insider material sports fans crave.

Thankfully (and who would expect anything less from Valentine), the former New Yok Mets' skipper holds back absolutely nothing, when it comes to setting the record straight surrounding his long and meritorious contributions to the game.

Most importantly, Valentine comes across honest and sincere, while recalling his time in baseball without sounding bitter or holding grudges.

It was tough to put the stories in order. I have so many more stories. Like an artist, your work never ends

My gosh, the list of greats Valentine listened and learned from is what makes reading his book addicting.  Corny as it may sound, but once cracking open a copy of Valentine's Way, you are going to be hard pressed not to pull an all-nighter to complete as many of the 350-plus pages as possible.

Hall of famers to minor league teammates are included in Valentine's career review.  What is learned about Valentine's former skippers Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda will grab your attention and will keep it firm throughout the book. The importance of family is another topic to be jealous of in Valentine's life.  Honesty. Loyalty. Surviving dishonest, grudge-holding, cheap, petty ownership, and child-like players make the former field boss a hero to the common baseball fan.

This is because Valentine has never forgotten the importance of the fan and the power they hold in spreading good cheer to the game.

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Teaming up with Valentine to put his life out for public consumption is Peter Golenbock.  What a wonderful choice for him to work with.  Golenbock, who has written many winning baseball titles, is perhaps best remembered for his 1979 release - The Bronx Zoo.  In this award-winning book Golenbock told of then New York Yankees' pitching great Sparky Lyle's never dull time with the George Steinbrenner-owned "Bronx Bombers".

Valentine was no ordinary prospect coming out his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut in the late 1960's. Far from it.  As part of the 1968 amateur draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected him as their top choice in the first round (#5 pick overall).  As readers will learn, the Dodgers' second-round selection of Bill Buckner, a wonderful and lasting friendship is formed between the two.

If you're a New York Mets' fan, rush to the closest book store to purchase Valentine's Way, or go online - immediately.  Phenomenal doesn't fully describe what you will  learn about the inner-workings of the then Wilpon family run club. General manager Steve Phillips is a prime player in Valentine's memories during his seven seasons as the club's field boss.  So many Mets names from the past will come rushing back to you, as Valentine reviews their contributions to his daily happiness and miseries in Flushing.

The commitment Valentine contributed, while managing the Texas Rangers, was textbook loyalty between management and he working with one common goal of success.  Former Rangers' managing partner and future United States President George W. Bush plays an important role in Valentine's growth on the major league level , when reviewing his rookie years in the southwest.

Annual Charity Day Hosted By Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI - BGC Office - Arrivals
Larry Busacca

The deceit thrown at Valentine when in line to be the next Florida Marlins manager is sad but in hindsight, predictable. You can't allow yourself to miss out on this chapter of Valentine's career. Same goes for when courted by the Mets to come back to their organization to manage only to find out he was ticketed for lead their their Triple-A club in Virginia, at first, as opposed to being with the MLB club in New York.

The 2012 season when Valentine last managed in the big leagues for the Boston Red Sox, is exciting, sad, and all too predictable in today's professional sports world.  Again, like with Valentine's Mets' years, this one season in New England is beyond addicting and memorable.

Valentine's Way tells of happiness and ends on a much deserved high note in Japan, with the Marines winning a Japan Series championship.

Remember when Valentine was an analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball?  The former manager hasn't. Many a good stories are shared from this time in his career, too.

Oh, besides being a champion restaurateur (again, fabulous stories are shared in Valentine's Way including a late night ride with a member of the underworld) for decades, the former baseball star from Stamford is a legit champion ballroom dancer.

Remember reading about how, as a member of the California Angels in 1973 Valentine suffered a nasty leg injury that would ultimately shorten his career?  In Valentine's Way, there are no details left untold on what happened, why it happened, and what legal actions were taken following Valentine's injury. The gruesome injury occurred when  his spikes were caught in the outfield's chain linked fence, when attempting to catch a home run ball.

When Valentine received a call informing him that he was going to New York while with the San Diego Padres, he thought his next club would be with his favorite team as a child -  the New York Yankees. What was Valentine's reaction learning it would be in Flushing, Queens instead of the Bronx?  You have to read Valentine's Way to fully appreciate this chapter of the former infielder/outfielder's career.

Coaching, managing, playing, community benevolence, his involvement with Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, Ct), and just his being an overall champion for the game of baseball as a goodwill ambassador makes Valentine a subject every parent would want their children to learn more about.

Valentine's Way confirms that with all his professional success, the former pro remains a man of the people.

Putting together Valentine's Way was meant to be, however, was anything but planned.

"I've never met Peter," explained Valentine during a recent telephone conversation.  " I picked up the phone. Peter was on the line, and said he has some free time. I had some time. He said that he wanted to do the book, and I said okay."

Valentine, 71, has never stopped working. He is the quintessential hamster in the wheel.  Valentine today offers his energies as executive director of athletics at Sacred Heart University. In prior years, the title of director of public safety for the City of Stamford kept Valentine busy and productive.

With Valentine's Way set for a November 30 launch date, the former manager was amazed, when holding an advanced hard copy of the book.

"It was tough to put the stories in order. I have so many more stories. Like an artist, your work never ends," Valentine laughs.

When skippering the Mets, Valentine tells of principal owner Fred Wilpon requesting a 12-month effort from him, unlike most managers who once their season ends can be counted on to go hunting and fishing. Such a request was automatic for the "totally involved" work ethic of Valentine.

While in Japan, Valentine typically scheduled 10 months of work commitment.

As readers of Valentine's Way will learn quickly, the former skipper embraces sharing his life with other people. As a public figure, while shopping or being elsewhere while out and about, Valentine enjoys giving time to those who supported him.

Valentine's Way is all about setting the record straight for what publicly up until now has left many facts unanswered. More importantly, the book is about a loving tribute to good parenting, friendships appreciated, and how wonderful personal and public success can be.

Kristine Bellino, WIBX

Don Laible is a freelance sportswriter living in the Mohawk Valley.  He has reported on professional baseball and hockey for print, radio, and on the web since the 1980's. His columns are featured weekly at WIBX950.com. Don can be contacted via email at Don@icechipsdiamonddust.com. 

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