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Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Frank Catalanotto who lived on Long Island and dreamed of one day playing for the New York Yankees.
Although Frank was never the biggest or the best player on any of his Little League or high school teams, there were two categories in which Frank excelled that led him to realize his dreams: heart and hustle.
Those two characteristics—embodied in the long hours of practice, the discipline he put into his training regimen, and his continuing education as a lifelong student of the game—set Frank apart and eventually paid off, helping make his major league dreams come true.
While he didn’t end up playing for his beloved Yankees, Frank did enjoy a successful 14-year career (1997-2010) playing for the Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Mets, and our very own Milwaukee Brewers.
And as they say, he’s lived to tell about it.
The former Brewers outfielder (2009), who is now retired, recently wrote a book called Heart & Hustle: An Unlikely Journey from Little Leaguer to Big Leaguer and I had both the privilege of reading the book and catching up with Frank about it.
“I never had planned on writing a book until after I retired and my cousin kept telling me that I should write a book because I had a lot of cool experiences and some good stories to share. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop,” Frank told me.
Indeed, Frank does have plenty of good stories to share in the book—many of which relate to life lessons about things such as the importance of family, persistence, dedication, discipline and routine.
Heart & Hustle contains chapters such as “A Typical Day in the Big Leagues,” “Preparation,” “Slumps” and “Big League Mentality,” most followed by chapter summaries entitled, “Cat’s Keys.”
The book also includes “how-to” type chapters on hitting, fielding and conditioning, complete with suggested drills, and exercises along with pictures to illustrate them.
In my opinion, this book is perfect for any child who dreams of making it to the major leagues and it is a terrific resource for parents and coaches as well.
I also think it has a much broader appeal. I never played ball growing up and I don’t have any children or coach; however, I am (obviously) a big fan of the game and, even though I have been working in the sport for over 10 years, I came away from Frank’s book with an entirely new level of appreciation for the players, especially where it pertains to preparation and the mental aspect of the game.
For example, there is a chapter called, “The Book,” which I found particularly interesting. Throughout his career, Frank carried around notebooks with him wherever he went. In them, he wrote about everything from pitchers’ and umpires’ tendencies to anything else learned from a coach, another player, or just by observing. Frank studied them religiously, using any information he could to get an edge. I think that sometimes, we tend to hold professional athletes on a pedestal, thinking they are all freaks of nature—superhumanly athletically gifted and talented. As you’ll learn from Frank, however, even in the big leagues, these players—who have worked incredibly hard to get where they are— must still try to continue to work on their game and improve. And they can struggle with confidence just like the rest of us.
Out of his 14 years in the Major Leagues, Frank only spent one year with us, so the book doesn’t touch on his time in Milwaukee too much, but he does reference his at-bat song, “Your Love,” by The Outfield, which was a big hit with fans at Miller Park.
“I’m not so sure why ‘Your Love’ was such a big hit that summer,” Frank said to me. “I am a big 80s fan and love the song. I thought it would be a fun song to come out to. It was much different than anything that I had ever come out to in the past. It wound up being a really good choice because the fans seemed to enjoy it.”
The book also includes lists of “Cat’s Best,” Frank’s top five in a variety of categories from best ballpark to best post-game spread. You’re going to have to read the book to find out what they are, but I did ask Frank to come up with a list just for us that isn’t included in it:
Cat’s Best Things About Playing in Milwaukee
1. The most passionate fans in the game
2. Miller Park
4. The beer
5. The bratwurst
Whether you’re a Little Leaguer, a high school, college or minor league player; a coach or a parent; or just a baseball fan in general, I highly encourage you to read Heart & Hustle this summer. The book can be purchased through Frank’s website at www.frankcatalanotto.com. And, for a limited time, if you order it directly through the site, he’ll also autograph it for you, making it a great collector’s item and/or gift idea for that special fan in your life.
Read Frank’s book and wish to weigh in? Read another good baseball book recently? Your comments are welcome below!
As I mentioned in a previous post, I love reading, so I look forward to reviewing more baseball books here for you on John and Cait…Plus 9! this summer!