Study Guide

The Art of Fielding Community

By Chad Harbach


"I love it when I have to take a dump. […] It's the only time I get to be alone." (5.50)

Communities are all about togetherness and brother- or sisterhood, but not everyone on the team, like Rick O'Shea here, loves being attached to a group at all times. He relishes the moments he's alone, whenever those moments may be.

The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best. (5.90)

"Don't take it personally. Henry and I have been coming here every Friday for years." (18.47)

Henry likes routine, but Mike doesn't have much of a problem breaking it for his own selfish reasons. He doesn't realize how much this little routine means to Henry.

For the last four years Schwartz had devoted himself to Westish College; for the last three he'd devoted himself to Henry. Now both would go on without him. Thanks for everything, Mikey. See ya around. (19.27)

Mike feels a little betrayed by his community, thinking it will just drop him like Jennifer Lawrence dropped Gwyneth Paltrow's ex-husband, but when Westish approaches him with a coaching opportunity—something that would keep him both at Westish and involved with the team—he initially turns it down. Why?

"Let's teach them something about this uniform," [Schwartz] said. "Let's teach them something about Westish College." (21.26)

Even though he felt bitter two chapters ago, Mike still has immense Westish pride, and he uses it to motivate his team.

Starblind eyed Schwartz levelly. "Just don't forget what you're supposed to put first, Schwartzy. It's not Henry, and it's not Henry's pro career." (43.46)

It's the team that Mike should put first. Not only is there no "I" in team, but there's also no "Henry" in team, either. But that doesn't stop Mike from prioritizing Henry above everyone else.

[Henry] just needed to play baseball, to enjoy it as he always had, to help his teammates beat Coshwale. Everything else would fall into place. (44.25)

Even though Mike puts Henry before everyone else, Henry still feels like he is a part of the team, and he wants to help them win.

"I mean, all of you guys—you, Mike, my dad. Maybe Owen too, though I don't really know Owen. You all just seem to love it here. Like you never want to leave. Part of me suspects that Mike didn't want to get into law school, that he sabotaged himself in some subconscious way, so that he has no reason to leave this place, the only place he ever felt happy." (55.28)

Pella makes a good point about everyone just wanting to stay at Westish forever (this also ties into the theme of inertia), but as we asked before, why do they want to stay? What's so darn special about Westish?

Strange how little Coach Cox talked about his family; strange how little you wound up knowing about the people around you. (58.2)

Maybe if everyone wasn't so focused on Henry, they'd know more about the coach. Shouldn't he be just as much a part of the community as everyone else? Or is he extraneous? What role does he serve that Mike doesn't fill?

Henry was their father and Schwartz was abuelo. But now their father had abandoned them, as fathers often did, and the old man was back in charge. (69.4)

The team is kind of like a little family, with Mike and Henry in charge. We're not sure where the "fathers often did" line comes from, though. No other fathers in this book abandoned their children. The baseball team is a pretty functional community.

These were their puns, this was their college, their president, and no one else could understand. (70.9)

Guert also feels Westish pride, which is only natural because he's the college's president. But do you think that many college presidents like their own schools that much? For Guert, it's more than a college or a job, it's a home and a way of life.