Study Guide

The Art of Fielding Competition

By Chad Harbach


Remember that time you went to the bathroom during the seventh inning, or you forgot to wear your team's cap on game day and they lost? Or maybe you had a blanket you spilled your drink on during the World Series that they won, and now you drag that stinky thing everywhere, hoping your team will once again win the championship?

We have to wonder why teams train at all, since their fate falls in the hands of a very superstitious few who believe that their actions, and theirs alone, will determine whether the team wins or loses. Sports is a competitive enterprise, whether you're on the team or not, and the Harpooners in The Art of Fielding are no different. They have their share of dramatic encounters and superstitions, both on the field and off, and they're all about getting that W.

Questions About Competition

  1. Is Henry naturally competitive, or does he just want to play baseball? If he is competitive, whom is he competing with—rival teams, his own team, or himself?
  2. How does Aparicio Rodriguez's The Art of Fielding help Henry with his baseball game? Does it hurt him in any way?
  3. Does Mike Schwartz's competitive nature remain when he's not on the baseball field? Does he display the same drive at getting into law school that he does in trying to win the championship?
  4. Guert and Pella Affenlight are the two non-baseball players in the novel. Are they competitive in any way? What do they compete at, and do they succeed?

Chew on This

The Art of Fielding teaches us that it's not whether you win or lose… actually, no, it is whether you win or lose and, dangit, you better win. If you don't win, you are nothing, a loser. (Maybe this is why Henry cracks under pressure.)

The Art of Fielding also shows academics as a sort of competitive game, with both Guert (in his college days) and Mike (in his applying-to-college days) trying, and sometimes failing, to make big plays. Persistence pays off, but one big fumble (like sleeping with a student) can ruin everything.