Zack Hample is already famous for collecting nearly 3,000 baseballs all of which he caught or found at major league games. But Hample is also a writer covering the minor leagues, a blogger, a former college shortstop and a baseball instructor. Watching Baseball Smarter is a marvelously compact omnibus in which Hample neatly breaks down positions, game play, rules, strategies and slang, while also explaining the workings of team management and the way pro baseball functions at every level. And even though he's having fun throughout, Hample is extraordinarily comprehensive in his approach. Topics that come under discussion include awards, uniform numbers, chewing tobacco, the origin of the seventh-inning stretch, statistical history, how to read a box score, how to keep a scoresheet, the umpire's job and even what goes on at a conference on the mound. To his credit, Hample covers a lot of stuff that will serve as welcome refresher for longtime fans, and, needless to say, his book is perfect for those who are new to the game and want to get up to speed quickly. This handy reference ought to be kept near the armchair while enjoying any Saturday afternoon baseball telecast.

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