In his job as columnist for the Boston Globe, Dan Shaughnessy’s turf covers seasoned professional athletes from a multitude of countries. In Senior Year, Shaughnessy looks into his own backyard and chronicles a season in the life of his son, Sam, a talented and prototypical teenager who plays for the Newton North High School baseball team.
In this evocative memoir, Shaughnessy touches eloquently on a variety of bonds that hold together yet alternately seem to tear asunder suburban American life. There is father-son relationship, player-coach chemistry, and the joy of an upscale suburban community enjoying and supporting high school sports. What separates this book from the prototypical sports memoir is Shaughnessy’s searing, no-holds-barred look at his own nuclear family.
Sam is a senior in high school and is regarded as a potential college athletic scholarship prospect. However, in the words of his mother, he is a “3-2” kid, meaning like a baseball hitter, he faces a full count and generally paints himself into a corner in all the decisions that he makes. As a teenager, Sam faces both on-field (doubts about his baseball ability, personality clashes with his coach) and off-field (grades, parental authority) issues that bring to center stage his relationship with his family. That the coda is positive (Sam ends up at Boston College on a baseball scholarship) takes nothing away from the trials and tribulations that bookend joyous accomplishment in the narrative.
Shaughnessy makes a nimble sidestep (much like a shortstop would in turning a double play) from the larger canvas of professional baseball to write about the game at a much lower level. It is both poignant in its depiction of how teenage angst can affect a family and, at the same time, optimistic about how the fabric of family can be a supportive cocoon while growing up.