Hot dogs and popcorn under the sweltering summer sun at the local ball park is an image embedded into American culture. But for the players jogging into the dugout, sweat dripping from their caps, baseball is more than just America’s pastime, it’s their career. And it’s a career unlike any other.  With 162 regular season games in 182 days, major league baseball places unique demands on the players, their families, and those who work in a variety of roles to support the team.

Baseball has inspired many works of fiction – including Chad Harbach’s bestselling novel, The Art of Fielding. But while the action is centered around a college team and its star shortstop, Henry Scrimshander, this is much more than a baseball book. The fallacy of perfection, the inevitability of change and the power of friendship are just a few of the multi-layered themes explored in the novel, which is now out in paperback.

Boise Hawks

The Boise Hawks minor league baseball team opens its season tonight against the Tri-City Dust Devils. It’s the first season Boise will play as an affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Until last year, the Hawks were part of the Chicago Cubs' farm system.

This Reader's Corner interview was originally broadcast in September of 2013.

The power of sports to mend rifts between nations and establish bonds of friendship and understanding was put to the test in 1934, when a group of Major League baseball players – including Babe Ruth – traveled to Japan to play a series of 18 exhibition games in 12 cities.

Football season has kicked off another round of scrutiny over how professional sports teams use Native American mascots. But in eastern Washington, a minor league baseball team has earned the approval of its native namesake.

Avista Stadium in Spokane is full of the familiar sights, sounds and smells of baseball. And then, there are things that might make you do a double take.

Re-branding in two languages

A family-owned sporting goods company in suburban Seattle is confronting the tension between honoring tradition and embracing innovation in the sport of baseball.

Scott Graf / Boise State Public Radio

Two hours before a recent home game, members of the Boise Hawks rotate in and out of the batter’s box and take practice swings. Once batting practice is over, players spread out to gather the baseballs.  Picking up after yourself is part of the deal when you play here, at one of the lowest levels in minor league baseball.

Trevor Gretzky traded his hockey stick for a baseball glove more than a decade ago. Today, he's among the players picking up baseballs.

Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

For most Northwest baseball fans, the Mariners games against the Astros are where the action is at this weekend. But there's another set of games on Saturday like none you’ve ever seen in America's pastime. The athletes in this league are blind.

That's right: baseball for the visually impaired. At this field in Spokane, the trick isn't to watch for the ball – it's to listen.

It's a warm afternoon in Spokane. The smell of cut grass and barbecue is in the air. And Bee Yang is up to bat.

A teammate who has partial vision directs player Bee Yang to the plate.

Jason Turbow is the author of "The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime"