Nationals first baseman Josh Bell is approaching an important big-league milestone, needing just one home run to crack the century mark for his career.
The 6’4” slugger hasn’t quite lived up to expectations in his debut season with Washington (preceded by five years spent in Pittsburgh), but Bell deserves plenty of credit for what he’s done off the field, starting a virtual book club that meets over Zoom once a month.
The last meeting was held Sunday night with Bell and his followers discussing this month’s assigned book, After the Rain: Gentle Reminders for Healing, Courage and Self Love by Alexandra Elle. Many of Bell’s book selections have a self-help flavor, which he says is by design.
“They’re more based around books that I wish I had read earlier. Books that I read and I was like, ‘Man, I could have used this four or five years ago,’” said Bell, a one-time All-Star with the Pirates in 2019. “Some are centered around baseball, some are centered around different areas of life as a whole. I think everybody is going to get something out of it.”
Monthly discussions are led by Bell along with various guests from D.C. area libraries including the Fairfax County Public Library in Virginia and Prince George’s County Memorial Library System in Maryland. Upcoming titles include Master the Media: How Teaching Media Literacy Can Save Our Plugged-In World by Julie Smith (August) and Grit Factor: 15 Attributes to Doing Life Better by author Logan Stout (September).
“I’m hearing it from the stands,” said Bell, a former second-round pick and lifetime .260 hitter over 629 MLB appearances. “I’ll get a hit and [a fan will say] ‘I’m in your book club! Look at me!’”
A Dallas native who played collegiately at the University of Texas, Bell says his love of reading was inspired by his family and all the women in his life. “The girls in my life, my mom, my aunt, my sister, my grandmother, they were always reading,” the 28-year-old explained. “For me as a kid, I had a basketball or a baseball in my hands. I was always running around the house. They finally got me to sit down and read a little bit and it started to blossom as a hobby of my own over the years.”
Since May 31, Bell is hitting .295 with an .874 OPS, eight doubles, seven homers and 24 RBI. Bell, currently riding a six-game hitting streak, has kept his hot bat through the All-Star break and will aim for his 100th MLB homer when the Nats host division-rival Miami Tuesday night in D.C.