For the authors, being part of the club is a way to expand their audience. “Noah has real fans who are really engaged. They have real conversations, and there is real excitement,” said Mike Hayes, whose book “Never Enough” was the July selection.
“I don’t think I would have ever picked ‘Never Enough’ off the shelf without the suggestion from Noah Syndergaard,” said Greg Berry, 33, a math teacher in Long Beach, N.Y.
Some baseball purists have been critical of his effort to spread the joy of reading, questioning Mr. Syndergaard’s manliness or commitment to his sport in posts on social media.
Kate Fagan, who wrote “All the Colors Came Out,” the pick for June, was taken aback by the objections.
“There are these fans who want you to live, breathe, and eat the game,” Ms. Fagan said. “The thing I got to understand by being part of the book club is athletes are trying to fight preconceived notions just like the rest of us.”
Mr. Syndergaard, who intends to return to pitching before the season ends, possibly later this month, said he had been shocked by some of the negative commentary. “People are like, ‘Enough of this book nonsense, get back on the mound,’” he said. “First of all, I can multitask. I can only train with rehab so much of the day that it blows my mind.”
Mr. Syndergaard hopes that the book club will inspire more baseball lovers to broaden their interests, he said. “I just think that’s what being a New Yorker is all about, being hungry for more. That is exactly what I am doing. I am hungry for more knowledge and compassion and empathy,” he said. “That’s why I read.”