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Check It Out

Courier Article by Erika Qualls
Sunday, September 19, 2010

Writers score game-winners with teen baseball novels

I love September and October. The weather is slowly beginning to grow cooler, leaves are changing to the rich colors of autumn, and post-season baseball is getting ready to start! There are many sports that I enjoy watching: Colts football, Hoosier basketball, and any game my little sisters are playing in. Nothing beats apost-season baseball game though. One pitch can make the difference between winning and losing, and having your favorite team's season come to a close. As a Chicago Cubs fan, I have gotten used to waiting until next year. I have found, however, something to do as I wait until next April: read young adult baseball fiction.

Starting off my line-up of YA baseball fiction is Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger. In the days before America enters World War II, Joey Margolis is a 12-year-old boy struggling with being an outsider at school and having his father abandon him. Joey's hero is Charlie Banks, third baseman for the New York Giants. With his wild imagination, Joey will try anything to get Charlie's attention. After many letters claiming to be dying from malaria, the plague, or being blind, Charlie breaks down and meets his biggest fan. Thus begins a wonderful friendship that will change both their lives.

A popular name in young adult literature that specializes in baseball fiction is Mike Lupica. A sportswriter, Lupica manages to capture the details of baseball and the emotions of many teen boys. His latest, The Batboy, focuses on Brian Dudley, batboy for hometown heroes, the Detroit Tigers. Brian's father is an ex-Major League pitcher who left his family to coach in Japan. Brian's favorite baseball player returns to the Tigers with a chip on his shoulder, but Brian manages to find a soft side to Hank Bishop. With baseball and Hank's friendship, Brian realizes that he can't make his father come home, but he can still be happy.

Molly Williams doesn't want to be seen as the girl whose father died in a car accident. She wants her classmates in school to see her differently, so she joins the boys' baseball team. Mick Cochrane's The Girl Who Threw Butterflies jumps back and forth from scenes of Molly's father teaching her to pitch to present day. Even though Molly's mother is in a zombie-like zone, Molly's best friend, Celia, and teammate, Lonnie, help her to face the resistance of her teammates and to work through her grief.

Batting clean-up in my line-up, is heavy-hitting, The Comeback Season by Jennifer Smith. Ryan Walsh has skipped school to watch her favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, on opening day (lucky girl!). It is her first year of high school, but Ryan could care less. She hasn't been happy in five years. On this fateful opening day, however, Ryan meets fellow classmate, Nick, outside Wrigley Field. Both of them love the Cubs, but neither of them seems to enjoy watching the game. As the two are thrown together by their love of the Cubs throughout the season, their walls begin to crumble, until Ryan learns about Nick's secret. Ryan thought this might be her comeback season, but maybe she will have to "wait till next year."

Happy Reading!