Whether they will admit it or not, most guys still react to a heart-tugging baseball novel the same way they reacted to one when they were kids. Almost every boy, at one time or another - even if only for a moment - has probably dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, and in my day, that usually meant dreaming of major league baseball. And, reliving those dreams for a day or two via a good baseball novel is still quite a kick for guys like us. The Pitcher, William Hazelgrove’s new novel allowed me to escape into that world again for a little while last week.
Ricky Hernandez is a kid with an arm. Not yet in high school, Ricky is already throwing a baseball a consistent 74 miles an hour. And, on those rather rare occasions he gets the ball over the plate, he is pretty much unhittable in his youth league. The problem is that opposing coaches know how wild he is and they give the take sign to even their best hitters when Ricky is not on his game. The results are predictable.
Ricky’s mom, fighting an illness that has the potential to prove fatal, knows that her son has the natural ability to be special if only he can learn to control his pitches. Because the boy’s father is no longer living with the family, she diligently relies on books and diagrams to coach Ricky – a strategy that most definitely is not working. But desperate times call for desperate measures (as the cliché goes), and she decides to grab the attention of the former World Series MVP who hibernates across the street in his garage. She knows that if Ricky does not make his high school team in the open tryouts that are just a few weeks away he might never played organized baseball again. It is not going to be easy, however, even if she does get some MVP coaching.
|William Elliott Hazelgrove|
The Pitcher is one of my favorite reads of the summer, a summer during which I needed to find something about baseball to feel good about again because of the doping scandals and the sheer awfulness of my hometown team. William Hazelgrove has done it. I am pleased to find that my love of the game is as deep as ever; it only took The Pitcher to rekindle it.
Bottom Line: The Pitcher may be labeled as a YA novel, but readers will not really notice or care about that. The book also touches on issues not related to baseball that impact Ricky’s life – especially alcoholism and living in America as the first generation child of an “illegal alien.” There is a lot going on here. Baseball fans, this one is for you.
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)