Baseball Great (Baseball Great Series #1)by Tim Green
When the school paper calls him "Grant Middle's best hope for its first-ever city-wide championship," Josh feels like he's starting to get noticed—in good and bad ways. Seeing Josh's talent, his father drags him out of the school baseball tryouts and gets him in the running for the Titans, the local youth championship team coached by Rocky/b>/b>… See more details below
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When the school paper calls him "Grant Middle's best hope for its first-ever city-wide championship," Josh feels like he's starting to get noticed—in good and bad ways. Seeing Josh's talent, his father drags him out of the school baseball tryouts and gets him in the running for the Titans, the local youth championship team coached by Rocky Valentine.
All Josh really wants to do is play ball, but now Rocky wants him to gulp down protein shakes and other supplements. Suspicious, Josh and his new friend, Jaden, uncover a dangerous secret—and catch the attention of one man who will do anything to keep them from exposing it.
Green (Football Genius) wades into John Feinstein territory with this fast-paced story about two middle-schoolers who put themselves in peril to probe steroid use on a youth baseball team. Josh LeBlanc's father is a pitcher who never made it to the big leagues. After he's cut from the farm team for the Toronto Blue Jays, he projects his unfulfilled dream on Josh, yanking him from the school baseball squad to play for the Titans, a travel team run by Rocky Valentine, a winning-is-everything caricature who supplements his income by selling milk additives that will reputedly help players bulk up. When Josh is also slipped some "gym candy," he talks over his suspicions with school reporter Jaden, and together they investigate with exciting, if predictable, results. A subplot about a bully who thinks Josh is moving in on his girlfriend adds nothing, and Josh's mother is basically relegated to serving meals. But most kids will not notice, focused instead on the action-heavy, high-testosterone plot that has Josh in near-constant motion. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Twelve-year-old Josh LeBlanc's father has come to the end of a baseball career that never made it to the majors. Josh is also a talented player, and the family's dreams of glory settle on him. His angry, controlling father pulls him off the middle school team to have him try out for a traveling youth team sponsored by a suspicious character named Rocky Valentine, who is also Mr. LeBlanc's new employer. While the competition is fierce, Josh eventually makes the team, but his doubts about Rocky Valentine continue to grow. With the help of a girl he likes, aspiring journalist Jaden Neidermeyer, Josh uncovers evidence that Rocky is dealing in illegal steroids. It appears that Jaden's father, a doctor, is supplying Rocky with the drugs, but eventually everything is straightened out. Rocky is apprehended, Dr. Neidermeyer is cleared, and, in a deus ex machina, a Nike Youth Baseball representative shows up out of the blue and offers to sponsor Josh's team, to put his dad on the payroll, and to sign Josh up to appear in Nike ads. While the resolution might strike even less-sophisticated readers as wildly implausible, issues of peer and family pressure are well handled, and the short, punchy chapters and crisp dialogue are likely to hold the attention of young baseball fans.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT
Read an Excerpt
By Tim Green
Copyright © 2009
All right reserved.
Chapter One Josh wondered why every time something really good happened, something else had to spoil it. It had been like this since he could remember, like biting into a ruby red apple only to find a brown worm crawling through the crisp, white fruit. For the first time since he'd moved to his new neighborhood, he had been recognized, and his unusual talent had been appreciated. So why was it that that same fame had kicked up the muddy rumor that got a high school kid looking to bash his teeth in?
For the moment, though, riding the school bus, he was safe. The school newspaper in Josh's backpack filled his whole body with an electric current of joy and pride, so much so that his cheeks burned. He sat alone in the very front seat and kept his eyes ahead, ignoring the stares and whispers as the other kids got off at the earlier stops. When Jaden Neidermeyer, the new girl from Texas who'd written the article, got off at her stop, Josh stared hard at his sneakers. He just couldn't look.
After she left, he glanced around and carefully parted the lips of his backpack's zipper. Without removing the newspaper, he stole another glance at the headline, baseball great, and the picture of him with a bat and the caption underneath: "Grant Middle's best hope for its first-ever citywide championship, Josh LeBlanc."
The bus ground to a halt at his stop and Josh got off.
As the bus rumbled away, Josh saw Bart Wilson standing on the next corner. The tenth grader pitched his cigarette into the gutter and started toward him with long strides. Josh gasped, turned, and ran without looking back. A car blared its horn. Brakes squealed. Josh leaped back, his heart galloping fast, like the tenth grader now heading his way, even faster. Josh circled the car-the driver yelling at him through the window-and dashed across the street and down the far sidewalk.
He rounded the corner at Murphy's bar and sprinted up the block, ducking behind a wrecked station wagon at Calhoon's Body Shop, peeking through the broken web of glass back toward the corner. Breathing hard, he slipped the straps of the backpack he carried around his shoulders and fastened it tight. Two men in hooded sweatshirts and jeans jackets burst out of Murphy's and got into a pickup truck; otherwise, Josh saw no one. Still, he scooted up the side street, checking behind him and dodging from one parked car to another for cover.
When he saw his home, a narrow, red two-story place with a steep roof and a sagging front porch, he breathed deep, and his heart began to slow. The previous owner had three pit bulls, and so a chain-link fence surrounded the house and its tiny front and back lawns, separating them from the close-packed neighbors on either side. The driveway ran tight to the house, and like the single, detached garage, it was just outside the fence. Josh lifted the latch, but as he pulled open the front gate, a hand appeared from nowhere, slamming it shut. The latch clanked home, and the hand spun Josh around.
"What you running from?" asked Bart Wilson, the tenth-grade smoker.
Excerpted from Baseball Great by Tim Green Copyright © 2009 by Tim Green. Excerpted by permission.
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