Brian loves baseball. But baseball has not always been a positive influence in his emotional life. His parents are divorced due in large part to the fact that his father's devotion to his own baseball career far exceeded his feelings for his family. In addition, Brian's all-time favorite player was deeply involved in the steroid scandals that affected an entire era of baseball achievements and statistics. Now in one dream summer as batboy for the Detroit Tigers he learns some truths about second chances and letting go. When his absentee father briefly returns, Brian realizes that their relationship will never be more than a common interest in the game. But he does develop a tentative connection with his hero, who is making a comeback with the Tigers. Lupica takes on these touchy subjects and deftly fleshes them out with sympathetic characters, crisp dialogue and enough dramatic baseball action to satisfy the most diehard fan. Although there's an upbeat ending, not all problems are neatly solved, allowing readers to form their own opinions. A pennant winner. (Fiction. 10-14)
For most young fans, a summer stint as a major league batboy would rank somewhere between a carefree lark and a dream; for fourteen year-old Brian, it is his best chance yet to win back the father who abandoned him. That fumbling hope might be foolish, but the friendship that he builds with an old player making a comeback is the right thing. An inspiring life lesson sports novel by the recognized master of that genre. A natural for sports fans twelve and up. Now in paperback and NOOKbook.
Lupica has hit upon an effective formula for his novels, giving his readers a behind-the-scenes look at major league sports.
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Fourteen-year-old Brian loves baseball as much as his father, a former major league pitcher. When Brian earns a job as a batboy for the Detroit Tigers he is thrilled, but his mother is not so excited. She believes baseball is the reason her marriage failed. Nevertheless, she agrees to let Brian take the job. Soon Brian learns that his hero, Hank Bishop, is returning to the Tigers, despite recently testing positive for steroids. Brian is eager to befriend Hank and does everything possible to be the best batboy on the team, but Hank is cold and unresponsive. As the summer continues, both Brian and Hank fall into a batting slump. One evening when Brian is practicing in the Tigers' batting cage, Hank offers him some advice which improves Brian's swing. Brian thinks there must be some way that he can help Hank's batting slump in return. He studies old films of Hank's swing from his glory days and finds the problem. Thanks to Brian, Hank Bishop's slump ends and he regains respect for the game and himself. Redemption, renewal, and self-respect are themes in this easy-to-read novel which will appeal to baseball fans in grades five through eight. Reviewer: Jody Little
School Library Journal
Gr 5–10—Brian's dad, a former big league pitcher, left Brian and his mom years earlier, and the boy still longs for his return. This summer, Brian has won a coveted spot as a batboy for the Detroit Tigers during home games at Comerica Park. He relishes his dream come true: hustling to complete tasks, enjoying a sleepover at the ballpark, and his front-row seat for the on-field action. On his days off, he plays on a travel team with his best friend, Kenny. Then his favorite player, Hank Bishop, returns to the Tigers following a suspension for steroid use. Bishop is stumbling at the end of his career: this is his last chance to reach a milestone 500 home runs. Brian shyly attempts to befriend his hero, but Bishop treats Brian and his teammates with frosty disdain. Lupica is at the top of his game, crafting a crisp, fast-paced novel teeming with edge-of-the-seat baseball drama. He limns his characters with well-observed detail and dialogue. Brian is a recognizable, multilayered teen; he's close to his mom, though they struggle to communicate and understand one another. Meanwhile, he learns the hard truth: "no matter how much Brian loved baseball, it was never going to make his father love him more." Though this novel will undoubtedly appeal to those who equate summer with baseball, it should also win over readers who appreciate finely crafted storytelling and engaging characters.—Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA