Hard Ball

Hard Ball

4.4 11
by Will Weaver, W. Weaver

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Battle in the Bullpen

For as long as Billy Baggs can remember, rich townie and ace pitcher Archer "King" Kenwood has been his nemesis—both on the field and off. And the summer before they enter high school, their long-standing rivalry explodes into violence. Desperate to keep the peace between his two star players, Coach Anderson


Battle in the Bullpen

For as long as Billy Baggs can remember, rich townie and ace pitcher Archer "King" Kenwood has been his nemesis—both on the field and off. And the summer before they enter high school, their long-standing rivalry explodes into violence. Desperate to keep the peace between his two star players, Coach Anderson comes up with a plan: If they want to play, they have to pay—by spending a week together, twenty-four hours a day.

But will Coach's plan make things better? Or just a whole lot worse?

After a family tragedy on the farm, Billy Baggs’s life is finally back on track. He’s starting high school. He’s caught the eye of the baseball coach and even a few college scouts. He has prospects for a girlfriend—Suzy Langen, the catch of the ninth grade. But blocking Billy’s path is King Kenwood, town rich kid and ace pitcher. As the two boys’ rivalry turns violent, it is left to Coach Anderson to find a solution. In the process, both Billy and King come to find their real problems might lie closer to home—with their own fathers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this third novel (after "Striking Out" and "Farm Team") starring Billy Baggs, the farmboy with a mean fast pitch, sparks start flying on and off the diamond when the hero locks horns with archenemy and rival ballplayer Archer "King" Kenwood. Billy has the edge during heated games against the Town Team, but victories are less certain in the romance field, with pretty Suzy Langen making plays for both boys' attention. When squabbles over Suzy turn physical, Coach Anderson puts a lid on the action by forcing Billy and King to trade lifestyles for a while. For half a week, King bunks with Billy on the Baggses farm; then it is Billy's turn to try out town life at the Kenwoods' posh house. Although the boys are not destined to become bosom buddies, they do share one serious problem: hard-nosed, close-minded fathers who try to run their lives. The stereotyped casting of rednecked farmers and uppity townsfolk compromises the book's otherwise wide appeal. Similarly, the narrative is marred by strained rural references, especially with regard to the female characters: "Compared to Suzy Langen, as tall and graceful as a show cat, the Erickson girls were scrappy, barn cats.... His eyes were welded to Gina like it was a hot Fourth of July and she was a double-scoop ice-cream cone." Ultimately, the author's portrayal of town/country rivalry is as broadly and unconvincingly sketched as legends surrounding Billy's "rocket-launcher" of an arm.
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Billy Bagg and his family are again featured in this new story. Billy and his archrival King are vying for the same girl and it leads to a fight. But there is more to this story, as readers learn more about the two families, the difficult father-son relationships, and a somewhat artificial solution to the relationships between the boys and in turn with their respective fathers. The rich boy's mother is an alcoholic, the father is driven to make his son a sports star. In contrast, the farm boy's father is taciturn and quick-tempered and his mother is almost too good to be true. Its a quick read and it will appeal to boys and girls, but the plot devices and formula characters do not leave a lasting impression.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Billy Baggs takes on his arch-rival, King Kenwood, and tackles inner issues that pose an even greater threat to both boys. This is the third book in the series about the baseball star Billy Baggs. It is another powerful story.
School Library Journal
"Hard Ball" can stand on its own, although it's bound to be most popular with readers of "Farm Team" (1995) and "Striking Out" (1993, both HarperCollins). It's August as Billy Baggs steams into the final game of the 1971 summer season. His farm teammates, the skinny-dipping Erickson girls, are as sassy and saucy as ever. Suzy Langen, who has been coming to the games all summer, is too perfectly beautiful for words, but willing to take some risks. And King Kenwood, the privileged star pitcher for the town team, is competitive, hostile, and determined to keep his eye on her. Billy, yanked from the game in the third inning, accompanies Suzy to the loft of the barn, where they tentatively make out. King surprises them and he and Billy explode into a fight. An old farmer dismissively comments, "Just a couple of young bucks locking horns over a doe." Their school's baseball coach, who can see his spring season going down the tubes, takes the fight a bit more seriously. He negotiates a deal with the respective parents to have each boy stay half the week at the other's house. Predictably, they begin to see and understand one another, but the process is largely believable and satisfying. The action moves quickly and the characters are worth knowing. Engaging language is occasionally lyrical. There are loose ends enough to guarantee a sequel, which, like spring baseball, is something to look forward to. Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Jr. High School, Iowa City, IA

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.51(d)
Age Range:
13 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


That summer in northern Minnesota, word spread. In Flint County there was a young baseball player, a pitcher, like few people had seen. On the mound he was a fireballer. A speed demon. Had a rocket launcher for an arm. The kid was a farm boy, that much was certain. He also had his own team, a motley crew that was unbeaten because no one had ever laid a bat on the boy's fastball.

So who was this phenom? Some said he was a stocky sixteen-year-old who could fire a baseball through a barn wall and leave only a charred smell. Others said he was a lanky fifteen-year-old right-hander who threw so hard that the ball sent out a silent whistle that set dogs to howling a full mile away. Still others said he was a seventeen-year-old left-hander who could throw the ball so high that a player could step off the field, take a pee, zip up and get back in position before the ball hit dirt; one old man swore he'd seen the ball come down a full five minutes later, shining and glazed with ice.

So much for gossip. In truth the boy's name was William Jefferson Baggs -- Billy Baggs -- and he was a fourteen-year-old left-handed farm boy from western Flint County, which lies not far from the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Billy was six feet tall and rising, and had yellow hair, blue eyes and buck teeth, plus a spattering of pimples across his cheeks. He was skinny but square-framed, and his arms, corded and stretched from farmwork, were his chief weapons.

And yes, his Farm Team was unbeaten. They had edged the local Flint Babe Ruth team and its ace pitcher, Archer "King" Kenwood. They had hammered the nearby Buckman town team. They had spanked various 4-H, Grangeand church clubs that had dared bring a team to the Baggses' farm baseball field. Was Billy Baggs unhittable? Of course not. No pitcher is. There had been three scratch singles off Billy in about forty innings.

Farm Team baseball began that summer of 1971 when fliers appeared in the Flint Feedmill, in the drugstores, in the hardware stores, in the soda fountains and gas stations. "BASEBALL!" they read. "Friday nights (weather permitting) at the Abner Baggs Farm . . . Come one, come all. . . ." These were the years of the Vietnam War, of civil rights unrest and sit-down strikes; however, the people of Flint were mostly untouched by all that, and they hoped to remain that way. All the more reason, then, to take in a country-style ball game.

So they came. Young ballplayers from around the county. Bored vacationers stuck at nearby resorts. Friendly farmers and townsfolk with nothing better to do after supper. A college coach or two in the Flint lakes area for fishing. They all came to sit on hay-bale bleachers and watch Billy Baggs fire his white-hot heater past batter after batter. Following each game at least one coach lingered and introduced himself to Billy, who, with a brief handshake, was polite enough but had faraway eyes. After every Farm Team game Billy scanned the crowd for a tall girl with a silvery ponytail. Her name was Suzy Langen, and Billy was in love.

One small problem. Suzy already had a boyfriend, the same one since kindergarten. His name? King Kenwood.

Chapter One

August 1971

Billy couldn't sleep. The August night heat, trapped in the attic of the farmhouse, kept him turning in his sheets. That and Suzy Langen, the judge's daughter, who was never far out of his mind these days. Unfortunately, with thoughts of Suzy came King Kenwood, who was never far from Suzy's side.

He lay there, imagining ways to get rid of Kenwood once and for all on tomorrow's trip. A stumble beneath the school bus tires? An accidental fall from the window at sixty miles an hour? Then again, Billy would be the prime suspect, and he didn't need more trouble with the law this summer. He squinted shut his eyes and brought back Suzy. Suzy tall and smiling, her legs and arms coppery brown against her white shorts and blouse. Suzy at the beach in town, slowly milking river water from her long hair. . . .

Just when he felt drowsy, a huge August moon began to glow brightly in his window. He got up and yanked down his shade. After that he lay there, watching the moonlight leak in. By four thirty a.m. he gave up on sleep. He dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and eased down the stairs to the porch, where he put on his coveralls. Quietly latching the screen door, he crossed the farmyard under the still-bright moon.

Inside the dairy barn he flipped on the lights. "If I can't sleep, neither can you," he announced. The big Holstein cows huffed through their noses and jangled their stanchion chains. They began, one by one, to tip themselves upright, white on black, black on white, until they stood like dominoes in two even rows. Rousted a full hour early, the cows were as cross as Billy. However, they soon snaked their long tongues at the buckets full of grain Billy splashed their way. He was all done with feeding and had started milking by the time his father arrived.

"Well ain't you the early bird," Abner said from the doorway. He was a tall, lanky man, as dark as Billy was fair, with a dusty seed cap drawn low across his forehead and a limp from having polio as a kid.

"Sorry, Pa. Couldn't sleep." The air compressor motor for the milking machine kept up a quick, steady thudding sound'a sound, suddenly, like Billy's heartbeat. He was always slightly afraid of his father. Afraid that he was doing the wrong thing. Afraid that he was doing the right thing.

"You know what?" Abner muttered as he took over the stainless steel milker.

"What's that, Pa?" he asked quickly.

"I'll be damned glad when this Minneapolis trip of yours has come and gone."

Billy was silent. He supposed he had been distracted the past few days. One thing he had not forgotten to do was cross off the days on his calendar. Or check the time.

"Don't worry, you ain't gonna miss that bus," Abner said.

"I wasn't worried," Billy replied.

"Then why do you keep looking at your watch every thirty seconds?"

"Sometimes it stops," Billy mumbled, and headed to feed the calves. He sneaked yet another glance at the time.

In the house at breakfast Billy made sure to chew his pancakes slowly to prove that he was in no hurry.

"Well, a big day," Mavis said cheerfully. His mother was the optimist in the family.

Both Billy and Abner glanced at each other.

"Big day of work on the farm, for me," Abner said. "I've got to get the silage chopper tuned up, plus there's some fencing to be done and'"

"And nothing that can't wait," Mavis replied. "Sometimes it's important to take a day off."

"Tell that to the dairy cows," Abner replied, reaching for another hotcake.

"Lighten up a little," Mavis said easily to Abner. She was a tall, handsome, square-shouldered woman with brown hair tied back. She tended to point things -- in this case her pancake turner -- at people when she talked. "This is Billy's day to have some fun. He's been home, working, every day of the summer -- no thanks to you know who."

Billy held his breath. During Abner's stay in jail his mother had claimed some kind of territory, some kind of power in the family. Now that his father was back, she made a point of not giving it up. Billy, who had run the farm this summer, had felt that power, too; however, now that Abner was home, Billy felt his turf eroding, his independence slipping away. He held his breath a lot when his father was nearby.

"Being in the slammer was sure no vacation, if that's what you're saying," Abner growled.

"Of course it wasn't," Mavis said cheerfully. "But I'm saying that it's behind us now and we're glad to have you back. And today is Billy's day to get away and see a ball game. Like a normal kid," she added.

Billy hated it when she said that.

"Hmmmph," Abner muttered, eyeballing Billy briefly before bending to his pancakes. "I guess I'll have to listen to the game on the radio."

"We'll go together next time!" Billy said suddenly. "All three of us. I'll check out where the stadium is, what roads to take, and then next time we all could go."

"I'd love to see the Twin Cities sometime," Mavis began.

"Not me," Abner said. "The traffic in Fargo is bad enough."

Hard Ball. Copyright � by Will Weaver. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Will Weaver is an award-winning fiction writer. His latest novel is The Survivors, a sequel to his popular young adult novel Memory Boy. His other books include Full Service, Defect, Saturday Night Dirt, Super Stock Rookie, Checkered Flag Cheater, Claws, and the Billy Baggs books Striking Out, Farm Team, and Hard Ball, all of which are ALA Best Books for Young Adults. Formerly an English professor at Bemidji State University, he lives in northern Minnesota, a region he writes from and loves. He is an avid outdoorsman and enjoys hunting, fishing, canoeing, and hiking with his family and friends.

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Hard Ball 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
JWjammin More than 1 year ago
                                                                       Average… This book is mainly about a country boy named Billy Baggs in Flint, Minnesota. A  Big feud between two families father through son.  My favorite character has to be Billy. Why, because he is a underdog and is very cool to me, a country boy trying to be the best.  The book has a steady pace until the middle of the book. It is something to look for.  I feel the message of the book has to be try your hardest , and don’t let people get to you.  I think there should have been more surprise. Overall it was a decent book. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Billy and King are two teenage boys that go to the same school in Flint, Minnesota. The boys love to play baseball and have been life long enemies. King is a town kid and Billy is a farm kid, and apparently, they both like Suzy Langen. The town kids are playing the final game of the year against the farm team at Billy¿s farm. During the game Billy and King get into a fight over Suzy Langen and almost kill each other. The town teams coach, Coach Anderson, is tired of Billy and King fighting all of the time, so he thinks of a very unusual punishment for the two boys. Both King and Billy¿s parents agree on the punishment. Read the book and find out if Billy and King stay enemies forever or if maybe the problem goes farther back than just the boys. I loved this book. This story was very easy to follow along with, and I could really relate to Billy. Billy loves the farm and baseball, and I enjoy these things too. The book didn¿t start out slow, but it did slow down a little after about a quarter of the way through. After that, the book picked back up until the end. This book is the third book of the Billy Baggs series by Will Weaver. I think it would help you understand the book a little bit more if you read the first two books of the series first. This book doesn¿t really remind me of any movies or T.V. shows. I think if you¿re a boy in the 7th to 9th grade and you like baseball, you will love this book. Also, if you liked Dan Gutman as a kid, I think you will like this book Hard Ball by Will Weaver.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shane Hunter was a great pitcher, and his dad was always his biggest fan. Shane had a good life he went to a very good private school, and played on an elite baseball team. One day after school, Shane came home to see his dad shot himself. Shane¿s dad had been doing illegal sales with Mexican drug lords. He was due to appear in court but before he got the chance he shot himself. Shane quit baseball because he couldn¿t focus when he was pitching and lost his touch. Everything in Shane¿s life took a turn for the worst. His mom sold there old house, Shane started going to a public school, and he was busted for drinking underage. Shane¿s parole officer told him he either had to play baseball or take therapy. He decided to play baseball for his public school and he brought a huge lift to his team. Shane¿s team got a game canceled so they decided to reschedule a game on that day with Shorelake (Shane¿s old team). Reece Robertson had bought Shane¿s old house and Shane always held a grudge against him. Shane set him up by throwing two pitches outside, to get him to crowd the plate, then throwing at his head. Shane hit Reece and Reece dropped to the ground with blood squirting out of his nose. From then on Shane lost his ability to pitch and Reece was always scared of hitting. They decided to get together during the summer to try to redevelop there skills. Can Shane pitch like he used to, and can Reece hit like he used to? This book was a very good book. I couldn¿t find anything in this book that I didn¿t like. Some of the in-between games stuff was boring, but after all of that got out of the way I really liked it. Anyone who likes to read sports stories would love this book. This story is a lot like Will Weaver sports novels. If you have read any of the Bill Baggs novels and like then, then you will love this novel. Hard Ball is not in a series. This story reminds me of Like Mike. Shane pitches really good and all of the sudden he starts not to pitch well. On Like Mike he plays really bad until he finds the Michael Jordan sneakers, then he plays really well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book about two boys, one a farm boy and the other a rich city kid. The two boys are both rival pitchers and to make matter worse they both liked the same girl. You must read to find out how it ends.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Billy and King are probably the best two baseball players on Coach Anderson¿s team but they don¿t get along one bit. So Coach has this big plan for King to spend three days at Billy¿s house and for Billy to spend three days at Kings. This way they can get to know each other a little bit better. Of course neither likes the idea but they both agree to do it along with their parents. Will the plan make the two friends or will it make maters worse than before? I liked this book a lot because it really wraps up the series in a good way and it also has a lot of great action. There is always something going on in this book that is entertaining. I didn¿t like that it has so many chapters of rising action but you don¿t mind it too much while you¿re reading it because it keeps you into the book. That¿s basically the only part I didn¿t care for in this book. The book is apart of the Billy Baggs series. You don¿t really have to read them in order but it helps if you do because in every book it gives information that you can use in the next book. I would recommend this book to mainly guys because most of the main characters are guys but girls could read it also because it has some young love in it and a lot of stuff about friendships.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Billy Baggs is a fourteen year-old boy growing up on a farm in Flint County, Minnesota during the Vietnam War. Billy is a great pitcher but so is his rival, King Kenwood. They fight over more then just baseball they also fight over Suzy Langean. King has been Suzy¿s boyfriend since kindergarten, but Billy has liked her that long too. Sometimes the two boys get so mad at each other they fight one another and almost kill themselves. Their high school baseball coach has been watching, and he has seen that Billy and King¿s dads don¿t like each other either. Their coach made a plan that Billy and King have to stay at each others house for a week, and be together the whole time too. If they don¿t cooperate neither of them will play high school baseball. My thought on this book was that it was the best baseball book I have ever read. There is never a boring moment, and it leaves you always wanting more. Some of the beginning is kind of boring, but once you start you¿ll never want to put it down. Will Weaver did a phenomenal job writing Hard Ball. Every time you start a new scene he paints a picture for you, and it feels like you¿re just following Billy around. This is the first of three book series about Billy Baggs. People who don¿t watch baseball or enjoy playing baseball wouldn¿t like it very much. A person who plays baseball should read this. If you have read a Matt Christopher book before and liked it you will probably like Will Weaver books also. Both of the authors have similar writing style that makes reading
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love this book, because it takes place in Minnesota. I like how Will Weaver uses real places and people in this story! This is a MUST read book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book about a young teenage boy who loves baseball. There is a big rivalry between this country boy and a city boy named Archer 'King' Kenwood. This rivalry isn't just between the two star pitchers, it's between there dads too. If that's not bad enough, they're in love with the same girl! The coach comes up with a plan. I highly recommend this book. I'm thirteen years old so I can really relate to the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hardball by Will Weaver is a really good book it is about a country boy and a rich city boy who likes the same girl. They all go to baseball games, and the girl is starting to like the country boy. I would recommend this book for either a boy are a girl because it is a really good book about relationships and about baseball.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was one of my favorite books. I'm sure you'll love it!