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Tell me again, why am I going to see some kid play baseball?” Duane Francis asked Sylvester Coddmyer III.
Sylvester, Duane, and a third boy, Snooky Malone, were riding along a winding bike path to a ball field a few towns away. Syl opened his mouth to answer, but Snooky beat him to it.
“Because he’s a home run phenom,” Snooky said, “just like Syl was after he met Mr. Baruth. Or Babe Ruth, as we think his real name is!”
Duane groaned. “Not that story again! I’m telling you, Syl, that man was just some guy going around impersonating Babe Ruth.”
“Actually,” Syl said hurriedly, “I wanted to see this kid because our team will be playing his team, the Orioles, on Saturday. He plays third base, like you, Duane, so I thought it would be a good idea for you to check out your competition.”
“But you do think Mr. Baruth could be there, right?” Snooky insisted. “That’s the whole reason I’m coming!”
Sylvester glanced at his friend. “What do you mean?”
“My wildest dream is to have a paranormal experience—an experience you, my good friend Syl, have had not once, but three times!” Snooky explained. “I figure my best chance of having one is to stick close to you!”
Sylvester pedaled faster so he wouldn’t see Duane’s expression. He knew that Duane thought Snooky was an oddball. Not that Syl blamed him; he had trouble believing some of the weird stuff Snooky talked about, too. But then he would think about the strange and wonderful things that had happened in his baseball past… and suddenly, what Snooky believed didn’t seem so far-fetched after all.
It had all started when Sylvester tried out for his first baseball team, the Hooper Redbirds. He’d always loved baseball, but he soon learned that loving a sport and being good at it were two very different things. Then he met a man named George Baruth.
Mr. Baruth gave Syl pointers on his stance, his grip, and other parts of his game. Almost immediately, Sylvester began to play better—much better, especially at the plate. After he met Mr. Baruth, he hit a home run in every game!
Word soon got out about the kid who only hit homers. Reporters showed up to interview him after his games. Photographers took his picture. A national magazine even offered him a lot of money for the rights to his story. They all asked the same question: How was he doing it?
“I just hit the ball squarely on the nose,” Sylvester told them.
If they weren’t satisfied with that reply, well, he couldn’t help it. It was the best answer he could give because he wasn’t completely sure himself how he was doing it!
Snooky, however, claimed to know where Sylvester’s amazing abilities had come from. Snooky had a passion for astrology. He believed that the positions of the stars, the moon, the sun, and the planets affected people’s lives on Earth.
“You’re a Gemini,” Snooky said, referring to the zodiac sign for people who were born at the end of May. “And right now, Geminis are very powerful. That’s why you’re hitting so well!”
Syl didn’t buy all that astrology mumbo jumbo. He didn’t believe Snooky when he said Geminis could “see into the beyond” either.
Not at first, anyway.
It was only much later, when Syl was knee-deep in an ongoing mystery, that he wondered if there wasn’t something to what Snooky said after all.
George Baruth was a great help to Sylvester. But he was something of a puzzle, too. For one thing, no one but Syl had ever seen him, not even when Mr. Baruth was sitting in the crowded stands during games. For another, Syl always seemed to play his best when Mr. Baruth was there. By season’s end, Syl couldn’t help but wonder: Who was Mr. Baruth?
The mystery deepened the next year when Syl met a man named Cheeko. Like Mr. Baruth, Cheeko offered Syl suggestions on how to improve his game. Cheeko claimed to be friends with Mr. Baruth, so Sylvester trusted his advice.
Later on, however, he realized that Cheeko wasn’t teaching him to play better, he was teaching him to play dirty. Sylvester refused to have anything to do with him after that—and the same afternoon, Cheeko vanished.
Syl made a startling discovery soon afterward, when he saw an old baseball card of the most famous ballplayer ever. The player was home run slugger George Herman “Babe” Ruth, and he looked exactly like Mr. Baruth!
Syl also found a card of an infamous pitcher named Eddie Cicotte. In 1919, Cicotte and seven of his teammates lost the World Series on purpose in order to collect money from gamblers. When word of their plot got out, Cicotte and the other guilty players—the “Black Sox,” as they were later called—were banned from professional baseball forever.
Amazingly, the pitcher was the spitting image of Cheeko!
The mystery didn’t end there, either. Just this past summer, Syl met a man named Charlie Comet. Charlie taught Syl how to be a switch-hitter—that is, to bat right-handed or left-handed with equal skill. Switch-hitting came in quite handy, Syl soon discovered.
And he discovered something else, too. Charlie Comet looked just like a famous switch-hitter, Mickey Mantle!
That made it three times that Syl had been befriended and coached by men who looked identical to star baseball players. Duane suggested that the men were actors impersonating ballplayers who had died long ago, or that they just happened to look like those players.
Syl wasn’t convinced. The only explanation he could come up with—as unlikely as it seemed—was that the men were ghosts of the famous players. Maybe, he thought, Snooky’s belief that Syl could “see into the beyond” wasn’t so far-fetched after all.
Excerpted from The Home Run Kid Races On by Christopher, Matt Copyright © 2010 by Christopher, Matt. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted July 15, 2012
Posted June 16, 2011
If you are looking for fun, but engaging summer reading for your 7-10 year old, consider these sport-focused, kid-friendly narratives by author Matt Christopher. Mr. Christopher has written 78 books on sports ranging from baseball to football, running to biking, basketball to soccer, and even hockey. So where do you start? There's a fuller review here: bit.ly/lx9iPNWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 9, 2011
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