Safe at Second

Safe at Second

5.0 4
by Scott Johnson

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Todd Bannister has it all: a fastball made for the majors, scouts lining up at his door, a beautiful girlfriend, and his best friend Paulie-his number one fan. It seems nothing can stop the bright future that lies ahead. But all it takes is one line drive-and Todd takes it square in the face, and loses an eye. Things are different now. Will Todd have the…  See more details below


Todd Bannister has it all: a fastball made for the majors, scouts lining up at his door, a beautiful girlfriend, and his best friend Paulie-his number one fan. It seems nothing can stop the bright future that lies ahead. But all it takes is one line drive-and Todd takes it square in the face, and loses an eye. Things are different now. Will Todd have the strength to give up his old dreams and move on? Will Paulie? Scott Johnson weaves a masterful tale about what happens after the big game in this engrossing coming-of-age story.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Kevin Beach
As the title suggests, this is a novel about baseball--but it is more than just that. It is also about the struggle of a boy who learns to step out of his friend's limelight to build his own future. A soon-to-be superstar pitcher already featured in a Sports Illustrated article, Todd loses an eye in a practice game at the beginning of his senior year. Todd watches his star fade as scouts from the colleges and the majors stop courting him and students from the school avoid eye contact. Only his devoted teammate and best friend, Paulie, stays by his side, unwilling to give up his dream of being Todd's personal assistant when Todd hits the big time. Todd suffers through the stages of denial, anger, and depression and connects with the rowdy crowd at school. Paulie sees the classic signs, he thinks, that Todd is suicidal. The novel focuses on Paulie's struggle to "save" Todd and promote the glimmer of hope that just maybe Todd can still pitch with his handicap. Paulie, meanwhile, suffers at home and at school as a nice kid who cannot really do anything well. His disastrous attempt to write a sports column for the school newspaper develops into an undiscovered talent for writing and his skills on the baseball field get better with each game. There is a climactic "big game" that does not exactly have the traditional come-from-behind finish the reader might expect. All of the main characters grow emotionally during the months covered in the story, and these students are interesting and well drawn. This book might serve as an inspiration for an unpopular kid who lives in the shadow of a high-profile friend. It also has enough baseball in it for the sports fiction buff. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12).
Children's Literature - Christopher Moning
Todd Bannister is a sure bet for a college baseball scholarship. Who knows, with his incredible fastball he could even go straight to the pros. And when he does, his best friend Paulie will be right there with him as Todd's personal assistant. Paulie is small and less gifted than Todd is, so Todd is always there to look out for him. Though he can barely make the varsity team, no one loves the game of baseball more than Paulie does. Just ask him the batting average of any major leaguer in the last seven years. When a terrible accident threatens Todd's career--and his life--it becomes Paulie's turn to look out for Todd. Related with remarkable agility, this baseball novel will appeal to readers regardless of their interest in the sport. Subtle yet surprising, unsentimental yet deeply moving, this is a highly satisfying read.
To quote KLIATT's Sept. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Judging from the cover, this appears to be a traditional baseball story for teenage boys. But there are some surprises. First of all, it is told from the point of view of Paulie, an admiring friend of the ace high school pitcher, Todd, who promises to be the kind of athlete who might be good enough to jump over college to land straight in the pros. Paulie has been a good friend, but he has put his own life on hold to live vicariously through Todd's amazing success. (This is convenient for Paulie, who doesn't really want to look too closely at his own hopes and dreams.) This dynamic works until Todd is hit by a long drive and he loses his sight in one eye. The scouts and journalists fade away, and Todd questions who he is if he can't pitch. And who is Paulie if he isn't an appendage to Todd, the star pitcher? He finds he is still Todd's friend. And he struggles to help Todd regain his ability to pitch, because both boys are desperate to regain their previous identities: one a star athlete, the other his most loyal fan. As both Todd and Paulie lurch through the remaining months of Todd's senior year, they make some terrible mistakes, and they also discover quite a lot about themselves. Johnson is a high school English teacher who obviously understands high school students. It is clear that he loves baseball—and understands how sports can define a high school athlete, in some ways preventing the athlete from seeing who else he or she is. This novel should appeal to a wide range of YA readers, not just the sports fans, and certainly not just boys. There is some swearing here and there, by the way, and some seriousdrinking of alcohol by Todd when he is in despair, but these are treated realistically. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1999, Penguin Putnam/Puffin, 246p, 18cm, $5.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 3)
Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-A star pitcher's best buddy must find a way to help his friend and redefine his own goals when a line drive injures the athlete and dashes their dreams of glory. A tough and tender coming-of-age story with plenty of play-by-play action. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-As a "can't miss" pitching prospect, Todd Bannister has scouts, agents, and recruiters begging for his attention and, as a good-looking, self-assured star athlete, he has fellow students and many adults doing the same. All of this comes to an abrupt end when he is hit in the face by a line drive and loses an eye. His attempt to come back is unsuccessful as he can no longer control his pitches and is pounded unmercifully whenever he is put into a game. Initially angry and bitter, he eventually comes to a kind of acceptance of his new status and takes the first steps to getting on with his life. Todd is a fascinating character, by turns conceited and considerate, cruel and kind, thoughtful and thoughtless. With just a few deft brush strokes, Johnson demonstrates how a basically decent kid can succumb to the blandishments of an adoring public, accept their adulation as his due, and even use his position to manipulate people. The book is narrated by Todd's best friend and biggest supporter, Paulie Lockwood, who must come to terms with the way the changes in Todd's life affect his own. As Todd works through his tragic situation and his hubris gives way to a hard-won wisdom, readers will respond with empathy and compassion. This compelling work transcends the category of sports fiction. Its characters are complex, rounded, and fully realized, and its themes are universal. An outstanding novel.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Major League dreams go a-glimmering for a high school senior and his sycophant in this twin coming-of-age story from Johnson (One of the Boys, 1992). Due to his extraordinary fastball, Todd is already the subject of write-ups in Sports Illustrated and visits from scouts. Paulie, the narrator and Todd's friend since Little League days, is perfectly content to bask in reflected glory. When a line drive hits Todd in the face and takes out an eye, Paulie decides that it's his job to get his friend back on his feet; clinging like a limpet, he gets Todd home when he drinks too much, schemes to reunite him with his old girlfriend, steers him out of depression, and helps him learn to pitch again. In the process, Paulie takes a few unwilling steps out of Todd's shadow, and by the end has made some pleasant discoveries about his own abilities. Paulie's phobias, which include computers and the SATs, seem exaggerated to the point of caricature, and a subplot involving his younger brother has only a tenuous connection to the main story; nevertheless, readers will be engrossed by Todd's attempt at a comeback before accepting that his most profound loss is not the eye, but the fire in his belly, and by Paulie's realization that there's more to life, and friendship, than unthinking loyalty. An intense, exciting championship game closes this unusually thoughtful, if slightly uneven, tale on a high note. (Fiction. 12-15)

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Product Details

Turtleback Books: A Division of Sanval
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.50(w) x 7.22(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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From the Publisher
"Compelling...Its characters are complex, rounded and fully realized, and its themes are universal. An outstanding novel." —School Library Journal

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Safe at Second 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently had a choice to read any book I wanted for my class. The book just happened to be Safe at Second. When I first started reading the book, I figured it was going to be just another book about baseball. Something that was boring and wouldn't keep me peeled to the pages. But I was very wrong. Scott Johnson did a fantastic job of twisting things to make them seem unreal, yet very likely. Safe at Second taught me to re-think some things in my life. It also increased my interest in baseball. There isn't many books that I would finish reading in one day! The content and real-life scenarios helped me to relate to the things Todd and Paulie were going through. I could understand both sides clearly, and that made the story all the more interesting. When Todd lost his eye, you could feel the intense moments he went through. You could see how it affected him and Paulie. You could see how he was changed. Todd's story takes you through a tragedy that can be overcome, yet sometimes too devastating to go through. Paulie is also changed by the tragedy. He gets to see who he really is, even if it means changing his ways. Safe at Second made me appreciate the things that I have in my own life. After reading the book, I had more respect for things I owned and the people around me. I learned from the characters in the book that life is more than just what you want, its what you get. But if you give your all, no matter what the outcome will be positive. This book is not one for a specific age group. I would recommend this book for anyone of any age. Whether you are in 3rd grade or in college, Safe at Second will surely keep you on the edge.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Safe at Second is one of the most enjoyable books that I have ever read. This book is about two teammates, who are also friends, on their high school baseball team. One of the players is Todd Banister, a baseball star in the making. Todd is a senior on the team and he is widely recruited by colleges and major league teams. His friend and teammate, Paulie Lockwood, is not nearly as good of a ball player as Todd. This does not matter because they are best friends. Everything seems to be going as planned. Todd is likely to be drafted and Paulie will tag along as Todd's agent. Everything changes in an early season game when Todd gets hit in the eye with a line drive. Todd loses his eye and is left with a prosthetic eye. The struggle for Todd now is to once again be the player he once was and Paulie is by his side to help. One of the many reasons I enjoyed this book is because the story is told from Paulie's point of view. With Paulie telling the story , I can relate. Paulie is one of those players who, though he may not be one of the better players on the team, works his butt off. I play soccer for my high school team and I think of myself to be a teammate similar to Paulie. The plot of the story is different from the plot of any other book I have read. When I was about half way through the book, I thought I knew how the book would turn out. As I kept reading, however, the series of events I had anticipated never came true. This made me want to read the book all the way to the end. If you play a sport and consider yourself to be a player like Paulie or you think you are pretty good at predicting the plot of a story, then reading this book will be as enjoyable for you as it was for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Paulie the kid that knows everything about baseball but is not every good player. Their team had a scrimmage and this was for the coach to see who was going to make the team. Then the next day at school he had the list of names the made the team and didn¿t make the team. Well Paulie was looking and his name wasn¿t on either list. After school that day he went to talk to the coach and the coach put Paulie on the team. His best friend Todd was so happy for him. Then one day they had a game, and Todd was pitching. Then bang the ball hit the bat! It was a line drive, and Todd got nailed in the face. After that game Todd never felt the same and he had a glass eye. Now Paulie would have to Todd through this. Paulie tries and get him to go to school which is hard for Todd because people talk to him different. Now Todd doesn¿t know if he is going to pitch again. Todd then gives away his favorite hat and he starts acting very happy. Paulie thinks he is going to kill himself because he is doing warning signs of it. Then one day Paulie follows Todd to the diamond and this is where he thinks he is going to do it. The Todd sets up this thing that he built to help him pitch. After Paulie sees that he is calmed down, and he walks on to the field. Now Todd is trying to pitch again but you had to read to find more about his pitching. Now you have to read to find out if he is going to pitch again. I liked how they explained Todd¿s eye when it got hit by the baseball. I didn¿t like how much was helping Todd I think he should have let him does stuff on his own. This book is not part of a series and it does not remind me of any television show. It is a sports book so if you like sports books then read this book. I think anyone who like sports this book is good for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed the book 'Safe at Second'. It was one of the best books I have ever read and I have read alot of them. I enjoyed the details that was in it. When I first started reading it, I figured it was just going to be another book about baseball. But it wasn't it was about more than just baseball it was about life.