Slumpbuster (The Super Sluggers Series)by Kevin Markey, Royce Fitzgerald
They call me Walloper because I'm no ordinary hitter.
Or at least that used to be the case. Now I couldn't hit a beach ball and my batting average is going down faster than the Titanic. With the pennant on the line, I've got a slump cloud over my head so big it's being covered by the Weather Channel. The forecast is grim,/b>/blockquote>… See more details below
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They call me Walloper because I'm no ordinary hitter.
Or at least that used to be the case. Now I couldn't hit a beach ball and my batting average is going down faster than the Titanic. With the pennant on the line, I've got a slump cloud over my head so big it's being covered by the Weather Channel. The forecast is grim, but I hope there's one big swing left in my bat so the Rambletown Rounders can win the pennant and I can end this historic drought.
Kevin Markey's debut novel is a hilarious tall tale of baseball action and high jinks that will have fans reveling in every trip around the pages.
Soon-to-be-sixth-grader Banjo H. Bishbash plays third base for the Rambletown Rounders. He is also known as the "Walloper" because of his homerun-hitting streak. However, one day during an important game he strikes out and a "funny-looking thing" begins hanging over his head. "That rubbery black pillow of a thing" is Banjo's batter's slump. Goofy names and excessive hyperbole will have readers either smiling or groaning. Pen-and-ink illustrations help readers visualize the action and add to the humor. Repetitive phrasing such as "would have been nice..." becomes tedious, but the interesting descriptive similes coupled with some clever metaphors make for a lively, if uneven, read. Fans of Matt Christopher's sports stories, or readers who simply appreciate play-by-play action, might pick this up.-Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA
Read an Excerpt
The Super Sluggers: Slumpbuster
"All set, Mr. Bones?" I asked.
Mr. Bones didn't say anything. He just ran over to the back door and wagged his tail. He wagged it so hard I thought he might take off into the air like a helicopter. Mr. Bones was my dog, a short-legged, long-nosed, yellow-haired fur ball that strangers often mistook for a bandicoot. He loved baseball. He came to all my games. My teammates thought he brought good luck. I thought they were right.
Mr. Bones wagged some more. All his wagging stirred up a tail wind that blew a newspaper right off the mail table. He was ready, all right.
And so was I.
I was ready to take on the Hog City Haymakers in the biggest game of the year. I played third base for the Rambletown Rounders. With a week left in the season, we were neck and neck in the standings with the Haymakers, the reigning champs of the 1012 division. If we could beat our archrivals, we would be in a good position to win the pennant.
Winning would be tough. On top of being good, the Haymakers were big. Really big. Every kid on the team looked like a grown man. I swear some of those bad boys even had mustaches, which was very strange for a bunch of kids who'd be entering sixth grade in the fall. You just didn't see many sixth graders with full handlebar mustaches.
I picked up the newspaper Mr. Bones had wagged to the floor. It was folded open to the sports section. In the middle of the page was a picture of me hitting a home run for the Rounders. The picture was taken by Gabby Hedron. She was my friend and classmate at Rambletown Elementary. She covered baseball for theRambletown Bulletin. The caption under the picture said:
Walloper Set to Swing into Action Against Haymakers!
The Rambletown slugger has hit a home run in every game this season. If the pattern holds, he'll launch another one today and catapult the Rounders into first place.
Walloper was what my friends called me. It was short for the Great Walloper, on account of I liked to wallop the tar out of the ball. I got that nickname back in the Pee Wees, when I first started going deep.
My cheeks burned a little bit as I replaced the paper on the table. I made a point of turning it over, picture side down. It was one thing to hit a dinger now and then and another thing for the newspaper to trumpet it all over the universe. I didn't really like being the center of attention. I was just one player. The Rounders were a team. It took a team to win a division crown. Plus, it was just plain bad luck to talk about home runs before they happened. It sounded boastful. What on earth was Gabby thinking?!
I tugged on my blue cap with the red Rambletown R on the front, tucked my mitt under my arm, and pulled open the door.
Mr. Bones rocketed out of the house like he'd been blasted from a cannon.
"Hold on, boy!" I called from the porch. "We've got plenty of time."
Mr. Bones pulled up short and cocked his head over his shoulder, urging me to get the lead out. He couldn't wait to get to the ballpark. One thing about dogs was that they had no sense of time. When they were ready, they were ready.
I wheeled my bike onto the driveway and hung my mitt on the handlebar. My mom was yanking weeds in her flower garden. When she saw me, she pulled off her gardening gloves and came right over.
"You sure you don't want a ride?" she asked, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. "It's gotten really hot all of a sudden. The tiger lilies are drooping. Only the weeds seem to be thriving."
I nodded. I always rode my bike to home games. Mr. Bones always trotted along behind. It was a good ritual. I didn't want to mess with it before our showdown with the Haymakers, heat or no heat.
"Good luck then, slugger," Mom said, planting a kiss on the crown of my Rounders cap. "I'll be in the bleachers at the start of the second inning."
That was another one of our rituals. My parents always arrived an inning late. It started a long time ago, when they happened to miss the first inning because my dad couldn't find the car keys. My dad was always misplacing the car keys. But that's another story. In any case, I ended up going four for four with four round-trippers that day. After that, my parents started coming late on purpose. From my position at third base, I often saw them dawdling in the parking lot, killing time until it was safe to grab seats in the bleachers.
"Thanks, Mom," I said.
I mounted my bike and headed for Rambletown Field, Mr. Bones bouncing eagerly at my rear wheel.
"Remember to drink plenty of water, Banjie," my mom called. She and my dad were about the only ones who used my real name. Or at least something like it. My actual name was Banjo.
Banjo H. Bishbash.
The H stood for Hit. It was my mother's last name before she married my dad. My parents gave it to me in part to honor her side of the family and in part because my dad loved baseball. "You can't go wrong with a middle name like Hit," he said.
The Banjo didn't stand for anything. It was just Banjo, plain and simple, like the musical instrument. The name came from my grandfather on my dad's side. Gramps got stuck with it first, and my dad got stuck with it after him. If I ever have a kid, I may just break the trend and call him something normal. "Mike" has a nice solid ring to it. According to family history, my grandfather was so long and skinny when he was born, with such a big head, that his folks took one look and called him Banjo. I guess it could've been worse. They could've called him Lollipop or Stop Sign.
In any case, it wasn't hard to see why I preferred Walloper.The Super Sluggers: Slumpbuster. Copyright © by Kevin Markey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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