In the tradition of Friday Night Lights comes an unforgettable portrait of a small New Jersey town that became known throughout the world for the remarkable exploits of its Little League stars.
Summertime in Toms River means two things: tourists and champions. The tourists head for the beaches; the 12-year-old Little League champions can be found on the baseball diamonds, where they win titles at the local, regional, and international levels.
The Toms River dynasty began in the 1990s, when the team made it to the Little League World Series three times in five years and brought home a historic world championship victory in 1998. But with each passing summer in Toms River comes renewed pressure, as the latest collection of All-Stars strives to leave its mark on the town's imposing baseball legacy.
In Six Good Innings, acclaimed sportswriter Mark Kreidler deftly illuminates the sometimes tense relationship between Toms River and the team that carries the town's hopes and dreams. Following the most recent juggernaut through one tumultuous All-Star season, Kreidler chronicles how the coach, John Puleo, works to strike a balance between healthy competition and bloodless ambition, and how the players themselves reckon with their own fleeting fame as they tumble headlong into adolescence.
Puleo, a man with a gift for inspiring young athletes, commands a team whose recent string of successes has led to speculation that this might be the squad to extend the Toms River tradition of reaching Williamsport, site of the Little League World Series. But along the path to glory, Puleo's players will deal with unexpected injuries, a brutally difficult schedule of games, and the daunting knowledge that they have been identified throughout their region—and within the neighborhood blocks of their own baseball-crazy town—as the team to beat.
With deep empathy, incisive reporting, and intimate access, Kreidler weaves the stories of the coaches, the parents, the fans, and the true boys of summer into a memorable tableau.
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About the Author
Mark Kreidler is an award-winning journalist and author of the acclaimed Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland. A regular contributor to ESPN television, ESPN.com, and ESPN: The Magazine, he lives in northern California.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 View from on High 7
Chapter 2 Factory Town 41
Chapter 3 Summer of Possibilities 95
Chapter 4 A Dull Ache in the Arm 131
Chapter 5 Deep End of the Pool 151
Chapter 6 The Look and Feel of a Struggle 175
Chapter 7 Six Good Innings 207
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (Very Good) Review: When the Little League baseball team representing a small town becomes the Little League World Series champions, life in that town will never be the same. This is captured eloquently in a book by Mark Kriedler about the town of Toms River, New Jersey Beginning with their improbably 1995 championship over the Japanese team, Toms River has been “on the map” for Little League excellence, and this book covers the 2007 Little League team for the town. This is not just a recap of the season, as there are many anecdotes of past teams, what has happened in the town and to former players and coaches. What struck me the most about this book was how in very different ways, the author has shown what is right with Little League baseball and what is wrong with it at the same time. The pride that the kids have for their team and town, the beauty of the game itself (after all it is still baseball) and the incredible following that this level of baseball can generate are all great and illustrated in this book. But there are drawbacks as well. The players seem to not be just kids any longer and are carrying a whole town on their back. In order to play for the Toms River All-Star team, which is who will eventually represent the town in tournaments, the players have to sacrifice a lot of their childhood for daily practice and drills as well as travel and games. While the author doesn’t share the horror stories of overbearing parents, some of the sections and passages bear out what seems to be more of a trend of treating Little League baseball like the Major Leagues. One passage that seems sad to me is about the baseball training facility opened in Toms River. An instructor at the facility tells of parents who are asking him to teach their 9 year old son to throw curveballs. Curveballs at NINE? Maybe I am old fashioned but this just seems to be detrimental to the purpose of kid’s sports. Kriedler does a nice job of describing the important games of the 2007 season and that struck a nerve with me as well. It felt like an analysis and breakdown of the game, something that is often seen during the telecasts of the Little League World Series on ABC and ESPN. (It should be noted that the author has done work with ESPN) To me, this is another example of treating kid’s sports as importantly as adults and I don’t agree with that philosophy. Because the book generated these kinds of feelings and opinions from me while reading it, I do give it good marks if that was the author’s intention. At the very least, the book does accomplish the mission of illustrating what a small town will undergo when it becomes the home of a championship team. Baseball fans and readers who enjoy stories of small towns will like reading this book. Did I skim? No. Pace of the book: The pace was very good, both in the recap of past glory for the Toms River teams and the 2006 season which was described. Do I recommend? Yes. This book is a great blend of both what is right and what is wrong with Little League baseball and youth sports in general.
An empathetic, detailed and emotional look inside a Little League season in a town where they take their youth baseball seriously. I was most struck by the pressures that the Toms River baseball boys shouldered through the pages of this book.
My sons also have read "Six Good Innings," and I recommend it highly to anyone in the 4th-to-8th grade range. We've had many interesting conversations as a result of this book -- and we all had trouble putting it down during those final chapters.