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Striking Out

Striking Out

5.0 6
by Will Weaver, Jim Carroll (Illustrator)

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Up until now, Billy Baggs's life has been loaded with nevers. Never been to a movie. Never played baseball with a real team. Never got over feeling guilty for the loss of his brother. But change is in the air. Billy discovers he has a natural talent for baseball, especially as a pitcher. Maybe, just maybe, there's more in store for him than life on the farm. But


Up until now, Billy Baggs's life has been loaded with nevers. Never been to a movie. Never played baseball with a real team. Never got over feeling guilty for the loss of his brother. But change is in the air. Billy discovers he has a natural talent for baseball, especially as a pitcher. Maybe, just maybe, there's more in store for him than life on the farm. But can Billy convince his father of that? Or is he destined to spend the rest of his life pitching nothing but hay? Teenager Billy Baggs is desperately needed on his family's struggling dairy farm, but he's also an extraordinarily gifted natural baseball player. How he struggles to reconcile his father's desire to keep him on the farm with his coach's interest in getting him on the field is at the heart of this 'meaty story.… The complex characters grow and change in profoundly real ways.''K. '[With] flashes of humor, a wealth of lovingly recounted details evokes the difficult daily life on a small dairy farm.''Publishers Weekly.

1994 Best Books for Young Adults (ALA)
1994 Books for the Teen Age (NY Public Library)
1993 "Pick of the Lists" (ABA)

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Billy's big brother Robert lets him try driving the tractor. Billy's foot slips, his brother is killed and only his natural ability in baseball saves him from his angry father and the poverty of his rural Minnesota life. This is the first book in the series about the baseball star Billy Baggs. It is a powerful story.
The ALAN Review - Chris Crowe
Will Weaver's first YA novel, Striking Out, is a home run, a grand slam in his first at-bat. Though it will likely be pegged a sports book, it's much more than that: it presents a variety of interesting characters and deals sensitively with human relationships. Under the thumb of his hard-driving father, thirteen-year-old Billy Baggs, a sinewy Minnesotan, has known only farm life and hard work. Billy and his mother both long for something beyond farm drudgery: for Billy, the town baseball team; for his mother, a receptionist's job. Weaver also weaves into the book pertinent subplots that broaden Billy's character and add suspense: oily Dale Schwarz's sexual involvement with a girl Billy likes; tension among Billy's town teammates who resent his countriness and superior ability; and conflict between Billy's parents as they struggle to maintain a relationship that is changing. Weaver has combined artful language and powerful storytelling in a book that will surely appeal to male and female readers in high school and beyond.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.97(h) x 0.63(d)
540L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 - 11 Years

Read an Excerpt


Billy's brother, Robert, would have been thirteen that summer.

But here's how it happened.

The accident.

Billy and Robert were home on the farm by themselves. Their parents were gone to town, the father for plow parts and their mother for groceries. A brief town trip. There was nothing unusual about this.

At home Robert was disking with the big tractor. It was spring. Spring was the shortest season in Minnesota. It was important to keep the tractor going. To put in the hours. Dawn to dark, dark to dawn. Fields did not get finished otherwise. They did not get plowed, disked, harrowed and planted unless someone kept the tractor moving.

Robert, the older brother, was twelve. He would be thirteen in August. So he was old enough. He was big enough for tractor work. Robert had disked all that spring. There was no reason, then, why he could not keep disking while Abner and Mavis were gone to town.

Eight-year-old Billy was supposed to clean out the hayloft. Get it ready for first cutting. That was Billy's chore while they were gone. One hour, they said. They would be back in one hour.

It was hot and dusty in the hayloft. Billy worked and thought about his brother. Robert got all the good jobs. He got to drive the tractor while Billy got to sweep the loft and muck out calf pens. It wasn't fair. Not fair at all. He went to the haymow door to watch Robert on the tractor in the field. The sky was blue and the tractor rumbled and left a thick cloud of dust.

Billy sighed and turned back to the loft. The dim, gloomy loft. Along the eaves were skeletons of beavers and muskrats and minks and foxes. These were from hisfather's winter trapping. After skinning, he threw the carcasses up for the cats. The cats chewed on them all winter. Chewed on the red meat until spring, when there were only gut sacks and bones and beaver tails left. With a fork Billy pitched the stinking remains out the door. Once he stopped to look at the long yellow teeth of a beaver; the skull smelled and there were white maggots in the eyeholes. He pitched it, too. Below, Skinner, their dog, crunched bones with his teeth. A crackling, crunching sound. Billy went again to the door. To watch Robert in the field.

Billy kept working, sweeping out the dusty hay chaff. He went again and again to the door for fresh air. In the field, under the blue sky, Robert kept disking. Kept the tractor rumbling. Kept the gray dirt rolling up in broad, black stripes. At field's end, when Robert made the turn, the round iron plates of the disk flashed in the sunlight.

Billy threw down his broom. Who was going to check the hayloft? Not his father. Not Robert. Nobody, at least for a while. He climbed down from the itchy hayloft and rode his bike to the field.

He arrived just as Robert came past. The big John Deere, their heaviest tractor, had an open cab, and Robert stood upright on the platform. No enclosed cabs on the Baggs farm. Cab tractors, with their radios and their air conditioning-those were for the big operators. The rich farmers. Not for the Baggs family. Besides, in a cab how could you see the ground? How could you see the rocks that rose up? How could you hear a bearing when it gave out or an axle when it snapped? No fancy cab for them, and no roll bar either; their John Deere was built in the days before those things were made. It was an old, rumbling green barge of a tractor plenty good enough for plowing and disking. And Robert stood upright at the wheel like a captain on his ship.

Billy waved.

Robert waved. And passed by.

Each round Robert came by Billy waved to him.

Each round Robert waved back.

Each time the tractor passed, Billy disgustedly pitched a rock at the grating, grinding disk. "Anybody can disk," he said to Skinner. "Why does he get to disk and I don't?"

The next time Robert came by, Billy waved and waved until Robert stopped. Billy shouted up to him. He asked Robert if he could ride along.

"No," Robert said.

"Please. just one round."

Robert glanced back at the yard. His hair was bright yellow and curly beneath his cap. "All right," he said, "but only one round."

So Billy got his ride.

He was mostly happy.

Halfway downfield Billy shouted again above the tractor noise.

"What?" Robert said.

"Can I steer?"

Robert frowned, but made way to let Billy hold the wheel for a while. Billy sat between Robert's legs and steered. He was happier still.

At field's end Billy shouted again.

"What now?" Robert said.

"Can I shift? Can I try shifting and steering at the same time?"

"You're too little," Robert said.

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are."

"No I'm not."

"Yes you are."


Robert checked his watch, then looked at Billy. "If I let you try it then you'll vamoose?"

"Forever," Billy said. "I'll leave you alone forever."

Robert stood up to make more room for Billy. He gave Billy instructions. "Push in the clutch," he said.

Billy pushed in the dutch pedal. It was heavy. It had a strong spring. He could hardly push it down.

"Now bring up the rpms," Robert said.

Billy opened the throttle partway.

"Now let it out real slow."

Billy tried-but that is when it- happened.

Something happened.

Billy's leg muscle cramped. Maybe that was it. His leg cramped and seized and gave way.

Or maybe his tennis shoe slipped. Slipped over the top of the clutch.

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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Striking Out 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about a boy named Billy who is about 13 years old and lives on a farm in Flint, Minnesota. Billy lost his only brother Robert in a farming accident when Billy was eight. Billy really loves to play baseball and wants to join the team but his father Abner Baggs needs his help on the farm. Abner lets Billy go to a couple of practices when there is not much to do on the farm. Will Abner let Billy play the only game left in the season? This book isn¿t confusing at all because the narrators don¿t change very much and the book is easy to follow along with. I could really relate to this book, because Billy is a farm boy who loves baseball and I used to farm all the time and I still love baseball. The book really started off with a bang and then slowed down a little bit but then picked back up after a while. This book is the first book of a three book series. This book doesn¿t really remind me of any movies or T.V. shows. I think that if you are a boy around 13 to 14 and you like baseball, you will like this book. Also, if you liked reading books by Dan Gutman when you were younger, you will enjoy this book called Striking Out by Will Weaver. This is a very enjoyable book and I hope you like it too if you decide to read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This here book is one of the best books i have ever read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rather exhilerating! This bookwas excellent, especially when Billy's father let him be on the team. In the last game when Billy became the star of the team and hit a homer was amazing. They even put him into pitch and he threw a shut out. I never thought that some one who has never played can become an all-star. this book proved me wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Will Weaver combines sports and realistic fiction in a novel that exceded all of my high expectations by over 100%. When I told my mom what it was about she said, 'This is a true story, yes?' Which is proof as to how good this book is and how magnificent an author Will Weaver is. I play softball so naturally I liked this story. When I read that Mr.Weaver is from Bemidji, Minnesota, my respect for him flew up several notches. My mother's family is Minnesotan. My grandmother acctually grew up in Bemidji. Due to the good nature of this book, I award it the appropriate 5 stars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is about determination. It also has very funny parts.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a have to read series!! I read the first book of the series which is striking out and i had to read the others!! This is a great series and it gets better book by book!! I love this series and I ABSOLUTELY hate reading. But i could read this over and over and over. It is easy to understand also. I recommend it to anybody who wants an action packed book!!