My reaction after finishing this short novel for pre-teen and teens, especially who are really into the finer points of baseball playing and the spirit of the game was a tremendous respect for the author. James Preller poured much of his passion for the game into a finely crafted story set in just ONE little league game: 6 innings, character sketches of 12 players of one visiting team, and the framing, soul-searching story of the 13-year-old severely ill ex-ballplayer-turned-announcer…
I am not particularly into baseball: enjoy watching the game once in a while, of course, but do not personally collect memorabilia or statistics as a life-long hobby. This book makes me want to know and learn more about the game, its history and all the psychological aspects of the players and the plays; it also makes me believe that there is a reason for someone, young or old, to be completely lost in the world of sports and get much of their life’s wisdom out of these games.
Preller also has quite a way with words and turn of phrases:
p. 15: “Aaron Foley, short and stocky with a squashed-in face that reminded Sam of an English bulldog, did more than toss his cookies. No Aaron projected his vomit across the room, spewing his insides as if fired from a cannon, a thunderous blast of wet barf splattering onto the tile floor.” p. 16… That’s how Sam and Mike began their friendship, sealed with a simple exchange, a look across a silent (but foul-smelling) distance.
p. 18: (About the five tools of baseball: speed, glove, arm, power, and the ability to hit for average.) Branden Reid, however, posesses a sixth tool, amnesia, the art of forgetting. Baseball is, after all, a game of failure. The only thing that a player can influence is the next play, the next at bat.
p. 22 (this describes the game, but somehow fittingly describes the book as well): “The slow rhythm of the game, a game of accumulation, of patterns, gathering itself toward the finish…” AND what a finish this book has! I felt like I witnessed a historic game after reading the last page of the book (and it isn’t even about the game or the innings or the winners and the losers.)
p. 63: “There’s a squarish, two-story bulding — an overachieving shed, really”
p. 46: On the field, baseball is a game of isolation, nine singular outposts of shared solitude… You are a “team” immediately before and after each play. (This does get repeated on page 132.)
p. 106: Tragedy, the stuff of comedy.
There are a few specific references that will definitely date the book — which is too bad: p. 40: the boys talking about Jessica Simpson and someone listening to the lyrics to a Jay-Z tune.