What a mother wont do for her son. A boy with a golden arm but no money for lessons. A mother who wants to give her son his dream before she dies. A broken down World Series pitcher who cannot go on after the death of his wife. These are the elements of The Pitcher. A story of a man at the end of his dream and a boy whose dream is to make his high school baseball team. In the tradition of The Natural and The Field of Dreams, this is a mythic story about how a man and a boy meet in the crossroads of their life and find a way to go on. You will laugh and you will cry as The Pitcher and Ricky prepare for the ultimate try out of life.
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William Hazelgrove is the National Bestselling author of ten novels and seven nonfiction titles. His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly Kirkus,Booklist, Book of the Month Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards Junior Library Guild Selections, Literary Guild Selections, History Book Club Selections and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today, The Smithsonian Magazine, and other publications and has been featured on NPR All Things Considered. The New York Times, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, CSPAN, USA Today have all covered his books with features. His books Tobacco Sticks, The Pitcher, Real Santa, and Madam President have been optioned for screen and television rights. His book Madam President The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson is currently in development He has four forthcoming books. Sally Rand American Sex Symbol, Morristown The Kidnapping of George Washington. The Brilliant Con of Cassie Chadwick. One Hundred and Sixty Minutes, the Race to Save the Titanic.
Winning the World Series is the dream of every baseball player, no matter what level, position or ability. So when you are a young man struggling with your pitching just before the high school team’s tryouts and you discover your neighbor was a pitcher who DID win a World Series, you want him to help you make the team, right?
That is the premise of The Pitcher, a coming-of-age book about Ricky, a young man being raised by his mom Maria. They are of Mexican heritage and that sometimes works against them in the mostly white Florida neighborhood where they reside. The single mom is very involved in her son’s baseball activities. She dons catching gear and works with him on his pitching and even coaches his team for a short spell. Despite all of Maria’s hard work, however, Ricky is still having trouble with his control and knows that he has a famous neighbor.
Jack Langford, aka “The Pitcher” to Ricky, won three games in the 1978 World Series for the Baltimore Orioles (yes, I know, that isn’t who won that year) and is now living mostly in his garage, watching baseball and drinking a lot of beer. Ricky doesn’t want to bother the man, but Maria pulls out all the stops to try to draw attention to the help him. The Pitcher reluctantly agrees and that starts a journey for the three of them that includes friendship, tough talk, rough spots, romance between the two adults and of course, baseball wins and losses. Just like the game, the paths the three characters take, both together and separately, lead in many different directions. However, just like the game, the object is still to reach home.
While the story grabs your attention and sucks you in so that you don’t want to escape, the characters that Mr. Hazelgrove introduces to the readers are so wonderfully crafted that one feels that these people have been in their neighborhood before. Maria in particular, the feisty woman who won’t let a rough past, sickness and a seemingly impossible path tell her that he son can’t pitch well enough to make the team. Ricky is the kid that we all know – seemingly shy and afraid to defend himself, but when the going gets tough, he shows what he can do. Then there is Langford – a very complex character who seems to change from nice guy to scumbag and back to a decent chap all within the span of a few pages.
The story is told from Ricky’s point of view and the language used by the youngster is authentic. Not only in the style and slang that Ricky uses, but it is also authentic to illustrate his Mexican background. Maria’s character also is an accurate portrayal of her heritage without falling into stereotypes.
Baseball fans will notice that there are both fictional and non-fictional baseball accounts. The earlier reference to the 1978 World Series is an example of a fictional one. There are accurate references to both Chicago teams for another example. Ricky’s favorite big league star is pitcher Carlos Zambrano for the Cubs, there is a passage about the infamous fan interference play in the Cubs-Marlins 2003 National League Championship Series and White Sox pitcher Bobby Jenks is referenced as well for his fastball that topped 101 miles per hour. This mix of fact and fiction is a nice touch – puts some historical context in the story, but keeps it as a true fictional account.
There is one section that hard core baseball fans will appreciate. Non-fans or even casual fans might be confused when Langford is teaching Ricky how to throw a changeup. The mechanics of how to hold the ball, the proper grip with the knuckles and how to push off the mound with the legs are described in great detail. It reads much like an instructional book on pitching.
The story is a good read for not only teenagers and their parents, but also for baseball fans and anyone who enjoys a good story of a young man who is coming of age. I placed this in the young adult genre, but it isn’t the “typical” YA story with the only romantic references being played out between older adults. All ages will enjoy this story. A reader doesn’t have to be a baseball fan to be whisked away to the ball fields in Florida and follow Ricky’s path.
I wish to thank Mr. Hazelgrove for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I skim? No – I made sure to devour every word of this story.
Did I feel connected to the characters? Yes. I especially related to Ricky’s anxiety when he took the mound during each game and the excitement as well as the nervousness that all players at that age feel when they are on the field. Doesn’t matter the level of play or the type of field – all players feel this on the field.
Pace of the story: Excellent – the baseball portions, the family issues and the final game all move along without slowing down, but at the correct pace so that it doesn’t seem rushed.
Positives: There are so many. The best one was covered in the review and that is the rich character development of Ricky, Maria and Langford. It is a book that runs the gamut of emotions, which is something I like because that keeps me involved in the story. Finally, no matter the topic – the politics of immigration, the medical conditions of characters, domestic issues and of course the baseball – the writing shows that Mr. Hazelgrove has done his research.
Negatives: There aren’t many, whether it was for the story, characters, editing, flow, accuracy of baseball history. The closest that could be considered a negative is that the characters do use foul language. These words are not spelled out in the book, but there is use of this, so for younger readers, discretion should be used before giving this book to them.
Do I recommend? Yes – for anyone, any age who simply enjoys a good book.
The story is okay, but one thing really bothers me. When an author tries to write a book about baseball he needs to make sure the details of the game included in the book are correct. While it is not impossible it would be extremely unusual for a world series pitcher to hit a game winning home run and I don't think two opposing pitchers in a world series game have ever homered in the same game. Also, at a dramatic point in the book the hero balks and the author has the umpire tell the batter to "take his base". That is not how a balk works. A balk only occurs if runners are on base and then they get to advance a base. A balk does not occur if no one is on base. Sorry, but I love the game and details are important when you are writing about something.
So, have you ever had a dream? That’s a question that every person is asked time and time again. Do you have a dream. If you’re Ricky Hernandez, your dream is the same dream as everyone else. He wants to be the American Dream. A kid from nothing that turns into something.
“The Pitcher” is a book about dreams. The dreams of kids. The dreams of parents. The dreams of immigrants. The dreams of a man who’s lived the dream. And it’s all brought together in the mind of William Hazelgrove.
So, let’s put myself into Ricky’s shoes, shall we? I am a 3rd generation Mexican American, as is Ricky. My family isn’t from this country, and my grandmother came to this country to find a better way of life, as did Ricky’s. And as a Mexican American, imagine the scrutiny faced by a culture that is xenophobic.
Ricky’s constantly in the bottom of the 9th with nobody out in this expertly crafted story. His mother is dying. His father is worthless. He wants to be a pitcher, just to fulfil his mother’s wishes. But his mother cannot afford the lessons needed. Hence, comes in the surprise character, nicknamed “The Pitcher.” A down and out former MLB pitcher who was a World Series MVP. A man trying to forget squandering his dream.
In this story, Ricky and The Pitcher come parallel. Two people who aren’t interested in school or life. All they want is the game. All while dealing with Mrs. Payne, the representation of that Tea Party mom and Sports Mom who drives us nuts. Coach Devin, her seemingly spineless husband. And their “perfect” son named Eric, who represents that “perfect” kid willing to step on everyone on his way to the top.
From the opening pitch in Ricky’s life to his final triumphs, William takes you on a journey that you’ve been on before. The journey of love, doubt, and self-searching. All through the eyes of a Mexican boy who thinks the world is against him.
So, get ready to root for the underdog in a social and sometimes political commentary of the kid’s journey. Kids will pick up the theme of beating the odds. Adults should pick up the underlying themes of our xenophobic nature. Everyone should be rooting for Ricky.
William Hazelgrove weaved this book together with mastery, and you should pre-order this now from Amazon. It’s available for $11.56 USD, so definitely put in your order and get ready for one heck of a baseball story. Like my last pre-release, this one is a love book, folks. And that doesn’t happen often.
Cheers, Mr. Hazelgrove. I’m rooting for this book to make it, too.
Book Review: The Pitcher By: William Hazelgrove. This book is very good and the whole focus of this book is around baseball, so if you are a sporty person this is the book for you. This book that I just read is realistic fiction but some of the events in this book have taken place on earth but other events haven’t happened so I would have to say this book is realistic fiction. The setting of this book takes place mostly in the main character (Ricky’s) neighborhood and on some sort of field ranging from and open grassy field to an actual baseball diamond. The mood of this book ranges from some sad moments to some really happy moments it sometimes really bounces back and forth between those two. The main conflict of this book is kind of hard to explain because it would kind of give away the book but what happens is a character in this book gets sick because of a certain thing and that makes icky really sad and want to quit baseball… But if you want to find out what happens I would suggest you read the book. The characters can’t really do anything because of what happens they just have to hope and pray they themselves can’t do much more than that. My opinions on this book is that I feel this was really well written and this book was perfect to me in particular because I like sports and baseball is one of my favorites. But If I had to critique the book I would probably add some more description about stuff because some moments go from Ricky being at a baseball field right then to his mom being all dressed and taking “The Pitcher” Ricky’s baseball trainer dinner so if it was me I would try not to jump around the board as much but this was a very well rounded story and I would recommend this book to anyone because like what I said in my last review that sometimes I have a hard time finding books I actually enjoy and want to read, so I would recommend this book. The writing of this book is pretty powerful because of some events that happen in this book. I do think the author achieve his primary purpose because the book was about baseball so yes he did that very well. I also agree with what he is writing about. Lastly, All-in-all this book was really good and like I said I would recommend this book to anyone who likes sports. This book was very good. This book left me on the note of being thankful for the time I have. Again this book was very good and if you are looking for anything to read this would be my answer.
My 12 year old stayed up reading this several nights in a row, and he asked me to read it once he finished. He couldn't wait for me to finish it and kept asking where I was in the book so he could talk about it. I got him the sequel and he finished it in one night.
At 44 years old I am not the target market for this book, but I still found it a good story that was easy to get sucked into. As a mother I appreciated that the book was teaching my son about privilege without it being a lecture from me.
I was surprised by how dark this book was, and also that my son loved it so much in spite of (or because of) it. It made me cry non-happy tears at one point.
It's definitely an underdog story, which are my favorite kinds of sports stories. I found the narrator's voice (it's as if Ricky is telling the story to the reader) sounded authentic and likable, and the fact that he spoke directly to the reader worked well for me.
There were a few times I had to fight to suspend my disbelief. A mother working at Target wouldn't be able to afford much of any house in Florida. A person wouldn't spend much time in a garage with the door most of the way closed but open enough for the dog to go in and out at the bottom during the summer. It would be way too hot and also BUGS. But seeing as he didn't write this book for skeptical 44 year old mothers, I let it go. Mostly the plot seemed feasible to me, though I'm not a baseball expert. The proof reader missed a few errors, but I don' hold that against the author.
I really enjoyed reading this book. This book takes place in Florida during a very hot summer. This book revolves around Ricky, a 13-year-old Mexican kid that finds out he has a great arm and he can pitch the ball fast, but he cant control it. His mom, Maria, scraps up money to get him onto a baseball team so he can get better. His goal is to make it onto the high school team but his mom is poor and they cant get him a coach to help him control his fastball. His tries to help but she just doesn't know how to pitch. There is a retired MLB pitcher that lives across the street his name is Jack Langford. He helped his team win the world series but after his wife died it all went downhill, but Jack becomes Ricky's last hope to get control of his fastball so he can make the high school baseball team. I fell like the author made this book very entertaining. The writing was suspenseful and I was always excited to find out what happened next. This book was a very fun read and it left me with a good impression. I would recommend this to an older audience as this book had a more mature theme, but I really liked this book.
`In baseball games it's all about momentum and the crowd sniffs who has it.'
William Hazelgrove continues to `bat a thousand' with this, his latest impressive novel, THE PITCHER. He so very well understands a child's point of view and the adult response and all the friction, love, agony, passion, and joy and disappointment that the interaction between these apparent poles implies. He has the gift of writing honestly and with utter conviction about relationships between youngsters and adults, showing us the true proximity between the nascent mind yearning for the seasoning of the adult and the polar end of the adult who dreams of the innocence of childhood. He makes it magical, he makes is real, he makes it immensely satisfying to read.
Hazelgrove takes on a new topic in this book - the immigration and education and conflicts that face the Hispanic population in this country, acknowledging the racial prejudices from both sides of that too high border, and yet dealing with those issues with the same sensitivity that propels all the stories of his novels. This is a timely book that embraces America's favorite pastime (baseball), the struggle of Mexican families both from within and from the outside, the shell of once famous people who lose career and loved ones and bury themselves in attempting to forget by what ever measures, the shaky strength of single parent households, and the germ of following dreams to their promise of success.
Very briefly, THE PITCHER relates the tale of a young Mexican lad who has the gift of a pitcher's arm, but seems unable to achieve entry into the high school level baseball team because of his questionable legal status of immigration. His mother, stricken with lupus erythematosis, is determined to help her son become a famous baseball player, knowng that he needs professional coaching, and after much negotiation engages the mysterious old ex-pitcher across the street - a man of great fame who lives in his garage unable to recover from his ended career and the loss of his wife. How the drive of the boy, the even stronger motivation of the mother, and the gradual coming out of his shell of the Pitcher meet to achieve resolution of their dreams and create a transformation of their lives is the theme that plays well to the last page.
William Hazelgrove continues to entertain and inspire with each new book. He has that ability to see the intricacies of human interaction and express them in a way that makes his ideas and the telling of those ideas completely visible.
Whether they will admit it or not, most guys still react to a heart-tugging baseball novel the same way they reacted to one when they were kids. Almost every boy, at one time or another - even if only for a moment - has probably dreamed of becoming a professional athlete, and in my day, that usually meant dreaming of major league baseball. And, reliving those dreams for a day or two via a good baseball novel is still quite a kick for guys like us. The Pitcher, William Hazelgrove’s new novel allowed me to escape into that world again for a little while last week.
Ricky Hernandez is a kid with an arm. Not yet in high school, Ricky is already throwing a baseball a consistent 74 miles an hour. And, on those rather rare occasions he gets the ball over the plate, he is pretty much unhittable in his youth league. The problem is that opposing coaches know how wild he is and they give the take sign to even their best hitters when Ricky is not on his game. The results are predictable.
Ricky’s mom, fighting an illness that has the potential to prove fatal, knows that her son has the natural ability to be special if only he can learn to control his pitches. Because the boy’s father is no longer living with the family, she diligently relies on books and diagrams to coach Ricky – a strategy that most definitely is not working. But desperate times call for desperate measures (as the cliché goes), and she decides to grab the attention of the former World Series MVP who hibernates across the street in his garage. She knows that if Ricky does not make his high school team in the open tryouts that are just a few weeks away he might never played organized baseball again. It is not going to be easy, however, even if she does get some MVP coaching.
The Pitcher is one of my favorite reads of the summer, a summer during which I needed to find something about baseball to feel good about again because of the doping scandals and the sheer awfulness of my hometown team. William Hazelgrove has done it. I am pleased to find that my love of the game is as deep as ever; it only took The Pitcher to rekindle it.
Bottom Line: The Pitcher may be labeled as a YA novel, but readers will not really notice or care about that. The book also touches on issues not related to baseball that impact Ricky’s life – especially alcoholism and living in America as the first generation child of an “illegal alien.” There is a lot going on here. Baseball fans, this one is for you.
"And like all good baseball novels, The Pitcher is about more than just baseball" - Billy Lambardo
This pretty much sums up everything about all sports books. You can't write a whole story, just about baseball. And in this book, Hazelgrove did exactly that, even with the limited amount of characters he choose to put in the story. This is probably one of my favorite books I have read in a while (and that's saying something).
Ricky learned that he had an arm when he was 9 years old, at a carnival game. With this, he creates and pursues his dream of becoming a professional ball player, as a pitcher. A screaming 75 mph pitch, a world series champ pitcher (named The Pitcher) living right next door, and a mother who believes in Ricky's dream, who can ever ask for more? But Ricky lives a life with an abusive father that comes home just to steal money, a racist teammate and family that happens to lead his team, and the question of whether he can make the high school team with his horrible accuracy. This book will pull you into it, and you will be struggling to escape.
One thing that I really liked about this book, compared to most books, was the fact that it really stuck to a handful of characters, rather than introduce a million characters that become pretty hard to keep track of. It sticks to these characters and really goes in depth into them, so you can really get a nice and deep understanding of every character.
Not only did the book had a satisfying ending, but also the actions of the characters throughout the book are really frustrating to the reader, which is, of course, good. It just makes you want to read on to see how the problem will be solved.
In the end, this was an extremely good book for something I just wanted to "try out". I would really recommend to not only sports/baseball fans, but really anyone looking for a good book. Though there is some heavy baseball terminology written in there that is not backed off, it is till possible to read for someone without any prior baseball experience (I mean, I think, because I myself, being a baseball player, don't know what others don't know). Ultimately, great book, would recommend it to any teen looking for a good book.
Ricky is 9 years old when he learns that he has a great arm for pitching, which he's excited about because he doesn't feel like he's good at very much. He's now 14 and practices in front of his house with his friend Joey. He plays on a city team and his arm is pretty wild and he needs to learn control. His mother doesn't have money to pay someone to coach him so she looks on the internet for tips to help him. She does enlist the help of the Pitcher who lives across the street from them. He's a former major league baseball pitcher named Jack Langford who won the World Series in 1978. He now lives in his garage, smoking, drinking and watching baseball games all day. He's not interested in helping Ricky and his mother out, though.
Ricky's mom, Maria, is quite the character. She's not afraid of anyone and is willing to do whatever she needs to in order to help her son. The first thing she would ask her son is if he was breathing and I had to laugh, because when my kids get frustrated while doing something, the first thing I tell them is to relax and take a deep breath, so I personally think that's great advice! Ricky deals with prejudice, especially from Eric, the pitcher on his baseball team who is jealous of Ricky's arm. He also has to deal with a father who comes over when he needs money and treats him and his mother poorly. His life is pretty rough and Maria does the best she can to help him become a better man than his father and give him the opportunity to be successful in life.
This book was interesting but seemed a little slow to me in places. And warning: there is a lot of language in this book! While the author doesn't technically drop F-bombs, instead he does this: f--- and motherf----- (literally uses lines in place of the letters). He also uses g__d___ quite a bit (that word is spelled out), along with other, milder swear words. The language does fit the characters but it was a little much for my taste.
In The Pitcher, a story of Ricky and his amazing gift of pitching is told. We are told about Ricky’s life and all the struggles he goes through to become a great pitcher. Ricky’s mom wants everything for him and she even puts her own health behind her and almost dies because she didn’t take care of herself. They both never give up and they show others how tough there little Mexican family is. Hazelgrove did a very good job of making the reader want to keep reading. He made the characters experience real life situations and problems, which made the characters, have to battle in order to get to where they need to be. I wish Hazelgrove had told more background about Ricky and his family because we didn’t really get as much information as I would have liked. If we knew more information, I think we could have understood his problems more then we did with very little information. From this story readers can learn that if you keep fighting you will make it a long way. Ricky never gives up on his dream of being a high school pitcher and making it into the major leagues. The major message you can receive is that just because someone looks how they do doesn’t mean that you can say they will suck at baseball. Never judge a person by his/her looks. Overall, I gave this book a 3/4 stars on GoodReads. I enjoyed how the author Hazelgrove described all the scenes and made them really visual. I would recommend this book to people 13 and up because there is a lot you need to understand while reading. There are some bad words and examples of drinking alcohol. If you like to read about sports then this book would be good for you. This was well worth reading.
I am blown away by this novel. It gave me more chills than "The Field Of Dreams" and "The Natural" combined. I choked up more times reading this, soon to be classic tale, than a team that leaves 11 men on base during a game. I kid you not; it's that moving. This is much more than a story of the love of a game, or a mother's dream for her child. This is a perfectly crafted piece of literary fiction that is relevant to contemporary issues of the day. You will come to respect and admire Maria and her son Ricky. If you're like me, you will be fascinated by the Pitcher Jack Langford. All I could see when I read about him was Clint Eastwood (about 25 years younger). You'll love his evolution and root for him as well as Maria and Ricky. If this isn't made into a movie, Hollywood is missing out on a potential blockbuster as big or bigger than "Sandlot" or "The Natural". It weaves in hot button issues like illegal immigration, health care, and domestic violence in a way that isn't preachy or over the top. It is sentimental but not maudlin. These issues and the dream of a mother and child to have "their moment to shine" is brilliantly done in a manner that is at times humorous, tension filled, and totally satisfying. The last 25 % of the book will have you in angst as the the twists of the story unfold into a totally fulfilling conclusion. This novel is a must read for men and women of all ages. I just can't put into words how impressive this book is, but I have no doubt that this future best seller is Mr. Hazelgrove's "moment to shine"
As a child, baseball enchanted me. I wanted to pitch for my beloved Dodgers. Something got in the way. Not lack of talent, but being a girl. Reality stepped in and changed my dreams. Not so with William Hazelgrove's The Pitcher.
This escape into dreams of becoming a pitcher flow effortlessly from page to page, reminding the adult reader that once we were young and had our own seemingly impossible dreams.
A young Mexican-American boy dreams big. He wants to pitch for his high school team. Not in the Big Leagues. Just in high school. His mother, who knows nothing about pitching and everything about fostering her son's dream, checks books out of the library to learn how to pitch. Squatting in the middle of their suburban street, she works with him to throw and catch. Blessed with speed and cursed with no control. the dream seems hopeless.
Until, that is, the boy approaches his neighbor who lives in a garage across the street. This drunken, chain-smoking hermit is the least likely hero you'll ever meet. A former Big League pitcher who actually pitched in the World Series and won a game, this drunk is rude, crude and nearly agoraphobic. Still, the boy doesn't let up. The pitcher agrees to coach him.
And therein lies a tale for young and old, young at heart, youths with their dreams in tact, parents who remember what it was like to chase a dream.
There are so many reader's hands I want to put this book in! Protagonist Ricky is in 8th grade and has a wicked, but wild fastball. He dreams of making the highly competitive high school team. Keep in mind Ricky is Hispanic and poor and doesn't have the money to spend on private lessons, the best equipment or club/travel teams. What he does have though is a fierce mother. I loved their story because it speaks very plainly about prejudice and not so plainly about white privilege. This book will resonate for anyone even if you are not a sports nut. However, if you are a baseball player with dreams this is a book for you.
The Pitcher is about a boy named Ricky. Who just graduated the Eighth Grade and is playing baseball with a summer team. His Mom is doing all she can do to help him succeed in pitching. Ricky was having a problem with his pitching though because all he could do was throw a seventy-five mile per hour fastball, but he did not have a different pitch. Ricky and his Mom live right next to a former MLB pitcher who won a World Series with Detroit. Ricky’s Mom was trying to find a way for Ricky to get lessons with Jack Langford, the MLB pitcher. Jack refused to coach Ricky because Jack believed in no coaching. Well Jack finally said yes to coaching but he tried to teach him how to throw a curve, sinker, and a slider. Ricky was not good at thought so Jack taught him a change-up. It took Ricky a long time to figure out how to control and throw the Change-up. Ricky figured it out before the championship game. Jack had to step in as a couch for Ricky’s Mom because she was really sick and was put in the hospital. Ricky won the game using that newly found change-up against a kid named Eric whose family is a bunch of jerks. Eric’s family tried to ruin Ricky’s dream of making the High School Baseball team by saying his Mom is an Illegal alien but Jack married Ricky’s Mom so Ricky could try out for the team and he made the team.
Yes, it is a predictable. Yes, it is a lot about pitching baseball, which is a bit much if you aren't a fan. But the plot and the characters are very engaging, and I enjoyed this book immensely. The editing was tight, the story didn't drag like so many novels do these days. It was a pleasant two day spin in the pitching world.
My only beef with this book is that it is pitched [pardon the pun] as a young adult novel, but as only one out of three of the main characters is a teen, I think the classification misses the point of a good book. It can be enjoyed by anyone who can read. Adults read 'To Kill A Mockingbird', 'The Book Thief', 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone', 'Fahrenheit 451', 'Catcher in the Rye'. A young adult as a protagonist does not make this a "young adult novel". Don't let the genre put you off reading this or any good book
Overall, the story is quite good. I read into the night to finish it. Even though I knew it would probably have a happy ending, and I was hoping for it, Pollyanna as that might be, I still wanted to see how the author could pull it off. He did it well. It was not cloying at all. At times, I thought the book seemed more appropriate for a middle-grader. I think younger boys might benefit more, overall, from the lessons in the book about family, broken homes, alcoholism, loss, coping, self-control, citizenship, sportsmanship, perseverance, effort, individual responsibility, pride, taking chances, patience, and so much more. Although it is intended for tenth grade and up, with the exception of some crude dialogue, blanked out curse words, and perhaps the themes of abuse and alcoholism that are touched upon, it might also be appropriate for a wider audience of younger readers. There are so many values touched upon, and they really are developed well. I think that these values are best taught when kids are young and more pliable. I felt that some tenth-graders might have passed the time when it would be most effective and might already be a bit too sophisticated for the subject. The book examines relationships and does a pretty good job of showing how teens abuse, bully and intimidate one another, how someone who believes he is superior can threaten his victims with only his tongue as a weapon and can do a lot of damage to the person’s view of himself and self-esteem, and also how someone should react to a bully to prevent them from screwing with their heads. Hazelgrove does a pretty commanding job of shining a light on the bigotry and bullying in the schools and playing fields, and he shows its effect on the selection of players for positions and teams, which is an oxymoron since sports should teach kids about sportsmanship and doing one’s personal best, above all! The nine-year-old boy, Ricky Hernandez, at the center of this story, is Mexican. His mom, Maria, is determined to do everything in her power to help him succeed. Because he is dyslexic, not only his heritage has held him back, but his difficulty in school has disheartened him and sometimes he fails to make the appropriate effort to succeed, already assuming in advance that he will fail. Maria’s ex-husband is an abusive creep who would better serve them all if he disappeared. He only comes around to act like a big shot and get money or be physically and verbally abusive. Maria is depicted as beautiful, capable and hard-working until recently, when she lost her job at Target for trying to organize the workers. She is pretty sick and now has no health insurance. She puts Ricky’s needs first and often provides him with things she can’t afford and foregoes medical treatment instead. Maria is the assistant baseball coach for Ricky’s team and she is determined to have him make the high school team because she believes he has a gift, a really fast, fastball. Across the street from where they live, there is a has-been pitcher who lives in his garage. To compete with the kids who have private coaches, she knows that Ricky needs more help than she can provide. She would really like to have the pitcher help him out, but the pitcher is a reclusive eccentric and a drunk. The story really gets more interesting when she manages, with feminine wiles and kindness, to entice him to help her son, and in that effort, she also tries to help him overcome his weaknesses. As the story develops there is some violence, but that is overshadowed by the theme of developing patience and of not letting anyone bait you with insults. Unfortunately, I detected an additional agenda in the book, about “undocumented workers”. Many times, my feelings were not in sync with the author’s. Yes, Ricky Hernandez is a victim of racial bias, but that has nothing to do with illegal immigration or health care. His mom is half Puerto Rican and half Mexican. He considers himself Mexican. He has heard hate speech directed at him and been unfairly punished and/or singled out for reprimand and discipline, instead of the guilty bigot. He tries hard not to let it get the better of him because he knows that is what the bully and the racist want. That will only make them attack harder. Ricky is revealed to be this great kid, polite and respectful, helpful and rarely defiant, although he has his wicked moments. He does admit he lies, doesn’t every kid? (I am not sure that is a good value to put out there.) Eric, his teammate, the white coach’s son, on the other hand, is presented as a spoiled, loud-mouthed brat, an arrogant kid who knows that his mom and dad will favor him and get him out of any trouble he creates. The white characters in the story were portrayed in a much more negative light as evil bullies, as racists who use their money to garner unfair influence, as cheaters and bad sports, capable of unfair compromise and skullduggery. On the other hand we have Maria who is depicted almost larger than life, as a much more responsible coach, keeping the field and its environs clean, fighting those who call her son names and shout out racial slurs. This tiny Mexican woman is portrayed as if she is invincible and can succeed at anything. Sometimes, I laughingly felt like I should be singing “mighty mouse is on the way, mighty mouse will save the day”, because at certain points, it seemed a little over the top. Also, the timeline felt a little out of sync, like more than just a few weeks were left to train Ricky for the tryouts. But the book held my interest, and the story flowed naturally and smoothly from page to page. In the end, this is a feel good "Cinderella" story for guys, but it also has its moment as a tear-jerker. Overall, it is a great story about dreams coming true.
This book is about a 14 year old pitcher that is playing for his local team. He lives in Florida in a mostly white neighborhood where he is Mexican. He is a huge fan of the Miami Marlins and Carlos Zambrano. He throws really hard but he has no control of the strike zone at all. He wants to make the high school baseball team next year but he has to get more control. His family is poor and doesn't have money to pay for pitching lessons. Their neighbor was an mlb pitcher that won a world series. Now he lives in his garage and drinks and watches baseball all day. They ask him a few times to help him with his pitching mechanics but he says no. One day he decides to help him. He and his mom are playing catch in the road when the pitcher comes out.
This is listed as a young adult book which makes it hard for me to rate. I purchased it for my 10 yr old grandson, who loves baseball, and hope it's not too rough around the edges.
This book gives a glimpse into people struggling with poverty, health, domestic abuse, alcoholism, being the underdog and dealing with racial slurs. There's a lot of profanity and shows a dysfunctional family living in a tough situation. Likely an eye opener for young kids blessed with a stable home.
It also shows love, determination, the joy and sometimes frustration when helping others and helping them pursue their dream. It's a good example of the competition to make a team and the unfairness that can be taught and perpetuated by parents!
The writing style of this drove me nuts for most of the book (if I never read the word “man” again, I will be thrilled). *BUT*, a “do absolutely anything for their kid” mama bear, baseball, a washed up former MLB player, plus a little drama, and plenty of feel good action in there too? It grew on me. Maria was absolutely an iconic character (she was also an idiot) but man, she was a true icon. (Yes, I did just use “man” ironically). This is a fantastic and heartbreaking story; one of those that has so many awful things happen that the good parts genuinely make you smile. I ultimately got over the choppier sentences and could easily look past any other little things that may have bugged me if I looked too closely, because Maria and the heart of the story made up for it in my opinion.
I thought this book was really heart warming and entertaining. I love all the details about the characters and their life. By far my favorite character is Ricky's mom Maria. Maria is kind, intelligent, loving and brave. She never made the choice to give up on ricky no matter the conditions. I also really loved the pace of the novel. Nothing happened too quickly nor too slow and there was always something entertaining. If you love sports fiction then you should definitely read the book The Pitcher by William Hazelgrove!
The book is about a boy that wants to make the high school baseball team but he’s mexican and people call him names and make fun of him. The boy has to go through a lot of struggles. His mom has health issues and does everything for him and helps him with baseball and their neighbor is an ex major league baseball pitcher and he helps him out with his pitching. He plays on a team that’s not very good then the best pitcher the team has transfers teams and they have to play in a tournament in front of the high school coaches and he has to display in front of them while his mom is in the hospital so she can’t watch him pitch. I really like the book it hooks you into it and just keeps attracting you more and more into it. The book really keeps you guessing. My favorite part was when he struck out the kid that transferred at the end of the book to win the tournament and he did it in front of the high school coaches. The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that the pitcher was an alcoholic and would always leave the boy hanging when he really needed his help. I hope the author makes another one that tells how the boy does on the high school team and about his future with baseball. I would recommend reading this book if you're into sports and you like adventure.
It was a great read. My only criticism would be there is something I hate in books : if you tell me some character is good at something but then each scene after that the character is just so bad at the said thing, it's infuriating. The main protagonist, Ricky Hernandez, was sometimes infuriating with his damned attitude too. Anyway, the ending was great and brought some tears to my eyes. This book would make such a great movie.
Bill, I’m a writer researching my next project—Barbara Anne’s Slider. I just wanted some background. What you gave me was a whole lot more. What an interesting, touching piece. You taught me much and for that along with the pleasure of reading your hard work I thank you.
I really liked this book. It had a lot of tense moments in the book, lots of cliff hangers. Overall I like how the author wrote about the game of baseball and what kind of relationships it makes, and what challenges you have to overcome.