William Hazelgrove discusses his latest novel The Pitcher the story of a Mexican American boy with a golden arm and a broken down World Series pitcher who coaches him to make the highschool team.
Book signing at Townhouse books http://www.townhousebooks.com/
St Charles IL for the The Pitcher 11-2
Richmond, Va., on the edge of sweeping political and social changes in the summer of 1945, is the setting for this poignant story narrated by 12-year-old Lee Hartwell, whose coming of age coincides with upheavals in his family and society following World War II.
Union organizers and the Second District Negro Democrats, led by an educated black man from the North, Silas Jackson, are backing a candidate against the incumbent Senator Herrin, an unbeatable good ol’ boy who has held the seat for 15 years. Lee’s father, Burke, is the senator’s campaign manager and a fixture among the city’s upper crust until he takes on the case of a young black woman (raised by his housekeeper) who is accused of grand larceny and prosecuted because of her involvement with Silas Jackson. While his characters seem familiar (the all-wise black housekeeper, the crooked politician, the brilliant lawyer who puts ethics above all), Hazel-grove—author of a prizewinning first novel, Ripples—uses them effectively to capture the sensibility of the postwar South. The result is a spirited saga of a family and an incident that effectively mirrors a time and a place. (Pantonne Press, $18.95)
“Ricky, I know you are having trouble. Just remember that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it. Don’t worry about me. I will always be there for you. I will always be with you. Just take your breath and listen to what Mr. Langford tells you. Remember I will always love you and that will never change. You are becoming a fine young man and a great baseball player. I couldn’t be prouder of you. Now take your breath, find your quiet space and use the gift God gave you. I love you. Love you forever, Mom P.S. Take your breath!”
THE PITCHER is destined to become a classic. It is well-written, funny, heart-warming, engaging, easy to read, romantic and uplifting. On the surface this story may seem to be all about baseball and pitchers, but it’s more than that. THE PITCHER, a Junior Library Guild Selection, is about a loving and determined Hispanic mother who will endure anything and survive everything for the love of her child and his right to fulfill his dreams; it’s about overcoming prejudice and poverty; it’s about second chances; and most of all, it’s about learning to believe in yourself.
Book Summary: 14-year-old Ricky Hernandez is about to enter high school and wants a spot on the school baseball team. The problem is his wild pitching arm. He can throw super fast but he has no control over it. Just like he has no control over his ex-father who continues to barge in and steal what little money they have; nor his grandmother’s fears of deportation; nor the rival pitcher who continually bullies him; nor his mother’s deteriorating ill health. Ricky longs for some helpful tips from another pitcher, like a World Series pitcher and MVP Jack Langford, who just happens to live next door, but Jack wants to be left alone. In fact, all anybody ever sees are his feet at the bottom of the garage door which is always down.
However, Jack doesn’t count on Maria Hernandez. She is a dynamo and will not take no for an answer, even if it means confronting a curmudgeon in his man-cave and forcing him into the light. Yet even with the MLB pitcher finally coaching him, Ricky can’t seem to find his zone. And when his mother’s health takes a turn for the worse nothing seems to matter anymore and certainly not some stupid baseball game. But Maria will not let him quit and from her hospital bed she encourages her son to prove himself and win. There is the obligatory“win this one for the coach” scene, but it rings true. And the ending is inspiring and joyful as any reader could wish.###
Tobacco Sticks is the book that put me on the map. Small map though it may be. I was looking around for something to write after my first novel and I sat down with my father and asked him to tell me one more time about growing up in a big Southern family in the South. He unreeled the stories of his father who was a lawyer and managed Senator Byrds campaign in 1946 and how the families all got together on big porches and nobody ever moved and how he was raised by a Mammy who was large and drank all the time and became “sanctified” every Sunday.
And then he gave me a large scrapbook and in it was all the newspaper clippings from the Senatorial campaign. I took that and went to Virginia to interview the people who were still living who could tell me what it was like in 1946 Richmond Virginia. And then I came back home and tried to stitch a novel together. Seven years later a book was published called Tobacco Sticks. I had no great hopes for the book that is really the story of a lawyer who takes a case that puts him against his neighbors and friends. But then the reviews came in.
And they were good and my literary career began. I am not sure I will ever write a book like this one again that tackles unions, race, family, civil rights, and the slow change coming to the South. But maybe you only get one shot at the big book and this was mine.
www.williamhazelgrove.com Tobacco Sticks
Publishers Weekly Review of The Pitcher
While ostensibly a contemporary baseball story, Hazelgrove’s expansive fifth novel also tackles issues of class, immigration law, and inequity. Thirteen-year-old Ricky Hernandez has a 75 mph pitch and dreams of making the freshman baseball team in Jacksonville, Fla., as the first step toward a professional career. He’s dyslexic, of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, and is ceaselessly taunted by his peers, led by a kid named Eric with an inside track to making the team. While most of Ricky’s teammates can afford sports camp and private lessons, he and his mother are broke due to his abusive father’s lack of financial support and his mother’s mounting medical bills. Despite her deteriorating health, she has loads of attitude, brains, and charm. She singlehandedly persuades their neighbor, “The Pitcher,” who played in the World Series, to set aside his beer, leave his garage, and coach Ricky. Hazelgrove (Rocket Man) measures out a generous sprinkling of American idealism while weaving in legitimate threads of sorrow, employing the oft-usedbaseball metaphor to fresh and moving effect. Adult characters are particularly well-crafted, giving the book crossover potential. (Sept.)
Kirkus Review of The Pitcher
Hazelgrove knits a host of social issues into a difficult but believable tale in which junior high–age Ricky has a gift: He can throw a mean fastball.
Although the story opens with triumph—young Ricky surprises and impresses a carnival barker with his pitching—success generally proves elusive for this son of undocumented immigrants. With an abusive, mostly absent father and racially motivated bullying by teammates and adults, it’s not just Ricky’s pitching in need of a change-up. His supportive, spitfire, Latina mother is seriously ill and without health insurance, his goal of making the high school team is increasingly unlikely, and the litany of obstacles appears otherwise unending. Class issues? Check. Dyslexia? You bet. But Ricky’s first-person voice is entertaining and unflinching; when a drunk, ex-pro pitcher offers surprising assistance, the youngster notes that “we are equipped to handle all the bad shit, you know. But good things are a little trickier.” Given the gritty portrayal of can’t-catch-a-break lives and the cruelty and kindness of people young and old, sophisticated readers might balk at a somewhat implausible solution when Ricky is thrown one final curve before tryouts. But no one will really mind—this kid deserves a break.
An engaging, well-written sports story with plenty of human drama—this one is a solid hit. (Sept)
School Library Journal
HAZELGROVE, William. The Pitcher. 241p. Morgan James/Köehler. 2013. pap. $15.95. ISBN 978-1-938467-59-2.
Ricky Hernandez has dreamed of pitching ever since, at nine years old, he astounded the grown-ups with his throwing speed at a carnival game. Now almost 14, he’s still got the speed, but has never learned to control his pitches. His mom is his biggest fan, and she scrapes together enough for him to play on a youth league team and acts as its assistant coach. But in affluent Jacksonville, Florida, where the other rising freshmen attend elite sport camps and have personal coaches, Ricky and his mom know that he needs more if he’s going to have any chance at the high school team. His reclusive neighbor is rumored to be Jack Langford, the winning pitcher of the 1978 World Series, so Maria begins her campaign to enlist him as Ricky’s coach, but the Pitcher wants no part of it. He has spent the years since his wife died holed up in his garage with beer and cigarettes and ESPN. But Maria is tenacious, and he agrees reluctantly to help her son. The beauty of this story is that there is no sudden epiphany for Ricky when the Pitcher steps in. Langford is impatient and intolerant and sometimes drinks too much. Ricky is used to struggling academically because he can’t stay focused, and lets himself believe that this same lack of concentration is going to keep him from ever being a good pitcher. The other players pick up on his insecurities and use racial slurs to get under his skin at games. Hazelgrove is skilled at creating fully fleshed-out characters, and the dialogue carries the story along beautifully. While there is plenty of sports action, The Pitcher is ultimately about relationships, and the resolution and personal growth of the characters will appeal to a wide audience.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA (Sept)
Junior Library Guild
The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection
” Readers will be rooting for underdog Ricky every time he steps onto the mound and tries to control his wild pitch. With tense moments, unexpected twists, and a few humorous and joyful reprieves, Hazelgrove’s writing reflects the dramatic arc of a baseball game. Will appeal to baseball players and fans, as well as anyone who has experienced the intensity of tryouts or a high-stakes game.” (Dec)
Junior Library Guild
The winner of a starred review in Publishers Weekly and a Book of the Month Club Selection will be on Free Download on Amazon Oct 1-5. This Mockingbird drama that covers the demise of a Virginia family in 1946 Richmond Virginia has echoes of To Kill A Mockingbird in it’s twelve year old narrator and her father who takes a case putting him against the town. http://www.amazon.com/Tobacco-Sticks-Southern-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B001UHNI9C/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=