Outstanding Junior Library Guild Review of The Pitcher

Jul 12, 2013 by

  • Readers will be rooting for underdog Ricky every time he steps onto the mound and tries to control his wild pitch. Baseball becomes a metaphor for the characters’ many challenges. For example, “The Pitcher” Jack Langford advises Ricky, a Hispanic teen with dyslexia: “’You are all alone on the mound and it’s all stacked against you. You gotta prove yourself with every pitch.’”

William Hazelgrove examines the culture of youth sports. Ricky faces ongoing discrimination from parents, coaches, and other kids, including bully Eric, who is also trying out for freshman-team pitcher and taunts Ricky: “’But look, just try and do well in the batting practice. I mean you have all that experience, man, swatting piñatas . . . right?’”

  • Though often gruff and surly, Jack develops into an unlikely father figure for Ricky. When Ricky curses at practice, for instance, Jack reprimands him, saying, “don’t do it around me. I got delicate ears.”With tense moments, unexpected twists, and a few humorous and joyful reprieves, Hazelgrove’s writing reflects the dramatic arc of a baseball game.

This book will appeal to baseball players and fans, as well as anyone who has experienced the intensity of tryouts or a high-stakes game: “I walk up to home plate with my heart thumping and my hands sweaty. I tap the rubber with my bat, then snatch up some dirt and rub it into my gloves. Eric grins on the mound.”

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Born in Richmond, Virginia, and carted back and forth between Virginia and Baltimore, I blame my rootless, restless personality on my father. He was and is a traveling salesman with a keen gift of gab, great wit, a ready joke, and could sell white tennis shoes to coal miners. [read more...]

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