Lance Smith’s review Jun 02, 13
4 of 5 stars
bookshelves: sports, own-a-copy, drama
Read from May 28 to June 01, 2013
4 of 5 stars (very good) Note: This is a change from my initial rating of three. While writing the full review, I realized that was low and adjusted accoringly.
An insurance agent who had a brief encounter with fame as a Little League coach gets an even bigger one in this tale of baseball and family. Joseph DiNatalie wins a trip to the Philadelphia Phillies fantasy camp at an awards banquet and is surprised to see how well he can still play baseball. His only baseball experience since high school is coaching a Little League team in Reading, PA on which his son Joey and Joey’s best friend Blake “Hot Shot” Hunter once participated. During the camp, Joe discovers a secret pitch that not only his fellow campers can’t hit, but neither can former Major League baseball players.
That discovery begins an incredible journey that pales with even most kids’ dreams of playing in the Major Leagues as Joe is signed by the Phillies in a desperation mode after two starting pitchers are lost with injuries. The coach who saw Joe pitch at fantasy camp convinced the front office to sign Joe. From there, Joe never looked back as an incredible season of winning, pitching records, a trip on the disabled list and camaraderie is enjoyed by him. The accomplishments by a pitcher without any experience in college or minor league baseball are far-fetched, especially 30 wins and a Cy Young award. But hey, this is all about a “phantasy”, right? It made the baseball aspect of the book even better.
This story has an important side story as well with family values being a constant source of conflict and reflection by Joe. He and Linda have been married for twenty years after Joey was born while both were still teenagers. After an ugly incident, Joe kicked Joey out of the house, and Linda has been conflicted between standing by her husband and the love of her son since. Joe’s trip to fantasy camp and subsequent life as a Major League ballplayer strains this relationship with Linda even more as the book also addresses two very different manners in which to address one’s problems of this manner.
Meanwhile, Joey and Hot Shot have problems of their own with substances. In Hot Shot’s case, it is even more troublesome because he is playing in the minor league system of the Phillies and is on the fast track to the major leagues. Their stories are also well chronicled and mesh well with Joe’s into an intriguing ending for all of them.
Each of the main characters gets a second chance at something important in their lives. That is the driving force of the book and it is written in a manner in which you are rooting for all three men to realize not only their dreams, but to also erase any demons from the past. I enjoyed reading this book for both the baseball and the family story. The baseball parts are very detailed and realistic for the action on the field and the interactions of the players in the clubhouse and dugout. The family and personal issues are also well written as the main characters are well developed and even secondary characters such as Joe’s personal catcher and the coach who discovered him are key parts of the story as well. The reader will identify with them and like them just as much as Joe, Joey, Hot Shot and (maybe) Linda.
Did I skim?
Did I feel connected to the characters?
Yes, for the story of Joe’s struggles with his son and wife. I also felt the connection when another of Joey’s friends, “Hot Shot” Hunter, has to face the same demons Joey did and addresses them in the same manner as well. However, I didn’t feel that connection with the baseball portions of the story, mainly because of the unrealistic nature of the baseball accomplishments of Joe.
Pace of the story:
Excellent – both the baseball portion and the family issues portion move along without slowing down, but at the correct pace so that it doesn’t seem rushed.
In addition to the excellent baseball action mentioned above, I found that the depth of character development with the three main male characters was outstanding. It made the stories and the book much easier to follow and to enjoy.
Sensitive issues such as adultery, divorce, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy (although these characters were in college when that took place) were addressed without judgment and were shown that they could be overcome with the proper direction and steps.
There were some punctuation errors throughout the story. Usually these are minor and in most cases they were but twice there were problems with quotation marks. The placing of them made a quote by one character seem to continue when it was really done and another character was talking during the next paragraph. I had to reread these parts to make sure I was following the dialogue correctly.
I will also had one more that is not a slight to the author, as he addressed this topic in a realistic manner, but I always am uncomfortable with reading about encounters where a spouse is cheating. Linda does that in this story, and while Hoda addresses this in a manner that is realistic and does not condone these actions, I always am a little uncomfortable with that topic. So, for me it is a negative, but for readers who do not mind encountering this topic, it is addressed well.
Do I recommend?
Yes. Even with the highly implausible baseball accomplishments by Joe, it makes for a good read because the reader will feel nearly every emotion while following Joe through this magical baseball season.