What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this sports story stands out not because the underdog wins in the end or saves the game in the last second. It stands out because the main character, Brian, recognizes he probably won't ever make the big leagues, but he still wants to be the best he can; because his divorced dad was a lousy father and he doesn't have a miraculous change of heart or change his ways in the end; instead Brian gains the maturity to realize his dad might not change, but he can still love him. Those are the themes that can impact readers. There is a frank discussion of steroid use and why some athletes give in to the pressure and try to cheat by using drugs (the book cites some real-life athletes such as Barry Bonds). This is a rather rare look at the shortcomings many celebrity role models have and provides a unique opportunity for parents and kids to discuss the issue.
What's the story?
Fourteen-year-old Brian works hard to get his dream job -- batboy for his local big league baseball team. He hopes the job will impress his dad, who is a former baseball star who now lives in Japan, and doesn't seem to care about Brian. That same summer, another former baseball star gets a second chance playing for the team, a player who had always been Brian's hero. Just like his dad, the hero doesn't want anything to do with Brian or his hero worship. Brian works hard all summer to become a better player himself, determined to help his summer team win some games and make his dad proud. Many detailed baseball games and practice sessions later, Brian's father comes back to town for a quick visit, but he hardly has time for Brian. Despite all these disappointments, Brian finds the help he gets from his friends and other team members serves him well, and he plays it forward. He also learns there are many kinds of heroes.
Is it any good?
Although the heavy description of baseball games and stats may bore kids who don't care about sports, this is a timely exploration of why some athletes turn to steroids, how our society treats them when they get caught, and celebrity worship in general. It's a fast-paced sports story with believable characterizations of teen boys and driven athletes. And there's a complicated father-son relationship treated very realistically that will resonate with kids who have an absent or disappointing parental relationship. Brian grows to realize that his father's inability to be a good dad has nothing to do with what kind of son he is. As always with Mike Lupica's sports stories, there's so much more happening off the field.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the pressures placed on athletes to cheat. Do they want more fans? More money? Short cuts?
The book suggests that Barry Bonds felt he had to use steroids to keep up with other athletes who did. How do players counteract that belief?
How do you feel when a celebrity you admire gets in trouble or arrested? Do they deserve a second chance? Do they have an excuse?
Brian thought if he made his father proud of him, he might see him more. How do you think it would feel to have a parent treat you the way Brian's dad did?
Does everyone always deserve a second chance?