Short chapters, sports, mostly for boys-that pretty much sums up the “A Champion Sports Story” series. In this book, written in the first person, sixth-grader Chad Griffin is a great fielder on his local baseball team (we learn that Brightsport is a seaside tourist town, though not on which coast), but he absolutely cannot hit a ball. When Mark Wilcox, a professional player on leave with an injury, volunteers to coach the Rangers’ batters, Chad is thrilled. As he starts to improve, he’s amazed to hear his father say that Mark was the very player who deliberately injured him years ago, ruining his chance at a major league career. Can that really be true? The plot benefits from a touch of mystery about Mark’s past, while the team surges ahead under his outstanding coaching. Their chief foe is the intimidating Zach Neal, wicked pitcher of the Red Sox, now pitted for the championship against Chad and his teammates-enthusiastic Jose, feisty ace pitcher Danielle (yes, she’s a girl), reliable hitter Jimmy Lee. For Chad, everything seems to fall apart when he discovers Mark shooting steroids. Surprisingly, problems between the two adult males are solved much too easily to be believable, especially the sudden and unexpected appearance of two local baseball jobs for Chad’s father and his former enemy. But that’s not the point here! Mark’s admission of wrongdoing and his reform become the lesson of the of wrongdoing and his reform become the lesson of the tale: playing by the rules makes for the utmost satisfaction. Meanwhile, baseball enthusiasts (especially Little League players) can revel in the details of the championship game as the Rangers battle for the trophy.
Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft