by John Ritter, published 2003
“Tee ball is killing baseball… They’re killing the ability of kids to learn the most important part of the game- to follow a ball with their eyes. And to swing and hit a moving target..”
This is a terrific children’s book not just about baseball, but about community, forgiveness, and the cost of so-called progress. The book has ‘heart,’ and the ending brings tears even if you are not a baseball fanatic. On the other hand, if you are a baseball fanatic, especially of small-town, sandlot ball, this children’s book hits home. It strikes at the importance of keeping traditions and valuing the simplicity in life, even at the risk of not getting rich or famous.
The characters in the book are remarkably well-developed, and when one of them dies (spoiler alert), you feel everyone’s sadness. At the same time, there is a storehouse of baseball information about hitting, fielding, practicing, etc, that would inspire any young ball player. Remarkably, given that it was written in 2003, it presents baseball as a gender-free game, with girls as some of the most important players, despite the heckling from others.
The drama is non-stop as the “David meets Goliath” theme unfolds, and an unlikely group of kids gets into shape for a high-stakes baseball game. However, there are also fun moments, and a good deal of outdoors adventure as well. I highly recommend this children’s book especially for kids who are NOT living in cities! They will relate easily to the theme of protecting what they have from urban sprawl.