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Center Field Hardcover – March 23, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 7 Up—Mike Semak's chances of becoming star center fielder and senior team captain are jeopardized when he loses his temper with a geeky classmate, Zack. The sweet spot on the baseball team becomes even more elusive when a cocky cleanup batter, Oscar Ramirez, arrives out of nowhere with a murky birth date and questionable immigration status. Mike's penance for fighting is to help out at Cyber Club, but he learns that Coach Cody purposefully assigned him to spy on Zack and other "pukes" he suspects are hacking into the school network. There, he falls for Kat, a smart and contentious girl who seems the antithesis of his girlfriend, Lori, a pretty baton twirler. Conflicted about Kat, his coach's paranoia, and his father's possible role in bringing the Ramirez family to town, Mike looks to his major league idol, Billy Budd, whose blog has always provided sound advice about baseball and other life matters. Mike wins a contest to meet his longtime hero, only to be disappointed by the "dumb jock" reality, and finds his own moral compass to solve his problems. Appealing primarily to a jock culture, Lipsyte's characters are fairly stereotypical, especially in Coach Cody's military approach to sports and discipline, and in Lori's portrayal as a giggly boy pleaser with a "pert butt and boobs." Mystery and relationship subplots may engage a wider audience, but the story shines in the play-by-play game and practice descriptions. While some real major league names are dropped, fictional Billy Budd's portrayal as a celebrity carefully conceived by media handlers is an element that won't be lost on teens.—Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

High-school-junior Mike Semak has worked hard to earn his starting position in center field on his varsity baseball team. He finds inspiration and training tips by closely following the Web site of his hero, Billy Budd (a fictional member of the Yankees). Mike’s dream year becomes complicated after the arrival of Oscar, a Dominican who threatens his position. In addition, Mike contends with a stale relationship with his girlfriend, as well as required community service with the school’s Cyber Club. The novel includes intriguing ethical issues, but there are too many of them, and the plot spirals out of control as it follows its multiple strands about a coach’s personal secrets, illegal-immigration charges, a disappointing meeting with Billy Budd, and Mike’s new romance (including sex) with Kat, a track star whose nickname is Tigerbitch for her violent mood swings. It’s the novel, not the players, that are on steroids here, but Lipsyte is a master at sports fiction, and the baseball sequences are first rate. Grades 9-12. --Cindy Dobrez

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTeen; 1 edition (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060557044
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060557041
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Robert Lipsyte is an award-winning sportswriter for The New York Times and was the Emmy-winning host of the public affairs show The Eleventh Hour. He is the author of a number of acclaimed novels for young adults, and is the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring his lifetime contribution in that genre. Robert Lipsyte lives in New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on March 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mike Semak's dream is to play center field. His idol is Yankee centerfielder Billy Budd. He lives and breathes any advice he can find from the great Billy Budd.

Mike's focus is directed at playing his best, which means clearing his mind of anything that is not baseball. He tries to steer clear of too-serious relationships with girls. He avoids involvement in his parents' latest project - opening a new floor covering store - and he pushes the problems of his sister, a single young mother living in New York, and his older brother, a championship cello player, to the back of his mind.

Unfortunately, Mike comes up against several distractions that may threaten the intense focus on his goal. One obstacle standing in his way is a new player named Oscar. He is a new kid from the Dominican Republic who shows up and looks to be a challenge for the center field position. Coach Cody lets them both know they will have to prove themselves to earn the position.

All the pressure Mike is feeling about baseball comes to a head in a silly incident with a notorious school geek named Zack. In a moment of lost control, Mike shoves Zack and ends up regretting it when, as punishment, he finds himself helping the Cyber Club provide Saturday computer instruction at the local senior center. Having the little computer nerd boss him around is almost more than he can take. The only highlight about the community service becomes another distraction for Mike's center field dreams - Katherine Herold.

Kat is a track athlete with an interest in photography and filming. Her membership in the Cyber Club surprises Mike, but he's glad to have a chance to get to know her.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a mystery, and a romance, and a adventure all
in one. I really like this book because of the way the
author told the story. I recommend this to mature teens into

This book is called Center Field by Robert Lipsyte. I
think the author did achieve his purpose, which was to tell
the reader a little more about baseball. The plot of the
story caught my attention very well. Actually, I am into
sports and I always wanted to try out baseball. And as soon
as I read this book, I fell in love with it. This book to me
was very moving, because Robert Lipsyte wasn't afraid to
make the book his own and create a teen story. And I also
felt moved that I'm not the only one who feels that way
about sports, and how Mike was relating to kids at his
school. This book is about Mike Semak, a regular guy in high
school, who is living the dream being on a baseball field
like he is on the top of the world. I really liked the
ending of the story because, Mike gets the girl he was
dreaming to have. Though his friends tease him for it,he
thinks, maybe it doesn't matter what they say. Mike sticks
up for himself, and shows everyone who is boss. I actually
loved every part of this book. It had me ripping through the
pages to see what Mike was going to do next. I think anyone
who reads this will love it, but I know young sports fanatics
will die to read it.

Reviewed by a young adult student reviewer
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Format: Library Binding
The best adolescent sports fiction has a moralistic theme about how to be a good person and make an impact on the world. The title character is a high school baseball player named Mike and for most of the book we hear about his confused state of mind and uncertainty about life and his role on the baseball team. His coach is a man named Cody and he is a former Army Ranger that has retained the aggressive attitude and military tactics towards the high school, his players and the world in general. Cody is a man that will not allow dissent against his will and dislikes people that are not of similar mind.
Cody wants Mike to be the team captain and an extension of himself, including spying on the high school students (the pukes) that he dislikes. This aggravates Mike's uncertainty, for as he interacts with the pukes, he finds that he likes them.
Mike also becomes involved with Kat, (a puke) a track runner with problems and real skills with video. Kat has some serious problems, yet that just makes her more attractive to him. The story involves Mike's competition for the center field position, illegal immigrants, strains on long-term friendships, girlfriend issues and many of the other issues that modern teens face. Mike attends and participates in drinking and pot parties and is sexually active with multiple girls.
However, at the end, Mike proves to be a worthy hero, as things are not as they appear to be. His role as a hero begins when he stands up for the pukes when they are being bullied and then stands up to the mightiest power at the school. He goes it alone at first, but then his father comes in and backs his play. It is a strong moment containing a valuable lesson. There are times when it is necessary to stand up for what is right, even if there is risk, for if you don't you will find it difficult to accept yourself later. The story has a great ending that made it worth suffering through the almost insufferable and continuous self-doubt.
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