Ramon "Tru" Dixon made it as a college football player in the late 1970s, but inattention to academics had him back on the streets of Pittsburgh within a year. An entry-level position in the computer industry eventually led to his forming his own company, which provided the opportunity to coach youth-league baseball. This is the story of his team of inner-city kids, who applied the discipline and baseball lessons Dixon offered and turned them into the Mayor's Cup, emblematic of Pittsburgh's best Little League teams. Dixon describes negotiating a treaty with the local gang to use a neighborhood park and enduring a barrage of Molotov cocktails thrown at the team while it attempted to practice. This affecting account of the struggles of inner-city parents and kids presents a strong message of perseverance for kids and leadership by example from adults. Wes Lukowsky
From Kirkus Reviews
An urban-ghetto saga of youthful despair and self-destruction transformed into a striving for excellence, told by a sportswriter and a dedicated Little League coach. Give Coach Dixon points for honesty. He was a talented young athlete but he was also, he tells us, a smug, grandstanding punk with a taste for wine, women, and gambling. He wasted, he says, every athletic and academic opportunity that came his way. After dropping out of college, he landed a job by using his computer skills to forge a college transcript. His life began to turn around when the company found out about his deception but elected to keep him on. He blossomed in the corporate world, finding a self-confidence he had not known outside of the playing field. Several years later, Dixon drove through his old Pittsburgh ghetto neighborhood and was angered by the lack of respect and discipline he saw on the local baseball field. While watching, he was recruited to umpire a ragged Little League game and swiftly got drawn into coaching. He also got hooked on a single mother with a troubled fifth-grader named Lance. Lance displayed all the surliness and defensive indifference toward school that young Dixon did, and Coach Tru became obsessed with making Lance and his Little League teammates into self-respecting, determined young men. To the book's credit, all the many pitfalls, reversals, and failures in this improbable crusade are recorded. The players slowly respond to their strict but caring coach, turning into winners. Dixon's team gets their name, The Next Level, from the response he demands when he yells ``How far do you wanna go?'' to his troops. With plenty of emotion, humor, and good baseball description, we follow the team's climb to the championship level. An inspiring, heart-warming Bad News Bears for the inner city. (12 b&w photos, not seen) (TV and radio satellite tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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