From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-This novel goes beyond the usual baseball story by introducing the deeper issue of big developers encroaching upon nature and small-town life in rural California. Doc Altenheimer, an 87-year-old apple rancher, seems to be ready to sell his 320 acres of prime real estate that makes up a good part of Dillontown and its baseball field. He surprises young Tom and the rest of the residents by proposing that the decision should ride on a baseball game between the locals and the well-equipped summer-camp team down the road. Despite the odds against Dillontown, a surprise ending is in store. Characters are colorful and intriguing. There is the villainous mayor who believes there will be great prosperity if new roads and expensive houses are built. A mysterious boy, Cruz de la Cruz, arrives on horseback claiming to know the secret of hitting, and brings hope and spirit back to the residents. He and Tom seek out an old baseball legend, Dante Del Gato, a recluse who walked away from the majors many years before, and convince him to be their coach. Ritter's descriptive passages will have readers feeling they are actually at the ballpark tasting the swirling dust amid the authentic Mexican food cooked by the supportive townspeople. Spanish phrases blend in unobtrusively throughout the saga. This tale is peppered with both optimism and dilemmas; it has plenty of play-by-play action, lots of humor, and a triumphant ending.Blair Christolon, Prince William Public Library System, Manassas, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* Gr. 5-7. Ritter delivers a baseball tale of legendary dimension, featuring several larger-than-life characters and a team of ordinary young folk tackling a seemingly insurmountable challenge in defense of a worthy cause. After old Doc Altenheimer promises not to sell his acres to developers if the local, ragtag summer camp can field a team that beats the nearby exurb's all-stars, along comes young Cruz de la Cruz, with a bat slung into a rifle holster on his saddle and a self-designed computer game that simulates the delivery of any pitch. Knowing they'll need more than that to be ready, 12-year-old benchwarmer Tom enlists gruff loner Dante del Gato, a renowned Major Leaguer who suddenly quit the game, as trainer. While local boosters turn the tumbledown practice field into a rolling fiesta, and eager reporters gather to watch, Tom and his fellow Wildcats find themselves playing better than they ever thought they could--good thing, too, as Cruz, his work done, disappears on game day, propelling Tom into the lineup for last-inning heroics. Developing both cast and multiple plotlines in suitably "wild and woolbacious" prose, Ritter dishes up another stellar read--topped off by a convincing Web site, http://www.cruz-on.com, apparently fabricated for the book, that adds verisimilitude. John PetersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved