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The Pitcher Paperback – September 1, 2013
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#1 Amazon Bestseller in Contemporary Urban Fiction
#1 Amazon Bestseller in Teen and Young Adult Sports Fiction
"Hazelgrove has fashioned a near classic baseball story"
San Francisco Review
Hazelgrove knits a host of social issues into a difficult but believable tale in which junior high-age Ricky has a gift...a mean fastball. Given the portrayal of can't-catch-a-break lives and the cruelty and kindness of people young and old... readers might balk at a somewhat implausible solution when Ricky is thrown one final curve before tryouts. But no one will really mind--this kid deserves a break.
An engaging, well written sports story with plenty of human drama--this one is a solid hit.
Kirkus Review of Books
"William Hazelgrove examines the culture of youth sports as Ricky faces ongoing discrimination from parents, coaches, and other kids."
Junior Library Guild Pick for Fall 2013
"Hazelgrove (Rocket Man) measures out a generous sprinkling of American idealism while weaving in legitimate threads of sorrow, employing the oft-used baseball metaphor to fresh and moving effect. Adult characters are particularly well-crafted, giving the book crossover potential. "
Cevin Bryerman Publisher
"Like all good baseball novels, Hazelgrove's, The Pitcher has spit and dirt and leather and battles between boys. And like all good baseball novels, The Pitcher is also about more than just baseball. There are dreams here, and hope (and a mom, something even the best baseball novels often forget about). The Pitcher is a story about making lives, and in Hazelgrove's hands you can feel them taking shape."
Billy Lombardo, Author of The Man with Two Arms
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Koehler Books, Sep 1 2013, $15.95
In Florida, Ricky Hernandez lives with his Mexican-Puerto Rican mom while their abusive patriarch Fernando shows up when he needs money or the need to batter her. Ricky excels at nothing as his dyslexia makes school impossible and his heritage makes life impossible. However, at a carnival he learns he has a great pitching arm. His mom Maria would do anything to help her son succeed, but is unhealthy, unemployed and uninsured.
Maria dreams of his fastball enabling her son to make the high school team though she is aware that the parents of her son's rivals for a spot hire professional coaches to instruct their children; she does not have the money for medical care that she desperately needs. Still to help her Rickey she becomes assistant coach on his baseball team, but believes her son needs a mentor. When Rickey enters the forbidden zone of a drunk to retrieve a ball, he meets the bellicose Pitcher. Determined Maria turns to the reclusive former World Series Pitcher to help Rickey with fundamentals. The twenty-five years MLB Pitcher wants to be left alone in his garage, but instead Maria showers him with kindness.
Filled with morality themes, The Pitcher is an enjoyable character driven tale mindful of the movie The Sandlot. Filled with sliders and curves, young adults and baseball fans of all ages will enjoy taking the mound as Maria brings her fastball to the game of life and by doing so she helps Rickey and the retired Pitcher.
The son's ambitions and hopes combined with his mother's support are what the book is all about. But, throw in a down-at-the-heels, former star player, and the book becomes one that should be read slowly, and savored, in order to enjoy every nuance of the plot. Again, this book is magical.
So when THE PITCHER was recommended to me by a friend who knows that SHOELESS JOE, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE and WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS are three of my favorite books, and FIELD OF DREAMS and BULL DURHAM are two of my all-time favorite movies, at first I ignored him. Then a second friend chimed in, unsolicited, with the same recommendation, so I gave it a chance.
I'm glad I did.
Hazelgrove has pulled off something not many authors can do -- he has created is a story that manages to be a breezy read, while also being sweet, powerful and heart-felt. There are a thousand tales of kids reaching for their dreams, encouraged by a special "Obi-Wan"-esque mentor, but despite that THE PITCHER manages to come off as fresh and even original in its point-of-view of this tale as old as time.
As I said before, I've read other books by the author. As much as I liked them, though, I have to say that THE PITCHER feels the most authentic. Hazelgrove has found his voice in this book, through these characters and with a story that feels personal and real. A good writer, like a good actor, can make almost any material work (though it will likely still come across as wooden), but no matter how good an author may be, he or she can't force their writing to live and breathe...that comes only from a well-grounded connection to the material. That's what Hazelgrove has accomplished here.
Want to feel good? Read THE PITCHER.