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The Pitcher Paperback – September 1, 2013
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Ricky Hernandez, 13, can hurl a 75-miles-per-hour fastball. If only he could get it near the plate. Scraping by with a single mother suffering from lupus, Ricky is determined to show up the rich bullies, the kids who mock his Mexican heritage—all of them. But it seems like a lost cause until he meets his surly hermit neighbor, who just happens to be one-time World Series MVP Jack Langford. Soon a relationship begins between the Hernandezes and Langford, who begrudgingly agrees to give Ricky a few pointers. Mostly, though, he guzzles beer while forcing the kid to do puzzling things like throw stones at trees for weeks on end. It’s a set-up you’ve seen before—bitter, fallen hero taking on his demons via a brash upstart—but Hazelgrove negates cliché by powering straight through it and embracing the classic nature of the tale, which manages to be both modern and timeless. You can taste the ballpark dust, feel the smack of the ball in your glove, and feel assured that, somehow, these three strongly drawn characters will push on to victory. Grades 5-8. --Daniel Kraus
#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
While ostensibly a contemporary baseball story, Hazelgrove’s expansive fifth novel also tackles issues of class, immigration law, and inequity. Thirteen-year-old Ricky Hernandez has a 75 mph pitch and dreams of making the freshman baseball team in Jacksonville, Fla., as the first step toward a professional career. He’s dyslexic, of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, and is ceaselessly taunted by his peers, led by a kid named Eric with an inside track to making the team. While most of Ricky’s teammates can afford sports camp and private lessons, he and his mother are broke due to his abusive father’s lack of financial support and his mother’s mounting medical bills. Despite her deteriorating health, she has loads of attitude, brains, and charm. She singlehandedly persuades their neighbor, The Pitcher, who played in the World Series, to set aside his beer, leave his garage, and coach Ricky.
Hazelgrove (Rocket Man) measures out a generous sprinkling of American idealism while weaving in legitimate threads of sorrow, employing the oft-usedbaseball metaphor to fresh and moving effect. Adult characters are particularly well-crafted, giving the book crossover potential. --Cevin Bryerman, Publisher / Vice President, www.publishersweekly.com
The Pitcher is a Junior Library Guild Selection
""Readers will be rooting for underdog Ricky every time he steps onto the mound and tries to control his wild pitch. With tense moments, unexpected twists, and a few humorous and joyful reprieves, Hazelgrove's writing reflects the dramatic arc of a baseball game. Will appeal to baseball players and fans, as well as anyone who has experienced the intensity of tryouts or a high-stakes game."" ---Junior Library Guild
School Library Journal Review of The Pitcher
""Ricky Hernandez has dreamed of pitching ever since, at nine years old, he astounded the grown-ups with his throwing speed at a carnival game. Now almost 14, he’s still got the speed, but has never learned to control his pitches. His mom is his biggest fan, and she scrapes together enough for him to play on a youth league team and acts as its assistant coach. But in affluent Jacksonville, Florida, where the other rising freshmen attend elite sport camps and have personal coaches, Ricky and his mom know that he needs more if he’s going to have any chance at the high school team. His reclusive neighbor is rumored to be Jack Langford, the winning pitcher of the 1978 World Series, so Maria begins her campaign to enlist him as Ricky’s coach, but the Pitcher wants no part of it. He has spent the years since his wife died holed up in his garage with beer and cigarettes and ESPN. But Maria is tenacious, and he agrees reluctantly to help her son. The beauty of this story is that there is no sudden epiphany for Ricky when the Pitcher steps in. Langford is impatient and intolerant and sometimes drinks too much. Ricky is used to struggling academically because he can’t stay focused, and lets himself believe that this same lack of concentration is going to keep him from ever being a good pitcher. The other players pick up on his insecurities and use racial slurs to get under his skin at games. Hazelgrove is skilled at creating fully fleshed-out characters, and the dialogue carries the story along beautifully. While there is plenty of sports action, The Pitcher is ultimately about relationships, and the resolution and personal growth of the characters will appeal to a wide audience."" ---Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
""Hazelgrove knits a host of social issues into a difficult but believable tale in which junior high---age Ricky has a gift: He can throw a mean fastball.
Although the story opens with triumph---young Ricky surprises and impresses a carnival barker with his pitching---success generally proves elusive for this son of undocumented immigrants. With an abusive, mostly absent father and racially motivated bullying by teammates and adults, it’s not just Ricky’s pitching in need of a change-up. His supportive, spitfire, Latina mother is seriously ill and without health insurance, his goal of making the high school team is increasingly unlikely, and the litany of obstacles appears otherwise unending. Class issues? Check. Dyslexia? You bet. But Ricky’s first-person voice is entertaining and unflinching; when a drunk, ex-pro pitcher offers surprising assistance, the youngster notes that “we are equipped to handle all the bad shit, you know. But good things are a little trickier.” Given the gritty portrayal of can’t-catch-a-break lives and the cruelty and kindness of people young and old, sophisticated 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.""
THE PITCHER is destined to become a classic. It is well-written, funny, heart-warming, engaging, easy to read, romantic and uplifting. On the surface this story may seem to be all about baseball and pitchers, but it’s more than that. THE PITCHER, a Junior Library Guild Selection, is about a loving and determined Hispanic mother who will endure anything and survive everything for the love of her child and his right to fulfill his dreams; it’s about overcoming prejudice and poverty; it’s about second chances; and most of all, it’s about learning to believe in yourself.
Latina Book Club http://www.latinabookclub.com
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
This is much more than a story of the love of a game, or a mother's dream for her child. This is a perfectly crafted piece of literary fiction that is relevant to contemporary issues of the day.
You will come to respect and admire Maria and her son Ricky. If you're like me, you will be fascinated by the Pitcher Jack Langford. All I could see when I read about him was Clint Eastwood (about 25 years younger). You'll love his evolution and root for him as well as Maria and Ricky. If this isn't made into a movie, Hollywood is missing out on a potential blockbuster as big or bigger than "Sandlot" or "The Natural".
It weaves in hot button issues like illegal immigration, health care, and domestic violence in a way that isn't preachy or over the top. It is sentimental but not maudlin.
These issues and the dream of a mother and child to have "their moment to shine" is brilliantly done in a manner that is at times humorous, tension filled, and totally satisfying. The last 25 % of the book will have you in angst as the the twists of the story unfold into a totally fulfilling conclusion.
This novel is a must read for men and women of all ages. I just can't put into words how impressive this book is, but I have no doubt that this future best seller is Mr. Hazelgrove's
"moment to shine".
Hazelgrove takes on a new topic in this book - the immigration and education and conflicts that face the Hispanic population in this country, acknowledging the racial prejudices from both sides of that too high border, and yet dealing with those issues with the same sensitivity that propels all the stories of his novels. This is a timely book that embraces America's favorite pastime (baseball), the struggle of Mexican families both from within and from the outside, the shell of once famous people who lose career and loved ones and bury themselves in attempting to forget by what ever measures, the shaky strength of single parent households, and the germ of following dreams to their promise of success.
Very briefly, THE PITCHER relates the tale of a young Mexican lad who has the gift of a pitcher's arm, but seems unable to achieve entry into the high school level baseball team because of his questionable legal status of immigration. His mother, stricken with lupus erythematosis, is determined to help her son become a famous baseball player, knowng that he needs professional coaching, and after much negotiation engages the mysterious old ex-pitcher across the street - a man of great fame who lives in his garage unable to recover from his ended career and the loss of his wife. How the drive of the boy, the even stronger motivation of the mother, and the gradual coming out of his shell of the Pitcher meet to achieve resolution of their dreams and create a transformation of their lives is the theme that plays well to the last page.
William Hazelgrove continues to entertain and inspire with each new book. He has that ability to see the intricacies of human interaction and express them in a way that makes his ideas and the telling of those ideas completely visible. Grady Harp, August 13
Most Recent Customer Reviews
son who is 48 and still playing baseball so I really could relate to everything the...Read more