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The Pitcher Paperback – September 1, 2013
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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
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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.
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".
This is just a story of a boy and a man, of dreams, and a strong mom who would not let her son fail. I have long maintained that a boy needs a man in his life, a positive role model. And, in order to be successful at any vocation or skill, one needs a mentor. It is almost impossible to succeed without strong and loving guidance. Ricky had the best of both worlds: mom and man as mentors.
Being from the North Side, I resent that the author didn't use a Cub as The Pitcher. The book shares fond recollections of Wrigley Field and Chicago; thank you. Of course, since The Pitcher starred in and won a World Series, that would have changed the book from a novel to pure fantasy!
Read it; you'll love it.
Author William Hazelgrove weaves a touching tale set in Jacksonville, Florida, and written in the first person narrative that follows the journey of fourteen year old Ricky Hernandez as he overcomes obstacles to chase his dream of becoming a pitcher on his high school baseball team. Ricky has a great arm but doesn't have focus or control over his pitches. Ricky's mother Maria is his biggest supporter and she wants him to achieve his dream, but she knows that he needs a pitching coach. Maria asks their reclusive neighbor, Jack Langford, a former MLB pitcher whose team won the 1978 World Series, to coach her son in preparation for the high school baseball team tryouts.
This is an emotional and inspirational story about growing up, chasing dreams, overcoming obstacles, letting go of the past, healing and moving forward in life. This captivating tale will tug at the heartstrings as the reader follows the intertwining story of a young boy who overcomes discrimination and lack of self-confidence to chase his dream; a single mother's love for her son and her unrelenting support to help him achieve his dream while battling health and financial issues; and a reclusive former major league pitcher who learns to let go of the past, regain some joy and move forward in his life by sharing the mutual love of baseball with the young boy and his mother.
Baseball fans of all ages will love reading The Pitcher. Author William Hazelgrove weaves an enjoyable story about following dreams that brings to mind the classic jingle ... "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet."
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