I’m a lazy fan of baseball, I’ll admit. I love going to games, enjoying the slow pace, soaking up the ambience, cheering with the crowd, enjoying the junk food, but I don’t follow the sport very seriously and have a slim grasp of stats and plays. Nevertheless, I enjoy seeing the sport celebrated in poetry, too. I posted a lengthy baseball-themed entry last year (April 27, 2007 Baseball in poetry) with a list of poetry books on the topic of baseball. This year I’d like to highlight a new book out this spring: Beanball by Gene Fehler. It’s a small novel in verse told through the points of view of 28 people, both players and others, all centered around a gifted player who endures a catastrophic injury. Here’s one teammate’s description of our hero at the beginning.
Andy Keller, Oak Grove backup infielder
by Gene Fehler
I’ll take credit for Luke’s nickname:
I started calling him that
‘cause he’s a wizard with the mitt.
I’ve known him since fifth grade,
and the times I’ve seen him drop a ball,
even in practice,
I could count on one hand.
Hey, I’d even have a few fingers left over.
He can outrun any fly ball,
and once he gets to it, it sticks to his glove
like a piece of fuzz to a sweater.
I bet there aren’t many big leaguers
who can play the outfield better.
From: Fehler, Gene. 2008. Beanball. New York: Clarion. p. 8
Unfortunately, Luke is hit by a “beanball,” a pitch that goes wild, hits him in the head, and causes a life-threatening injury. The narrative that unfolds weaves together the remainder of the baseball season with Luke's slow recovery process to create a riveting story, reminiscent of Mel Glenn’s verse novels, such as Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems. How each character views his or her relationship with baseball and with Luke himself shifts and evolves believably, and ‘tween and teen readers will find it realistic and compelling.
Picture credit: Amazon