Take Me Out to the Ball Game!
It’s official, opening day is upon us and so is the start of the best season there is: BASEBALL SEASON! I love this time of year. It reminds me of good memories of the end of winter and the start of warm weather, lazy summer afternoons listening to Harry Caray call a game in my backyard, and the smell of my mitt (old, worn out, and fitted to perfection) as I crouched in position covering first.
As a fan of baseball, of course I love reading books and watching movies about the sport. As I started prepping for the start of the 2013 baseball season, I realized some of my favorite baseball movies can be paired with some really great teen novels.
Movie: Trouble With the Curve
An aging baseball scout is losing his eyesight, and this may cause him to have to give up the only job he has ever known. His strained relationship with his daughter doesn’t help his situation, as she may be the only person who can help him. Funny and feel-good, this is a great movie for those who know the game inside and out. Rated PG-13.
Readalike: Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip by Jordan Sonnenblick (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Themes of aging, what to do when your baseball career is over, and budding romance make this the perfect pairing with Trouble With the Curve. Peter’s dreams of being a baseball star in high school are ended with an injury. Not knowing what else to do with his time, he turns to photography — a hobby that he learned from his grandfather. As he spends more time with his grandfather, though, he begins to realize that the man may be struggling with an onset of dementia that the rest of his family seems to be ignoring.
Movie: The Natural
As a young man, Roy Hobbs has a promising career ahead of him. Armed with a bat named Wonderboy, Hobbs gets a tryout with the Chicago Cubs. However, he is shot after an encounter with a woman in black, and his career is cut short. It is not the end of Hobbs, though. He appears 15 years later as a 34-year-old rookie for the New York Knights. Of course, the rest of this film is the classic underdog story that culminates with that unforgettable scene of Hobbs crushing a home run into the grandstand lights. Rated PG.
Readalike: Center Field by Robert Lipsyte
A young man, Mike, has high hopes for the upcoming season as a starter in center field. Amid controversy, his coach has a replacement for the coveted center field position. The corruption involved in bringing in the new player is slowly revealed as Mike struggles to maintain his integrity on and off the field. Mike’s character development is similar to Roy Hobbs, who is tested by and struggles with the corruption present in the game.
Movie: The Bad News Bears (1976)
A ragtag group of misfit little league players are thrown together and led by the unlikeliest of coaches. Sensing that his team has no baseball talent, Coach Buttermaker brings in a young girl with an amazing fastball that revitalizes the team and gives them the confidence to make it to the championship game. The Bad News Bears shows that no matter what makes you an underdog, you can overcome it and find victory in more ways than one. Rated PG.
Readalike: Heat by Mike Lupica (2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
Just like the down-on-their-luck players on the Bears, Michael Arroyo is also dealing with hard times in the novel Heat. He lives on his own with his older brother, and they are worried about being split up and sent into foster care. On top of that, Michael is suspended from playing on his baseball team (which is headed to the championships) after allegations over his age. All Michael has ever wanted is to pitch in the championship game, and now those dreams may never come true.
Movie: A League of Their Own
Set during World War II, small-town girls get a chance to show off their skills playing for the major leagues while the boys are off fighting the war. Focusing on two sisters, Dottie and Kit, the drama unfolds as the two women get a chance to shine under the spotlight. This movie is not only funny and packed with stars, it is also a look at life during World War II and what it would have been like to be a woman with a chance to play ball in the big leagues. Rated PG.
Readalike: Bat 6 by Virgina Euwer Wolff
It’s the 50th Annual Bat 6 softball game in a small Oregon farm community. Amid tensions over the recent Pearl Harbor attack, one of the players attacks a rival player who is Japanese. Told in alternating points of view, this novel relays the different perspectives of those who witnessed the attack. As in A League of Their Own, Bat 6 gives a good snapshot of the time period and the different issues caused by the war.
Movie: Field of Dreams
The famous quote, “If you build it, they will come,” speaks to what this great film is all about. Ray Kinsella builds a baseball diamond on his farm, compelled by hearing that famous quote whispered in the wind. Ghosts of former baseball legends show up and play, and Ray can’t understand why. Facing bankruptcy, Ray has to make some important decisions and discoveries about life and about his family. Rated PG.
Readalike: The Boy Who Saved Baseball by John H. Ritter
Instead of building a field of his own, Tom Gallagher has to save a baseball field. A development company wants to come into his town and tear down their historic baseball diamond and build a new one along with houses and strip malls. The old man that owns the land promises Tom that if his summer camp baseball team can beat the nearby all star team, then the land will stay as is. Now Tom has to get his team in shape and hope for a miracle to save his small town.
— Colleen Seisser (an avid White Sox fan!), currently reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio