Robert Kimmel Smith
Delacorte, 1989 165 pgs
Bobby has big baseball dreams. He is confident that he will be a major league pitcher and, meanwhile, spends his time reading, writing, and dreaming about nothing but baseball. He has his whole career planned out, including his nickname for when he's famous: Bobby Baseball. The first step towards stardom is to land on the best little league team (The Hawks) with the best manager, who just happens to be his dad, himself a former major league player. Dad is reluctant to put Bobby on the team, wisely sensing a a problem with keeping team matters out of family matters. Bobby's persistence finally wears Dad down and he lands a place on the Hawks along with his best friend Jason. Bobby is a hard working player and manages to score his coveted position as pitcher, even though Dad feels that his arm is not strong enough for pitching. The Hawks win their first few games, building up Bobby's confidence and swagger. Then the story changes. The Hawks face a tricky team and Bobby has met his match. When Dad pulls Bobby off the pitcher's mound to give someone else a chance, Bobby looses his tempter and refuses to leave. Dad must bench Bobby as punishment for disobeying the manager and Bobby quits the team in retaliation. The Hawks' season progresses, but without Bobby Baseball. Bobby has to decide whether or not its time to curtail his baseball dreams, find a little humility, and make up with the manager/Dad to gain his place back on the team.
I picked Bobby Baseball as my May pick for my third and fourth grade book discussion group. Spring has finally reached New Jersey after a very long and cold winter and my heart turned to baseball. What a great choice! Smith manages to capture the passion and enthusiasm young baseball fans have for the sport, as well as the unrealistic dreams to be famous. There is much for book discussion, from Bobby's inability to control his temper to whether it was a good decision for Dad to have allowed Bobby on the team in the first place, proving that Bobby Baseball isn't just another baseball story. There is also a part when Bobby complains about girls being let into the league and then we see him slowly change his mind as he makes friends with a female teammate. Smith infuses gentle humor with real-life situations and shows Bobby's family to be flawed, yet functional and loving. The chapters are a decent length for this age level, the margins generous, and the full page pencil illustrations are included at decent intervals. Being an older book, I felt that the print was smaller than I am used to in books for this age group, but its not unbearable. Give to baseball fans, who will eat this title up. Even non-fans will enjoy it. I know I did!