The Submarine Pitch, by Matt Christopher ISBN 0316142506
Three out of five stars
This is a good adolescent sports story, yet the amount of self-doubt expressed by the main character is a little more than I could handle. While he loves baseball, Bernie Shantz is thinking about giving it up. His skill set is such that the only feasible position for him is pitcher and he is having problems with his arm. His best friend Dave is in total opposition to Bernie giving up baseball and convinces him to dramatically alter his delivery. With Dave’s assistance, Bernie learns what is known as the submarine delivery, where the pitcher’s hand passes within a few inches of the ground.
Since Bernie is playing in Little League, all the opposing players have never seen such a pitch and Bernie’s arm retains most of its strength, so Bernie does well at first. However, his friend Dave starts to demonstrate signs of being very ill and Bernie’s concern for Dave and increasing self-doubt lead Bernie to difficulties on the mound. Eventually, Dave comes clean about his health issues. Not surprisingly, Bernie manages to pitch and bat well enough for his team to win the “big game at the end.”
Since adolescents are prone to self-doubt, having the characters in a book of adolescent sports fiction express them is natural. However, Bernie’s thoughts frequently waver from baseball to doubt and worry. So much so that the italicized segments of Bernie’s thoughts get in the way. It would have been much better if some of the time Bernie would have been thinking about the batter and game context rather than Dave.