Friday, August 18, 2017

Review of "Shortstop from Tokyo," by Matt Christopher

Review of
Shortstop from Tokyo, by Matt Christopher

Five out of five stars
 The moral of this simple and fast moving story is one that could be expressed outside the realm of sports. Stogie Crane is slated to be the starting shortstop for the Mohawks, a little league baseball team. However, Sam Suzuki’s family moves into the area from Tokyo, Japan and Sam is faster with a stronger arm. Sam is also a more solid hitter than Stogie, so he is afraid that he will lose his position.
 Rather than be philosophical about the change, Stogie expresses a great deal of jealousy, even to the point of playing a dirty trick on Sam. As is so often the case, the trick just makes Stogie feel bad and does not really have the intended effect. Furthermore, Stogie’s focus on his emotions leads to a decline in the quality of his play and he loses his starting position. After some realistic reappraisal, Stogie swallows some pride and makes apologies and amends. The team comes alive once more and wins the big game in the last inning.
 This story features the destructive nature of emotions more than it is about competitive sports. Life is full of situations where there is the real or only perceived threat of being replaced by someone better. How you cope with these situations will do a lot to determine how successful you manage to be. This is a lesson in working with people rather than being angry about what they do, especially when they are only doing their job.

Review of "Hot-Corner Hank," by Jackson Scholz

Review of
Hot-Corner Hank, by Jackson Scholz

Five out of five stars
 In this story by one of the masters of juvenile sports fiction with a message, the main character (Hank Medini) is a talented college baseball player with a decision to make when he completes his degree. As the title suggests, he plays third base and is a superb fielder and a great hitter of college pitching. His father owns a very successful restaurant and the plan has always been that Hank would take it over.
 Therefore, the decision is whether to turn pro, likely spend years in the minor leagues playing for low pay and living life in poor housing and on buses, or take an active role in running the restaurant. Hank’s decision is to sign a pro contract only if it guarantees him an immediate shot in the major leagues. This way he will know very quickly which career path he should choose.
 At first, all of the teams treat his offer with disdain until the Quakers, a team with talent but in an unexplained decline, decide to take a chance on Hank. He starts slow, but shows signs of being able to learn and adapt to the greater challenges of major league baseball. At the end, he proves himself and is even given a vote of confidence from the man he is replacing.
 The story presents all sides of the issues regarding whether a man pursuing a degree with significant opportunities outside of baseball should start at the bottom and pursue his dream of playing in the major leagues. Hank is a level-headed young man, so the thought processes are all very rational and not tainted with a great deal of emotion. Clearly, for most people in Hank’s situation, taking over the restaurant is the most lucrative career move.
 It is a good story with a serious message about following your dreams, but always with a solid plan B behind you.