No sport is more uniquely American than baseball. After all it is called our national pastime. William Hazelgrove’s recent novel, The Pitcher, relates a marvelous story of the fulfillment of the American dream amidst the balls, bats and bases found on the baseball diamond. I was somewhat hesitant, I must admit, to begin reading another “baseball as a metaphor for life” novel, but somehow The Pitcher grabbed my interest immediately and held my steadfast attention until the end.
Hazelgrove writes a truly “feel good” story about Ricky Hernandez, a Latino teenage boy transplanted from Chicago to Florida. His single mother, Maria, is working hard to make ends meet after divorcing from an abusive husband, who still lurks terrifyingly in the background. Maria knows that Ricky has natural talent to be a successful pitcher, yet he needs intensive coaching to assure he hone his raw hurling skills.
And who better to learn the craft of pitching from than Jack Langford, the former World Series pitching hero who just happens to live on the same block as Ricky and Maria? We see how the reclusive and alcoholic Jack, who had been knocked down in the game of life through personal loss, picks himself up from the mat as he is transformed into a caring and loving human being by his evolving relationships with Ricky and Maria.
Although some might question that there is a little too much predictability in the story line, The Pitcher makes for a wonderful read with a true storybook ending where you feel the goose bumps and shed a few tears of joy.
Note: William Hazelgrove is the featured author at the Cliff Dwellers Book Club on Saturday, May 31 where he will discuss The Pitcher. The discussion begins at 11:00 am. All are welcome. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 S. Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute.