Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the author for review consideration.
When 14-year-old Pete Simmons transferred to posh Welton Middle School, he felt like an invisible kid from the wrong side of town. That is, until Coach discovered Pete’s passion for baseball and made him the star catcher on the championship Texas Blaze baseball team. Now middle school is drawing to a close and this is the summer to work hard and earn a spot on the high school roster. But Coach has been losing his temper more and more often. And the starting pitcher is a bit of a jerk (although his super-athletic twin sister Livvie is often hanging around, so it’s not all bad). When the Texas Heat go on a rare losing streak, the peers flare and players are tested. But win or lose, being part of the Texas Blaze is Pete’s whole world — and he’ll put up with anything to stay on the team. Almost anything. (Summary via Amazon.com)
Pete loves baseball. He’s got some talent, and he hopes that his talent can keep him from being looked down on as the poor kid at his fancy new middle school. Coach Manton is tough but fair to his baseball team–or so Pete thinks at first. When Coach goes too far, though, Pete quits the team and puts up with the consequences, including the fear of not being able to get a good spot on the high school team that fall.
This book was so well written–especially the dialogue. I totally believed Pete as a young teenage boy (although I’ve never been one, so I could be wrong). He loves his parents, but he keeps certain things from them (and definitely thinks they’re a little crazy sometimes), and he’s constantly worried about what his friends and teammates might think of his decisions. Pete also wants his friend’s twin sister, Livvie, to pay him some attention, even though he thinks his friend might not approve. Through injuries, good and bad games, and the daily difficulties of being a teenager, Pete manages to make some good decisions and learn more about baseball and about life.
Block the Plate talks about the important subject of coach abuse. This is something I’ve definitely seen signs of, but I never really hear addressed. We’ve all seen those coaches who get way too into the game, yelling at their players and sometimes even roughing them up. I wasn’t expecting a middle grade book to explore this heavy topic, but I’m so glad it did! No coach should get away with mistreating his or her players in the name of winning. Definitely pick this up (or hand it to your kid) if you’re into playing sports, especially baseball. You’ll enjoy the well-written characters and the great storyline.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good