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Diary of a Mad Sportswriter: Hudy Head book review: The Big Field

Diary of a Mad Sportswriter

Stan Hudy is a sportswriter for The Saratogian and Community News. He covers high school and youth sports in the Saratoga County area as well as writing a weekly book review on sports books. He's not just a "stick and ball" sportswriter, he's willing to take on any sport as well as any subject.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hudy Head book review: The Big Field

Daily News syndicated columnist and accomplished author Mike Lupica continues to hit his stride with “The Big Field” delighting young readers with another stellar account of youth baseball ideal for fans young and old.

“The Big Field” was released prior to this year’s young reader’s best seller “The Batboy” but remains timeless as the reader follows 14-year-old baseball player Keith Hutchinson as he looks to find himself during his summer baseball season.

“Hutch” as he is called has always been comfortable at shortstop, that is his position, but he makes way for the latest phenom to grace the field with his Boynton Beach Post 226 Cardinal squad, Darryl Williams. Hutch makes the move to second base voluntarily, even referencing New York Yankee acquisition Alex Rodriguez’s move to third base, honoring the skills of his new captain and teammate, Derek Jeter at short.

There are similarities between Hutch and Jeter, both are great players, both want the ball hit to them in key situations and both are captains of their teams.

The second situation causes the first rift between Hutch and Williams, one not being pleased with the team voting, but things escalate.

Hutch ends up being upended during practice due to a late flip by Williams and the two have words. Things spill over into a quick tackling drill between the two at a practice and one of the players earns a night off during the regional playoffs.

Throughout the story both players have challenges with their fathers. Hutch fails to find a way to communicate with his father, former top baseball player, Carl Hutchinson, but is not comparison to Williams’ living without a father figure in his life.

The goal of the Post 226 American Legion team is to advance to the Florida regional championship and play at Roger Dean Stadium, in Jupiter, Fla. the spring home of the Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals. While the field measures the same as the Boynton Beach team’s home field, it is the waterfalls, bleachers and televised broadcast of the American Legion regional that makes it a goal for the players.

Hutch spends much of the book attempting to make peace with Williams so that the top two hitters and stars on the squad can focus on winning a championship. Any sort of peace comes at a slow pace as the squad grinds its way through its playoff baseball schedule.

Lupica allows the book to move quickly, using play-by-play to advance the storyline when needed and then pausing like a seventh-inning stretch as the book reaches its climax.

“The Big Field” has lessons for all of its young readers as the drama for the Cardinals and its two stars unfolds.

Hutch learns to appreciate the father that he has and the work that he puts in to help his son succeed while Williams learns to appreciate his teammate. Readers are taken on a roller coaster ride of wins and losses, hits and errors all in the name of learning how to deal with life’s obstacles.

Lupica hits another home run in his young reader series, offering lessons in life on and away from the diamond in “The Big Field.”

4 Hudy Heads out of 5

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