cover image SLIDER


Patrick Robinson, . . HarperCollins, $23.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-06-051026-8

Known for writing submarine thrillers like The Shark Mutiny, Robinson demonstrates his knowledge and love of baseball in this tale of a Louisiana college student who opts to play summer ball in Maine for a league that has produced a number of major league players. Jack Faber's father, Ben, an impoverished sugar cane farmer, drives him up the coast, and on the way they pick up another outstanding prospect, Tony Garcia, accompanied by his mother, Natalie. Natalie is a struggling music teacher and adamantly opposed to Tony playing baseball. In spite of their differences, Natalie and Ben are attracted to each other. Jack has a terrific season with the Seapuit Seawolves, is named most valuable player and is offered a major league contract, which he turns down. When Jack returns to college, a tough new coach breaks his spirit in a matter of days with unwarranted criticism, and Jack ends up quitting baseball. But his coaches in Maine still believe in him and invite him back to the Cape Marlin Baseball Summer League, where they rebuild his confidence with infinite care. The story might have ended here, but Robinson heads off on a tangent in the final pages when a billionaire major league owner forces his underproducing team to play an exhibition game against the Seawolves, the catch being that if his team loses he will shut down the franchise. The ending defies credibility as does a deus ex machina discovery of natural gas on Ben Faber's property that makes him a multimillionaire and allows him and Natalie to get together. Plenty of baseball play-by-play provides fodder for fans, but scattered action distracts from the fun, and too many characters crowd the playing field. (Aug.)