Parents send their kids to the newest craze in Little League baseball: military boot camp on a diamond. The kids have had enough of out-of-control parents, coaches, and abusive drill sergeants. After a typical day of coaches cursing and hitting kids, exploding bases, booing from the stands, and parents fighting in the parking lot, the kids are at their wits’ end. It’s mutiny in the dugout. The kids go on strike, pulling out picket signs to let their parents know they’ve finally crossed the line.
Charlie, 29, a pro baseball player with a third-rate minor league team, comes home to visit his ailing father, Gordon. Gordon’s wish is for Charlie to take his beloved team to the Little League World Series. His past mistakes overshadow Charlie’s reluctance. In high school, a jealous Charlie hurled a fastball at Abe, smashing his brother’s collarbone and a shot at a scholarship. Angry at Charlie’s lack of remorse for his action, Gordon sends Charlie away to face the world alone and a life of endless wondering.
After helping the team T.P. his dad’s house, Charlie reluctantly agrees to coach the kids
for the Little League championship. Abe, now a minister, reluctantly agrees to help. Herbert, who runs his own military-style baseball training camp, has other plans. With the aid of the League President, Judy, they conspire to beat Charlie’s team and franchise his boot camp across the country. In a cliffhanger playoff game, Seth, Charlie’s star pitcher throws a secret new pitch forcing the batter to strike out and lose the game. The celebration of their stunning victory is short-lived when Charlie witnesses how Little League destroys kids. While delivering a motivational speech to drug-abusing teens at Abe’s church, Charlie sees first-hand how organized sports can negatively affect kids. Charlie then realizes he has exiled himself from life and love in an internal east of Eden. Reaching a peace treaty with Abe, Charlie sets out on a path to
destroy Herbert and restore the innocence of Little League.
In the final battle to determine which team will be going to Williamsport, Charlie’s team faces impossible odds after being forced to trade on their star player, Casey. After adding Casey to his arsenal, Herbert secretly recruits 6-foot tall, 12-year old twin ringers.So, Charlie turns the final game into a literal three-ring circus. But Charlie saves the best for last when his players go on strike. The kids march to the outfield with pickets signs and are soon joined by 200 fellow little leaguers. In a last-ditch effort, Herbert protests, with a megaphone in hand, that he is the true winner. Charlie proves that sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war.
Targeted Age Group:: 12-21
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I was inspired by a Preacher who was giving his first sermon at our church on Cain and Abel and seeking forgiveness. He started off by telling everybody how much he loved baseball. He preached about what if Cain came home and asked for forgiveness.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I coached Little League baseball for ten years. My main characters are based on God, Cain and Abel. All the other characters are based on other coaches, out of control parents and the kids.
This was what Charlie lived for – baseball. At thirty years of age, it had taken him more than ten years away from home to get here finally. His whole life was geared towards playing the game and having fun – making up for all those years long ago when he had been waiting for this chance. He had left his family behind, trying to forget that once upon a time, he wasn’t good enough to play on the team. Trying to forget all about his past. Traveling as far away as possible to fulfill a dream he could never fulfill in his hometown.
There were mixed feelings about the place back home. At times he longed to return. But it had been too long. More than ten years ago and a lifetime of trying to forget the place and the people. This was his home now.
There he was – finally on the field, on third base. Nearly home; nearly at home base. The crowd was loving him like no one else had ever loved him. The anonymous cheers warmed his heart, and he performed for their adulation. Charlie danced off third base, taunting the pitcher who was torn between chasing after him and playing on. The pitcher stared down at Charlie before beginning his windup. With one leg positioned slightly back, the pitcher held the ball in his hands with his glove halfway between his chest and waist. He nods to the catcher and takes a small step back as he tries to get the last strike and end the game. Charlie senses the pitcher’s frustration and takes a large lead off the third. The pitcher breaks his windup and throws to the third baseman. Charlie dives under the pick-off throw just in time to avoid being tagged out. He loved the play – the teasing twinkle in his eye only fueled more mad frustration in the pitcher who merely wanted to get on with things and go home. Charlie stands up and dusts himself off. As the third baseman throws the ball back to the pitcher, Charlie leads off again. But this time, the pitcher ignores Charlie, trying not to be overpowered by his shenanigans, and instead throws a wild pitch by mistake over the catcher's head into the backstop. As the catcher scrambles to retrieve the errant ball, both the pitcher and Charlie head towards home. The ball, Charlie, and the pitcher all arrive at the same time. The pitcher, who, despite being cartwheeled by Charlie's slides, holds the ball for the umpire to see he still has it in his possession.
“Safe!” the Umpire yells.
The pitcher starts arguing with the Umpire as if he'd thrown a perfect game. Both managers take to the field and immediately get in the umpire's face. Normally, the umpire would let the pitcher make his case, but he has been shown up one too many times in his lackluster career, and today he’s taking a stand, ejecting the managers from the field.
Charlie stands a few feet away, and instead of being distracted by this meaningless debate, he soaks up the sun and adulation of his adoring fans. He glances over at the scoreboard.
He is in heaven, and nothing can shake his spirit. Not yet anyway. He looks at the crowd, his team, and his sense of finally knowing that he belongs here, in this diamond, which lasts more than a moment. He looks down at freshly cut grass with all its brown spots, pleased to be playing on real grass that smells alive. This whole place was alive and teeming with goodwill.
Charlie looks once again at the crowd to satiate his need for love. But he shouldn’t have stolen that second selfish glance, hoping to be filled up with the love of fans: instead of being reminded of love, he is reminded of its absence. He looks over at the bleachers and notices a Dad with his two sons. This image holds him captive like the photographs he used to take. This image takes him away from everything good that had happened that day. They looked like they loved the moment, spending time together, simply savoring the finest pleasures of American life; the Dad holds a hot dog in one hand and a beer in the other while his boys enjoy their own lunches, no one vying for supremacy, their three bodies holding close to each other, lost in their own private, safe, joyous cocoon. The Dad was relaxed, enjoying the outing on this warm spring day. Charlie sees him laughing along with his sons, laughing and loving life is the easiest thing in the world. Charlie knew then, at that moment, that the love from the anonymous fans didn’t compare to the love of someone who really knows you and loves you, despite everything. But right now, that’s all he had. He was going in at another angle.
He turned his back on the family, facing the other side of the bleachers, only to hear his heart warm to the cheers of his adoring fans and walking towards his team, who offer up a high five. This was life. And there was no going back.
From out of the dugout, a golden retriever nicknamed Shoeless Joe Jackson joins Charlie. The dog, only interested in Charlie and oblivious to the crowd and the managers argued their case, takes a leak on home plate and leaves his mark. The crowd goes wild as the managers and umpire stop arguing to notice the dog’s inspired efforts.
“Why do you think he does that?” the umpire says.
Charlie shrugs and smiles. “He’s drawn to home base – like the best of us.”
It was a good day, and getting a cold beer and some company to celebrate was the icing on the cake.
Charlie had a soft spot for the local sports bar. The bouncer knew his style – he walked around with this defiant, cocky, tall frame trying to denounce the big chip on his shoulders. For some reason, he couldn’t fully claim the celebrity status and reputation he was slowly creating, and he liked to dress down and hide behind his glasses, claiming blindness. He liked the women feeling sorry for him – he liked this feminine, soft sort of motherly attention he had never ever known.
The bouncer also knew his preference for women, and Charlie was directed to the back of the bar, to the gorgeous looking blonde woman in the tight short dress, leaving little to the imagination, standing alone, talking on her mobile phone. She was oblivious to Charlie and Shoeless Joe, who walked towards her slowly – Charlie with his dark glasses, feigning blindness, and his white cane swishing slowly from side to side. He carefully tapped his way through the throng of drinkers.
Sara, upon closer inspection, was even more attractive. Standing with her back to them as they passed, she was a drop-dead babe. Tall, wild blonde hair, miniskirt, and wind chime earrings. A perfect ten. Was the bouncer right when he told Charlie a moment ago that she was gullible and sweet?
Charlie deliberately stands with his back to her, looking out at the Saturday night crowd. It’s not yet crowded, but Charlie wasn’t one to wait until the night was almost over – he wanted the action early. Make his move and move on. He waited for Shoeless Joe to take his cue. With one lick of her leg, surprised, she spins, spilling her drink. Right on cue, just as the DJ plays It Girl by Jason Derulo.
She looks horrified at Charlie. “Who do you think you are?” Her expression turns from anger to a smile as she sees the gorgeous golden retriever. Her boiling anger simmers to a smile as she takes in the whole package of Shoeless Joe and Charlie. She bends down to pat the dog while Charlie tries not to stare down in her direction. “Cutie.”
Charlie smiles, staring straight ahead while she straightens up and thinks that once again, this teamwork thing is going to plan. “Bet you say that to all the boys. He's always had a thing for attractive women.”
She laughs. “Bet you say that to all the women. What's his name?
“Shoeless Joe Jackson. I’m Charlie.” He smiles.
She smiles too and places her arm lovingly on his arm. “Sara. Why don’t we find us a seat?”
Sara helps Charlie find a seat in a booth in the back. Charlie orders a couple of tequila shots and a few beers. When the drinks arrive, Charlie pours one of the beers into Shoeless Joe's dog dish and downs the tequila shot. “Hey, you a baseball fan?”
Charlie breathes a sigh of relief – he didn’t want to blow his cover. And yet he loved any opportunity to enlighten someone new about his favorite sport… well, his favorite sport besides the very game he was now playing.
“Baseball is the sort of game where you can play as a team, but you can also shine in your own right. I’m training to play with the LA Dodgers. That’s the next move up the ladder.”
Charlie’s phone rings, and he surreptitiously looks to check the number, choosing to dismiss the call.
“Work?” Sara asks. “You can get it if you want – I won’t be offended.”
“No. It’s nothing. I’m with you. I’ll turn it off.”
She inches her hand forward to position it lovingly on his hand, delicately. “So considerate. So talented. So what happened?”
Charlie loves all this attention. He milks it for all it’s worth. “Fast ball, up and in. Unconscious for two days.”
Sara strokes Charlie's hair as she downs her shot. “You've suffered so much.”
Charlie motions to the waitress for more tequila shots and another beer for the dog.
“MVP one year –“
“Most valuable player…”
“Blind as a bat the next. Life is full of unexpected turns.”
“Sure is, sweetie. You poor, poor thing!” She slams down her empty glass as though she is commiserating the sorry state of being human with all its ups and downs.
Shoeless Joe continues to gulp his beer.
“Ah, but there's hope.”
“You still play?”
“That's why the dog's so crucial. One bark for a fast ball, two for a curve.”
Sara ponders that one for a moment. She looks like she is starting to wise up to the façade. He offers something honest.
“I play winter baseball for the Albuquerque Isotopes right here in New Mexico,” he says proudly.
Earl, Charlie's manager, approaches them. He precisely knows where Charlie spends his Saturday nights, even without calling through. Earl looks as though he means business, which is reflected in his attire – an expensive, tailored business suit. He acknowledges Sara briefly but is so used to Charlie’s flirtatious shenanigans that he doesn’t introduce himself. He hands Charlie a note, still standing, hands on the back of the booth, smiling pretentiously at Sara, sizing her up. She returns the smile but looks away, waiting to be introduced. That doesn’t happen, and Earl bends down to pet Shoeless Joe, handing Charlie a note. “It's a message from your brother. He said he’s been calling you constantly but couldn’t get through. He wanted me to write down the exact details.”
Charlie sheds his glasses and reads the note. He looks serious – like a dark cloud has just descended over him.
Sara, who is obviously confused, comments, “Hey, you can see?”
“Rejoice; you have just witnessed a miracle. Can we go to my place and give thanks?”
Sara stands, evidently angry; she is just about to throw her half-filled glass of beer into Charlie’s face but stops. She grabs Earl’s expensive pen, which is jutting out of his top suit pocket and writes her number on the back of the note.
“I’ve just witnessed a miracle? This is the miracle. Call me.” She offers him her phone number and walks away.
He looks half-amused – he gets this sort of retaliation mixed with admiration all the time, so he is used to it. But something has shifted in Charlie as he looks up to Earl, watching him slide into the seat once occupied by Sara.
“You gotta stop drinking. I've got another message – this one from the General Manager. You've got to change your ways.”
“I’ve got to go home.”
“You’re too smashed – I'll drive you.”
“No – I mean home. To my old man.”
“After all this time? You don't have a home there anymore. You belong here.”
“I know. Well, I don’t know anymore. I just need to change – like you said. Maybe a break will do me good.”
“I didn't mean to make you run away.”
Charlie smirks. He gets up and leaves money on the table. “Good at running, aren’t I? Professional runner. That's me.”
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