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Fair Ball (Jeter Publishing) Paperback – April 17, 2018

4.8 out of 5 stars 92 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Derek Jeter is a fourteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner who played for one team—the storied New York Yankees—for all twenty seasons of his major league career. His grace and class on and off the field have made him an icon and role model far beyond the world of baseball.

Paul Mantell is the author of more than 100 books for young readers, including books in the Hardy Boys and Matt Christopher series.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Fair Ball

Chapter One


“Stee-rike ONE!”

Derek Jeter winced as he stared at home plate from the on-deck circle. His teammate, Dean O’Leary, had just let a very hittable pitch go right by him. The odds of getting another meatball like that were slim to none. After all, it was the sixth inning already, and there was still no score for either team.

Both the Dodgers’ pitcher and Dave Hennum, the Indians’ hurler (and one of Derek’s best friends), were at the top of their game. Neither team had gotten a runner past second base all day. If this game went into extra innings, both sides would have to reach for a relief pitcher.

It was the first game of the Westwood Little League playoffs. This year the league had restructured the playoffs. The top four teams were now playing each other in a round-robin. The top two finishers would go head-to-head for the league championship.

But that wasn’t all. In a new twist designed by the town, the winner of that game would then play the champion of the East Side league, for the first annual Kalamazoo Trophy!

The new format would make for four weeks of tension and excitement—if the Indians got that far. In his heart Derek was sure his team would win it all, including the Kalamazoo Trophy. With his dad as their coach, how could they not?

But Derek also knew that they still had to win the games, one by one. A loss to the Dodgers today would not knock them out of contention. But it might prove a fatal blow to their hopes in the end, so every at bat was important.

“Stee-rike TWO!” Dean had swung, but the pitch had already landed in the catcher’s mitt.

This Dodgers pitcher was a real fireballer. Derek remembered him from the regular season. The Indians had won that game 6–5 but hadn’t scored at all in this guy’s four innings on the mound. And so far today the Indians’ batters hadn’t even sniffed him.

Derek swung his bat rhythmically in the on-deck circle, getting ready for his turn. He blew out regular, big breaths, trying to stay relaxed and calm.

The next pitch to Dean was in the dirt, and he almost swung at it. But the ump held his arms out in the “safe” sign, ruling that Dean had checked his swing.

The count was now 1–2, with one out and nobody on. “Protect, protect,” Derek muttered under his breath, hoping Dean could read his thoughts and would make sure to swing at anything that was close to a strike.

The pitch came in. Dean watched it go by—right over the heart of the plate and down at the knees!

“Stee-rike three!” yelled the ump.

“What?” Dean cried, throwing his hands up. “That pitch was low!”

“Yer out!” the ump said. “Let’s go. Next batter.” Dean dragged himself away, groaning with frustration as he passed Derek on his way back to the bench.

Derek shook his head in sympathy, but he knew that Dean should have swung. The pitch might have been a little low, but it had been too close to let go by with two strikes. You never knew when an ump might miss a call. If you had to go down, it was better to go down swinging.

Derek set his feet in the batter’s box. He could hear his teammates cheering him on. The Indians had learned over the course of their season to pull together as a unit and to play for one another, not just for themselves.

That was a tribute to their coaches. Derek’s dad and Coach Bradway had made good players, such as Mason Adams, Jonathan Hogue, and Tito Ortega, better, and they’d made weaker players, such as Gary Parnell, Miles Kaufman, and Derek’s good buddy Vijay Patel, play to the best of their abilities.

The Indians might not have been the most talented team in the league, but here they were in the playoffs—and Derek was convinced that this was only the beginning.

He had been named their regular-season MVP. If anyone was going to be able to hit the fastest pitcher they’d faced all season, he thought, it was probably him.

Derek rubbed some dirt onto his hands to get a better grip on the bat and dug his toes in to get the best possible footing. He pointed the bat straight at the pitcher, as a reminder to himself to try to hit the fastball straight up the middle, and not swing too hard in a useless effort to pull the ball.

Here came the pitch, and Derek was ready. The fastball was over the heart of the plate, and Derek’s bat was there to meet it.

CRACK! The pitcher ducked. The ball was hit so hard that the center fielder couldn’t get into position before it skidded right by him.

Derek was almost to first base when he saw that happen, and immediately he was thinking triple. He rounded second, barely touching it with the outside of his right foot, and slid into third just in time.

Now it was all up to Dave. Derek clapped and yelled encouragement along with the rest of the Indians. Dave had all kinds of power, but he struck out a lot because his swing was like a golf swing—up and down and under the ball.

There was good reason for that. Dave had started playing golf as a young kid, and he played whenever he got the chance. His dream was to be a professional golfer. He’d learned baseball only a year before, with Derek doing most of the teaching.

Derek knew Dave would have a hard time hitting this pitcher. Derek had a feeling that if he wanted to score, he was going to have to do it on his own. So when he saw the 1–1 pitch hit the dirt and get away from the catcher, he took off, trying to steal home.

The catcher, who was just picking up the ball, saw Derek barreling toward him. Startled, he lost his grip, and by the time he wheeled around to make the tag, it was too late.

“SAFE!” called the ump, stretching his arms out wide. And just like that, Derek had stolen the lead for his team.

Dave proceeded to strike out, just as Derek had feared. Now it was the Dodgers’ turn for last licks. Dave was still on the mound, as he had been all game. He had been dominating the Dodgers hitters too, thanks to the wicked changeup that Derek had taught him early in the season.

Dave quickly fell behind the first hitter, 3–0. Derek didn’t know how many pitches Dave had already thrown, but it was easy to see that his friend was tired. He knew that if Dave didn’t get through this inning quickly, he’d reach his pitch limit. Derek snuck a peek at Coach Bradway, who was keeping the pitch count. He also happened to be Dave’s guardian, the person who looked after him whenever Dave’s parents were away on business—which was a whole lot. Chase (he liked to be called by his first name) was also the family’s driver. The Hennum family was rich—richer than anyone Derek or his other friends had ever known. After all, not everybody could afford their own driver.

After a called strike the hitter lofted a long fly ball to right. Vijay was out there, but he looked uncomfortable as he settled under the ball. The sun must have been in his eyes, because he ducked at the last moment.

The ball hit his glove, then popped back up into the air. Derek held his breath for one endless instant, until Vijay recovered his wits and, mercifully, caught the ball a second time before it hit the ground.

Well, that’s one out, at least, thought Derek. The next hitter lined the first pitch right at Dave, who at least managed to knock it down. It ricocheted off his glove over to Derek, who threw to first for the second out.

“Thanks!” Dave told him, relieved.

“Hey, what are friends for?” Derek said, and laughed.

Dave had to get just one more out—and he did, when the hitter swung at a 2–0 fastball and hit a fly ball to Gary Parnell in left, who put it away for the final out.

Game over. 1–0, Indians! The team had made Derek’s stolen run pay off. They were now 1–0 in the playoffs. As far as Derek was concerned, it was going to be clear sailing from here on in, all the way to the Kalamazoo Trophy!

“Hey, Dave,” Derek said as the two of them helped pack up the team’s gear, “don’t forget about next weekend.”

“Not a chance!” Dave said with a big grin.

For weeks the two boys had been planning a big overnight at Derek’s house. “You can come over right after the game,” Derek offered. “My folks said that whenever you come is good.”

“Cool. I just have to check with my folks, and we’re good to go.”

“Awesome!” Derek was happy and excited as he got into the car with his dad and Vijay for the drive back to Mount Royal Townhouses, where both the Jeters and the Patels lived.

It was early June. Summer was almost here. Soon he’d be vacationing with his grandparents, spending his summer on Greenwood Lake in New Jersey, and going to Yankees games with his grandma. Best of all, his team was going to win the Kalamazoo Trophy!

Oh, and the cherry on top? He and Dave were finally going to have their long-planned overnight at Derek’s.

For once in his life there wasn’t the ghost of a problem on the horizon, Derek told himself. Other than the team possibly losing next week—which wasn’t going to happen. What could possibly go wrong?

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books; Reprint edition (April 17, 2018)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 192 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1481491490
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1481491495
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 - 12 years
  • Lexile measure ‏ : ‎ 730L
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 3 - 7
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 5.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.13 x 0.5 x 7.63 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 92 ratings

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Derek Jeter has played Major League Baseball for the New York Yankees for nineteen seasons and is a five-time World Series Champion. He is a true legend in professional sports and a role model for young people on the field and through his Turn 2 Foundation. Derek was born in New Jersey and moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, when he was four. There he often attended Detroit Tigers games with his father, but the New York Yankees were always his favorite team, and he never stopped dreaming of playing for them.

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