I read “The Closer,” a book by Cal Ripken Jr. with Kevin Cowherd (Disney Hyperion). Danny Connolly is a backup pitcher for the Dulaney Orioles, a kids team. While his older brother, Joey, is in the spotlight, Danny has gotten used to his parents missing his games, not that it matters to him. His pitching has been really terrible lately. He knows he stinks.

He practices, practices and practices, but nothing ever changes. One day while Danny is waiting for his mom to pick him up, his neighbor (who thinks baseball is a waste of time) comes by and tells him he used to play in college. His neighbor, Mr. Spinelli, starts pitching him the eephus pitch. At first Danny is confused, but then Mr. Spinelli teaches him the pitch. Later on, the Orioles have to play the Yankees, another kids team. When the pitch wasn’t working for him at first, one of Danny’s friends has a high school buddy find out why. Mr. Spinelli says it can’t work all the time. That’s the whole purpose of the pitch. It turns out Danny was gripping way too hard.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

When they have to play the Yankees, Danny learns to loosen his grip and all of the batters miss. When Reuben bats, he misses on three strikes, and the Orioles win the game.

I really liked how Danny just tried over and over again, no matter what. I really liked how the authors didn’t just target their writing on the baseball. They also focused on Danny’s outside and social life.