Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Grumpy Slump: Slumpbuster by Kevin Markey

I was ready to take on the Hog City Haymakers in the biggest game of the year.

Walloper was what my friends called me. It was short for the Great Walloper, on account of I like to wallop the tar out of the ball. I got that nickname back in the Pee Wees, when I first started going deep.

Walloper's real name is Banjo Hit Bishbash. The "Hit" is really his mom's maiden name, but up to the day of the big game with the Haymakers "Hit" is Banjo's middle name in more than one way. His classmate, sports reporter Gabby Hedron, has already forecast the outcome of the game in the Bambletown Bulletin:

The Bumbletown slugger has hit a home run in every game this season. If the pattern holds, he'll launch another one today and catapult the Rounders into first place.

The Haymakers are no straw men, however. For one thing, for rising sixth graders, they're REALLY BIG!

"Every kid on the team looked like a grown man. I swear some of those bad boys even had mustaches..."

With the Haymakers' ace pitcher Flicker Pringle on the mound, the Rounders have a tough time scoring, and even The Walloper watches Flicker's pitches whoosh by for two at-bats. When he finally comes up to bat in the final inning, the bases are loaded and the fans are calling for one of his trademark long gone balls. But, alas, he whiffs three more pitches, and the Haymakers are the only ones who go home happy.

It's a classic midseason slump, and Banjo can't catch a break at the plate from that day on. He watches his position sink in the batting order from third to pinch-hitter, and the Great Walloper is reduced to bench-warming. He even sprouts his own cloud of gloom, nicknamed The Slump, which floats around above his head everywhere he goes like his own personal storm. The team plays gamely as the season winds down and keeps the Rounders in contention, no thanks to The Walloper, who watches Kid Rabbit Winkle take over his place on third base. But even as an occasional designated hitter, Banjo can only go down swinging every time. With their records tied, the race for the pennant comes down to the last game between the Rounders and the Haymakers.

In the latest in his humorous series, The Super Sluggers: Slumpbuster (HarperCollins, 2009) Kevin Markey spins a fanciful baseball yarn loaded with preposterous events, colorful players, and quirky townspeople which culminates in a jolly conclusion in the final inning of the Big Game. Royce Fitzgerald's occasional drawings add a lot to this easy-to-read baseball tale which will attract baseball fans and reluctant readers alike.

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