Red Sox Sleuths: The Fenway Foul-Up (Ballpark Mysteries) by David A. Kelly
"Come on," said Kate. "I told my mom we'd stop by the press room before the game starts."
Kate and Mike found their way through the hallways lined with hot dog ice cream, and peanut stands... and rode an elevator to the fourth floor. The press room had huge open windows facing the infield.
"Wow! What a view," Mike said.
"It is pretty amazing," said Mrs. Hopkins. "Sometimes foul balls get hit up here, so you have to pay attention."
A reporter next to Kate's mother answered a phone. He talked for a minute and then hung up.
"You'll never guess what just happened!" he said. "What?" Mrs. Hopkins asked.
"Big D's lucky bat has been stolen!"
It's pre-game batting practice at Fenway Park, and Kate Hopkins and her cousin Mike have press passes which allow them to sit right above the Red Sox dugout and watch Sox superstar Big D knock one ball after another over the wall, Boston's famed Green Monster. Big D's secret weapon, he claims, is his lucky bat, marked distinctively with a green band just above the hand-grip area.
After taking his turn at bat, Big D stops for photos, signing autographs right in front of them, but before the kids can line up behind a fan in a a New York Yankees cap, Boston's mascot "Wally" (nicknamed for the monster wall) takes an unexpected tumble, and Big D quickly props his bat against the low wall around the stands and hurries over to help him up. The savvy photographer hurries in to snap a picture of the two, and everyone in the crowd laughs and cheers as Wally recovers his dignity with a comic wave to the stands.
Just before the actual game with the Oakland A's begins, Kate and Mike learn that the crucial bat has been reported stolen in plain view while everyone watched Big D and Wally. Instantly switching from sports fan to sleuth mode, they realize that some opportunistic thief has taken advantage of the distraction to steal the bat. The real mystery is how the thief managed to get the distinctive bat concealed before the security officers began their surveillance of the area around the dugout. There are some instant suspects--the fan in the NY cap who spilled his sunflower seeds over the wall onto the field in the excitement, the sunflower-seed chomping photographer who was close by, the older-looking batboy whose job it was to return the lucky bat to the dugout before the game. And the investigation is beginning to go critical: Big D goes hitless in his first two at-bats without his lucky bat, and the Bosox fall behind, 3-0.
Then, as the baseball-loving Mike explains the hidden initials of former owners Tom and Jean Yawkey painted in Morse Code around the borders of Fenway's historic hand-operated scoreboard, Kate has that magical A-HA! moment that all young Sherlocks hope for. Hidden in plain view! Of course! Someone concealed the bat in something common in a baseball park and then moved it somewhere in the stadium where it would not stand out--in full view. And where would you expect to find a bunch of bats, some of them replicas of the Big D Special in full view inside Fenway Park? The crook search is on!
David A. Kelly's new Ballpark Mysteries #1: The Fenway Foul-up (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) (Random House, 2011) introduces a sparkling new series to the popular beginning chapter mystery genre. Kelly skillfully interweaves Red Sox lore into the essentials of the plot, providing lots of useful clues as well as several false leads as Mike and Kate utilize their powers of observation and ratiocination in the best style of early elementary mystery writers such as Ron Roy in his killer-diller A to Z Mysteries David Adler's Cam Jansen mysteries, and George Stanley's The Third Grade Detectives series. With the useful frame story of Kate's mother as a frequent-flyer sports reporter constantly visiting various major league ballparks , Kelly has the perfect device to set each of his mysteries in the series in a different stadium around the two leagues, and each book, like this one, features an in-the-strike-zone appendix explaining the various bits of baseball lore and history associated with that team and its home ballpark, in this volume titled "Dugout Notes *Fenway Park*.
And for baseball and mystery fans, don't miss Book 2 of this series, Ballpark Mysteries #2: The Pinstripe Ghost (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)), in which the Yankees' brand-new stadium seems to have the restless ghost of The Bambino searching for his old, er, haunts, as well as the hot-off-the-presses third sequel, Ballpark Mysteries #3: The L.A. Dodger (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) in these highly promising, triple-play offerings for the beginning chapter book reader.