Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Crack of the Bat! The Philly Fake (Ballpark Mysteries) by David A. Kelly

Poodle McGuire, the Phillies' tough little shortstop, stepped up to the plate. He was famous for making big hits just when the team needed them.

"Come on, Poodles!" Kate yelled.  Mike whistled.

When the second pitch came in, Poodles swung with all his might.


The ball blasted off the bat! Home run!

Mike and Kate are seeing red--and white--and blue--everywhere.  It's almost Independence Day and Kate's sportswriter mom is covering the Fourth of July series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Mets. History is all around, from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, to the Betsy Ross House, not to mention America's oldest ballpark.  A Ben Franklin reenactor works the crowd, clutching his kite and key.  The club mascot, the Philly Phanatic, has been firing his fake cannon loaded with foil-wrapped hotdogs into the stands around them, and the giant neon Liberty Bell is flashing and swinging to celebrate Poodles' homerun.

But the Phillies are still behind, with two out in the ninth inning, and even with Poodles Maguire's homer, they still need a run to tie the game. But Nelson Nolan, their best power hitter, is next at the plate.
The Mets pitcher hurled a fastball.  Nolan swung from his heels.  The bat struck the baseball with brute force. 

Bummer! Nolan's bat shatters into sharp shards, one of which hits the net right in front of Kate and Mike.  Even worse for Nolan,  the ball bounces lamely to the pitcher, who easily throws him out at first base.  Game over.

Kate and Mike console themselves with her mom's promise that the big green furry Philly Phanatic has promised to give them a ride around the park on his ATV after the game, and he does, even autographing their programs.  But as they make their way back toward the press box, one of the groundskeepers grumbles that the Phillies have had a bunch of broken bats during the last week, strangely always during big games and crucial at-bats.

Kate and Mike love a baseball mystery, and they gamely take on the challenge of this one.  As they question the grounds crew and other non-playing employees, suspicions seem to fall on the Philly Phanatic himself.  But "Phil," the Phanatic's alter ego, seems to be a nice guy and insists on his innocence. One worker claims to have seen the big green Phanatic fooling around the bats after the last game. But a manager tells the kids the bats are checked right before every game.

Kate and Mike decide that they must find a way to get into the dugout and take a careful look at the team's bats in the rack beside the bench.  But Mike looks nothing like the team's bat boy, and they can't even get through security pretending to deliver a fan's free hotdogs for the entire team. Did Mike blow his entire allowance on two dozen hotdogs?  Will the detective duo strike out or crack the case of the cracking bats?

David A. Kelly's Ballpark Mysteries #9: The Philly Fake (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))(Random House, 2014), takes his young detectives behind the scenes in yet another major league ballpark to uncover an unexpected saboteur among the crowd-pleasing mascots in his latest in his popular beginning chapter series, Ballpark Mysteries.  Kelly's easy reading mysteries combine the observational skills of a young Sherlocking pair with a solid dose of historic ballpark settings for lovers of  both baseball and sleuthing.

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