Get Your Head In The Game! Knuckleball Ned by R. A. Dickey
FOR AS LONG AS HE COULD REMEMBER, NED WOBBLED.
IN THE KITCHEN HE BUMPED INTO THE REFRIGERATOR, AND HIS MOM ASKED "ARE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL?"
No doubt about it, though, Ned is an oddball.
He jiggles and wiggles and weebles and wobbles as he weaves his way down the aisle at school to his desk.
All the other "ball boys" give him the same sort of looks an umpire gives a catcher who steps on his toes. Fletcher and Fiona Fastball grab for their pencils and rulers, and Connie Curveball hangs onto her protractor and compass. Sid Slider slides everything under his seat. The only one who doesn't give him the look is Sammy Softball, who has his own problems, being a bit too round to soar through the door. They all know who they are, but they don't know what to make of nervous Ned.
And then the Foul Ball Gang, a scruffy, scraggly gang of outsiders, roll in and get a look at the new kid. Who better to bully than that oddball Ned? One of the long Foul Balls grabs Ned's new sneakers and tosses them up into a tree.
The others are bemused, but a fair bunch pitch in to help. Fiona and Fletcher aim themselves straight and fast at the dangling shoes. Connie makes a more circuitous throw, but the shoes stay put. It's up to Ned, and he gives it his best shot:
"I CAN DO IT!"
Fluttering and weaving through the branches, Ned hits the sweet spot and the sneakers come down!
Connie Curveball cheers!
"YOU'RE A KNUCKLEBALL! I KNOW ABOUT BALLS LIKE YOU!"
Ned now knows why he's the way he is: he's Knuckleball Ned.
Who else but major league baseball's only knuckleball pitcher, R. A. Dickey, could have written a parable about that peculiar pitch, in his new Knuckleball Ned (Dial Press, 2014). Comic artist Tim Bowers' illustrations will keep young readers in stitches, and Dickey's playful premise shows that it takes all kinds and a variety of pitches, sometimes one with different moves, to make a winning team.