Batboy (Lupica)

Mike Lupica, 2010
Penguin Group USA
256 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780142417829

Brian is living every baseball kid's dream: he is a batboy for his hometown Major League team. Brian believes that it's the perfect thing to bring him and his big-leaguer dad closer together.

And if that weren't enough, this is the season that Hank Bishop, Brian's baseball hero, returns to the Tigers for the comeback of a lifetime. The summer couldn't get much better! Until Hank Bishop starts to show his true colors, and Brian learns that sometimes life throws you a curveball. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—May 11, 1952
Where—Oneida, New York, USA
Education—B.A. Boston College
Awards—Jim Murray Award (journalism)
Currently—lives in New Canaan, Connecticut

Michael Lupica is an American newspaper columnist, best known for his provocative commentary on sports in the New York Daily News and his appearances on ESPN.

Lupica spent his childhood in Nashua, New Hampshire and graduated from Bishop Guertin High School and later Boston College. He first came to prominence as a sportswriter in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Lupica wrote "The Sporting Life" column at Esquire magazine for ten years beginning in the late 1980s, and currently writes a regular column for Travel + Leisure Golf. He has also written for Golf Digest, Parade, ESPN The Magazine, and Men’s Journal, and has received numerous awards including, in 2003, the Jim Murray Award from the National Football Foundation.

Lupica co-wrote autobiographies with Reggie Jackson and Bill Parcells and collaborated with screenwriter William Goldman on Wait Till Next Year and Mad as Hell: How Sports Got Away From the Fans and How We Get It Back. Lupica also wrote The Summer of ’98: When Homers Flew, Records Fell, and Baseball Reclaimed America, which detailed how the 1998 and the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home run chase had allowed him to share a love for baseball with his son. Lupica has been listed a vocal critic of the steroid era.

Lupica is also a novelist; his work includes mysteries involving fictional NYC television reporter Peter Finley. One of them, Dead Air, was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best First Mystery and adapted into a television movie called Money, Power, Murder. He has written a novel for younger audiences called Travel Team. Lupica’s Bump and Run and Wild Pitch were best sellers. 2003 saw a sequel to Bump and Run, entitled Red Zone.In April 2006, his second children's book, Heat, was published by Philomel. Heat is a fictional story based on the Danny Almonte scandal in the South Bronx Little League. In October 2006, Lupica's third children's novel, Miracle on 49th Street, was published. Summer Ball, a sequel to Travel Team, was released in 2007; Safe at Home and The Big Field in 2008; The Million Dollar Throw in 2009; and The Batboy in 2010.

Television & radio
Since 1988 Lupica has been one of the rotating pundits on The Sports Reporters on ESPN. He also briefly hosted an unsuccessful television chat program, The Mike Lupica Show, on ESPN2, as well as a short-lived radio show on WFAN in New York City in the mid-1990s. He has been a recurring guest on the CBS Morning News, Good Morning America, and The MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour. Lupica has made frequent radio appearances on Imus in the Morning since the early 1980s. On May 9th, Lupica began a daily radio show on 1050 ESPN New York from 2PM-3PM. He works along side Don La Greca, and precedes The Michael Kay Show. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews
After Brian Dudley lands his dream job as a batboy for the Detroit Tigers, he is disappointed when his hero, Hank Bishop, who has been given a final chance by the Tigers after a steroid scandal, proves to be uncommunicative and even hostile....  Lupica has hit upon an effective formula for his novels, giving his readers a behind-the-scenes look at major league sports. In this novel, he adds genuine insights into family dynamics and the emotional state of his hero. —Todd Morning

(Grade 5–10) Brian's dad, a former big league pitcher, left Brian and his mom years earlier, and the boy still longs for his return. This summer, Brian has won a coveted spot as a batboy for the Detroit Tigers during home games at Comerica Park. He relishes his dream come true: hustling to complete tasks, enjoying a sleepover at the ballpark, and his front-row seat for the on-field action. On his days off, he plays on a travel team with his best friend, Kenny. Then his favorite player, Hank Bishop, returns to the Tigers following a suspension for steroid use. Bishop is stumbling at the end of his career: this is his last chance to reach a milestone 500 home runs. Brian shyly attempts to befriend his hero, but Bishop treats Brian and his teammates with frosty disdain. Lupica is at the top of his game, crafting a crisp, fast-paced novel teeming with edge-of-the-seat baseball drama. He limns his characters with well-observed detail and dialogue. Brian is a recognizable, multilayered teen; he's close to his mom, though they struggle to communicate and understand one another. Meanwhile, he learns the hard truth: "no matter how much Brian loved baseball, it was never going to make his father love him more." Though this novel will undoubtedly appeal to those who equate summer with baseball, it should also win over readers who appreciate finely crafted storytelling and engaging characters. —Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA
Library Journal

Brian loves baseball. But baseball has not always been a positive influence in his emotional life. His parents are divorced due in large part to the fact that his father's devotion to his own baseball career far exceeded his feelings for his family. In addition, Brian's all-time favorite player was deeply involved in the steroid scandals that affected an entire era of baseball achievements and statistics. Now in one dream summer as batboy for the Detroit Tigers he learns some truths about second chances and letting go. When his absentee father briefly returns, Brian realizes that their relationship will never be more than a common interest in the game. But he does develop a tentative connection with his hero, who is making a comeback with the Tigers. Lupica takes on these touchy subjects and deftly fleshes them out with sympathetic characters, crisp dialogue and enough dramatic baseball action to satisfy the most diehard fan. Although there's an upbeat ending, not all problems are neatly solved, allowing readers to form their own opinions. A pennant winner..
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
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Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Batboy:

1. Why does Hank Bishop seem so angry at everyone on the Tigers team? Why does he rebuff Brian, a mere boy?

2. Is Brian's immersion in baseball, to the point that he eats, breathes, and sleeps it, healthy? Is that kind of devotion typical of adolescents? Will he outgrow it? Should he outgrow it? Or is his passion an indication of doggedness, some character trait that might stand him in good stead in a future career, either in or out of sports? How do you account for the devotion of sports general?

3. For Brian, Hank Bishop "was the first guy in sports who made Brian want to watch...and he was the first guy to make him care" about baseball. Why is that?

4. In what way is Hank's return to baseball with the Tigers a chance for redemption? Can he redeem himself inspite of his past?

5. Brian says that steroids have corrupted the baseball records and severed the connection between the past and present players. What does he mean by that? What do think about the use of steroids in sports? Is it understandable given the pressures to perform?

6. Talk about Brian's relationship with his mother? At one point, he thinks to himself that he's run out of things to talk to his mother about. Is that normal for boys and mothers? Should Brian's mother learn to enjoy baseball more than she does? Should Brian try to widen his interests? Or, finally, is this just a passing phase to be ignored?

7. Talk about the ways Brian feels abandoned by father figures in his life: first, his real father, and later Hank Bishop's taking steroids. Why does Brian feel that Hank abandoned him when he hadn't yet met him?

8.  Hank says to Brian I'm not the guy you still want to be your hero. I was never that kind of guy....I never wanted to be that kind of guy." What kind of guy does Brian think Hank is? What does Hank mean when he says he isn't who Brian wants him to be?

9. (Follow-up to Question 8: How does having to live up to a legend make life difficult for baseball greats or anyone famous? Why do we place such extraordinary expectations on mere human beings—simply because they have unusual gifts or talents? What do we expect from them—and what does it say about us that we shower them with adoration? Why can't famous people be just...people?

10. What caused Hank's baseball slump? What caused Brian's slump? Are slumps psychological?

11. Why is Hank so grateful to Brian after he comes out of his slump?

12. What does Brian come to realize about his father? What is your assessment of Dudley Cole?

13. Why does Brian's mother seem eager to get involved with another ball player?

14. What do you think the future holds for Brian, his mother, and Hank Bishop?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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