Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #32

TITLE: Battery Brothers
GENRE: YA, Sports

"Give the ball a ride, Andy!" Daniel rested his tall, wiry frame against the brick schoolyard wall.

I assumed a batting stance--knees slightly bent, knuckles aligned, right elbow cocked, eyes glued on Jason Huckabee, the pitcher. Also my cousin.

Jason spit on the blacktop. He was about six foot, stocky. Me, I was just a regular-sized seventeen-year-old.

I twirled the stickball bat, my breath clouding in front of my face.

Jason planted his gorilla-sized sneakers on the chalk-drawn pitcher's line. "Two down. Nobody on. Seven to three--good guys."

"Bring it," I muttered. A gust of wind slapped the scarred side of my face, making my left eye twitch.

If Daniel had been pitching in today's two-on-two, brothers-versus-brothers stickball game, our cousins Jason and Nathan wouldn't have any runs. Daniel's 88 mile-per-hour heat would have done the job. But Daniel didn't pitch tennis balls. Not anymore. Not after being tagged a phenom and scouted by the pros. The risk of him throwing out his holier-than-holy arm at sixteen was too great.

Jason wound up, a herky-jerky motion. The pitch smoked in high and tight, forcing me to backpedal.

"In the box?" I asked, grinning at him.

"Just missed." He scooped up the rebounding ball. The pitcher, having the best view of the 32-by-24-inch box sprayed on the wall, got final say on balls and strikes.

"Don't pitch wild like that when I'm your catcher, Cuz."'

"Andy, you gotta make varsity first." Jason bounced the tennis ball to himself.

Final cuts were tomorrow.

8 comments:

S. Kyle Davis said...

I really liked the cocky teen feel here. I definitely felt like I knew these kids.

However, it didn't feel "now" to me, if that makes sense. Maybe it's just the stickball thing, which we never actually played growing up (we always had real bats, even as kids). Or maybe it's my own sandlot-influenced bias. I don't know. Anyway, it felt more home in the 60's or 70's to me. I'd welcome someone who disagrees with me, though. Maybe it's just me.

The other thing I'd say is that there were several places that felt either cliche or forced. For example, the description of the batter's stance and the "Me? I was just a normal 17-year old kid" thing felt obligatory, rather than actual needed elements.

After some more cleanup (no pun intended), I think you could have something here. Not sure on the marketability of sports books these days, though. *shrug*

Jessica May Lin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica May Lin said...

This really pulled me in at the last sentence, "Final cuts were tomorrow." If the intro were shorter and we got the last sentence faster, I'd read on.

Elemarth said...

Pretty good! My biggest objection was that when I think about sports, I think about warm days, so his breath "clouded" in front of his face, I had to stop and figure out what you meant. I think you could drop a line in about a cold hand or nose before then.

Lanette said...

The writing is good. If this was written 30 or more years ago, I could definitely see this published. I don't know what teen boys read these days.

Barbara said...

I think this is not quite there but could be. You're basically talking to the reader here, although you're not doing it directly. But this is clearly written with the reader in mind. (Also my cousin. Me. I'm just . . .)

I think if you forgot about the reader and kept us in the story, in Andy's world, it would have the oomph it needs.

For instance, he's at bat and just told the pitcher to 'bring it.' Now, would he have an eye on the ball and pitcher and be preparing to hit the ball, (yes, in real life) or would he be thinking

If Daniel had been pitching in today's two-on-two, brothers-versus-brothers stickball game, our cousins Jason and Nathan wouldn't have any runs. Daniel's 88 mile-per-hour heat would have done the job. But Daniel didn't pitch tennis balls. Not anymore. Not after being tagged a phenom and scouted by the pros. The risk of him throwing out his holier-than-holy arm at sixteen was too great.

There's no way he's thinking that at that moment, yet that's what you gave us. It's there simply for the reader, and if you get rid of stuff like that and just tell the story, you'll end up with something much stronger and more real.

Secret Agent said...

I love baseball, but it takes a LOT of work to avoid the cliches that come with America's pastime, cliches that tend to neutralize story, cliches that are almost unavoidable if you put a bat in a boy's hands. A lot of those cliches, and a lot of general "furniture moving" here took me away from what appears to be the significant nut in all this: one brother (absent, golden) is going pro, and one brother, average, has been left to play with his not-so-talented buddies. All that said, I actually liked this piece better after a second read. Decent pacing, and some nicely dropped in details ("scarred side..."; "Daniel didn't pitch tennis balls") demonstrate the writer's ability to handle the scene/exposition weave.

Tricia said...

I thought it was too much dialogue for a first page. Especially if it's just to show a game in progress.

If the reader is into baseball, he or she doesn't need an into of all the "game lingo".

If the reader is not into baseball but picks up the book off the shelf, he or she will be put off by all the foreign lingo, and it didn't introduce anything other than boys playing baseball.

Perhaps start another place, maybe when he discovers his brother is chosen for the pros.