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Robert Paul Moreira, ed. Arriba Baseball!: A Collection of Latino/a Baseball Fiction. Donna TX: Vao Publishing, 2013. 224pp. Paper, $11.99.

Arriba Baseball!: A Collection of Latino/a Baseball Fiction can be divided up into three main categories of stories: (a) classic baseball; (b) Little League and growing up; and (c) family, friends, and love. In the story "Chasing Chato," from the classic-baseball section, a young ballplayer plays against his childhood hero, Chato, who threw the first perfect game in Mexico. After being hit by a pitch on the first at bat, our young ballplayer obtains a hit against his hero. One of the great elements of this story was the historical and cultural underpinnings of the day--players playing baseball while also working in the mines. Another classic-baseball story is about one of the most extraordinary matchups: Fernando versus Nolan. In "Rituals," the writer remembers the scene and sounds of that game. The words brought a visualization that made you feel like you were there. All the memories are elicited by the simple smell of tobacco smoke. Criollos de Caguas is a team whose struggles are described in incredible detail in "Juan Bob." This troubled team plays and breaks the record for the longest game in the history of recorded baseball against the best team. In "Noble Roman," the author builds the tension as an aging hitter (Roman) in the twilight of his career strives for the 3,000-hit milestone against the rookie pitcher with a perfect game. Roman eventually hits his 3,000th hit with a home run, but he is not brought back the next season. The author describes the agony that Roman experiences, but this agony is followed by Roman's redemption.

The second group of stories pertains to youth baseball and growing up. In "Recollection of a High School Benchwarmer," the author focuses on the camaraderie of a group of benchwarmers, their longings to play in the game, and the activities (makeshift bowling) they engage in as they wait. "Down the Line" discusses the ministories of those times: playing with friends, watching girls, and being weary of tough guys, all while playing baseball. One of the most memorable stories was "The Bridge," about a child hitting a rock in a US border town. The thoughts and dreams of the children in this story have similarities to those of any child who has ever hit a rock over a railroad track, pond, or other structure; but this rock crosses over the border from the United States to Mexico. Finally, the poem "One Inning at a Time" follows a Little League baseball game.

The final section can be categorized as family, friends, and love. In "Uncle Rock," Eric is a boy whose single mom has dated a few men. Most of the men offer Eric tangible benefits like money to buy things or rides in a truck. However, with the new man, Uncle Rock, there are no visible benefits, and Eric is very distant with him. Uncle Rock takes Eric to a ball game. After the game, Eric receives a signed baseball from the Phillies, and one of the players offers his mom a date. Eric begins to see Uncle Rock differently, and he has to decide if he is going to give his mom the invitation. "Los Tecolotes" is a love story about a woman who falls in and out of love with a ballplayer, which illustrates the impact of those at home while ballplayers pursue their dreams. In "Baseball over the Moon," Nati is a tomboy who plays baseball with her dad. However, she worries that her relationship is about to be torn apart with the arrival of her new brother; this fear is represented by a tarantula that climbs on her arm. The ending of the story addresses her fear in this direct (relationship with her father) and indirect (tarantula) form. Rosanna and Tia Berta are best friends preparing to face each other in the big softball tournament in "Tomboy Forgiveness." Their friendship becomes strained when Berta starts dating Rosanna's ex-husband, who also happens to be the sponsor of Rosanna's team. The tension builds as Berta is hit in the face with a batted ball. Rosanna has to make a choice to either score or make sure her friend is okay. Most baseball stories discuss how baseball brings parents and their children together. In "So Much for the Cubs," a daughter takes her dad to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. The author's descriptions have readers completely focused on the game; but during the game, the daughter's secrets are revealed and include signing up for the navy and coming out as a lesbian. The Cubs win, but it might not lead to a happy ending for this family. Another story about family is told from the youngest son's point of view, as he and his brothers play in a softball game with their dad, who used to be known as "The Heat." The middle son, Noel, is a powerful hitter and goes against his dad. The author makes clear the importance of this game for the children and the father and has the reader enthralled to find out the outcome.

Overall, the collection ranges from light touches on baseball lore to lessons of life as learned through and around baseball. In the forward, Peter C. Bjarkman states that one needs to understand the culture of the Americas to understand baseball. This collection of stories explains the potential meaning behind such a statement; baseball can highlight the key aspects of life, cutting through the mundane tasks to clearly illustrate the importance of friendship, family, hard work, or love. This collection is unique not only in its focus on the experiences of the professionals who play the game but also in the inclusion of stories that are written for and about women and children, as players and active members of the baseball community and how the game represents and impacts their lives as well.
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Title Annotation:BOOK REVIEWS
Author:Mueller, Thomas R.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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