“Book Review: Strike Five”
Reviewed by Liam Anthony
A fast-paced, entertaining baseball novel
It looks like Henry Rowengartner is all grown up. A different identity, sure. A different face, yeah. But it turns out that the movie Rookie of the Year has an adult counterpart: Strike Five by Aaron T. Knight.
The story follows the career trajectory of Chad Smith, whose dream it is to become a major league baseball player. His ambition is truncated, as he is unable to pitch at a decent enough speed to play and compete professionally. Therefore, he is not asked to return for another season with the Whooping Fall Warriors.
When Chad returns home, we as readers discover the man who made him: his father, Andy Smith. Andy was once a baseball player like Chad. Actually, he had more success than Chad has. Toxic masculinity and a braggard personality accompany the man’s every word, every step; he’s an instantly unlikable antagonist-type.
Chad begins working for his father’s bakery company, but a car accident soon leaves him unable to work. The consequence of the accident means that his wrist, the one he pitches with, will become completely obsolete, again. Chad’s future is cut short.
Or so he thinks.
This is the part of Strike Five which got me hooked. Using a similar trope to the 1993 film Rookie of the Year, Chad’s wrist injury actually provides a unique angle that will now allow him to throw at a phenomenal speed. I love the direction the plot takes here, still giving us the chance to read a baseball story after we fear it could be over.
Seeing this new ability, The Whooping Fall Warriors bring him back on the team, but controversy soon manifests around him. His pitching becomes a hot topic. And once again, his dreams of being a pro hit a wall that we don’t see a way over.
It’s easy to get emotionally invested in Chad’s story. We want to see him flourish. And whoever stands in his way frustrates us, makes us feel like we can’t make it either. But even though we want him to succeed, Chad can be a bit two-dimensional. We don’t learn too much about him as a person, and occasionally, he can get nearly as obnoxious as his father.
While his character falls short, it’s made up for by the author’s ability to capture the emotional side of baseball, the visceral aspect to the sport. How the spectators commit themselves to it, how he documents the games; there’s a romance to it. And we feel that.
Strike Five is a baseball novel about dreams and obstacles. But it’s also a meditation on the pressures of success, the tensions of our relationships with others. Rookie of the Year lovers could really enjoy it.
Genre: General Fiction / Sports
Print Length: 230 pages
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