The Grip (Marcus Stroman 1)

The Grip (Marcus Stroman 1)
Age Range
Release Date
May 23, 2023
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In this first book in the semi-autobiographical middle grade series from MLB pitcher Marcus Stroman, a young baseball player learns that perfect games only come with a lot of practice—and some strikeouts.

Young Marcus Stroman is determined to make it to the highest playing level he can, despite every coach telling him he’s not tall enough to become a “real” pitcher. He’ll show them…with some struggling and a whole lot of learning.

It’s easy to forget that for every professional sports player there was a kid just learning that sport, dealing with nerves during try-outs, dropping the ball when all their teammates are counting on them, and learning how to stay friends with someone who doesn’t make the team. These hard lessons are universal whether in the majors or on a school playing field, and so are teamwork, competition, and believing in yourself.

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1 review
Listen to the voice in your head
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What worked:
I happen to enjoy baseball more than most people so this book is right up my alley. Young readers currently growing up in the life of organized sports can relate to Marcus’s strict schedule to balance all areas of his life. He loves baseball and enjoys basketball so much of the plot finds him at different camps most days focusing on those two sports. A large part of the story deals with the increasing competitiveness of select teams in youth sports and the complications of playing two sports. The baseball coach informs the players of an upcoming assessment (they all know it’s a tryout) that will affect who gets to play on the team in the spring. The stress Marcus feels becomes a major focus in the plot.
A related problem for Marcus is his fragile self-image regarding his physical size. The book doesn’t say he’s actually small but Marcus’s perception is that larger players make better pitchers. Kids go through growth spurts in the middle grades and Marcus notices others are already a head taller than him. Marcus laments that he isn’t growing fast enough and fears that will keep him from becoming a great player. The middle grades find all students self-conscious of their physical appearances so it’s a relatable topic for them.
With Marcus’s stress level amping up, the author presents emotional support from a variety of sources. They try to remind him of breathing exercises, visualization, and keeping things in perspective. Obviously, his parents share their confidence in him and tell Marcus he only needs to do his best. His coaches try to get him to settle down when they notice him struggling. His two closest friends are always there for him and try to give his life some balance. Even his older sister shares her empathy for Marcus and reminds him of their imaginary world of Namorts. While everyone else has confidence in Marcus, the only person who matters is himself.
What didn’t work as well:
There’s really no relief from Marcus’s obsession with becoming a great baseball pitcher. If he’s not practicing with his father or doing baseball and basketball skills at camps, he’s thinking or talking about his dream of playing in the pros. Even his divorced parents work together to make sure Marcus gets to all of his various activities. However, lovers of baseball may not mind the single-minded focus on baseball.
The final verdict:
The entire book is about Marcus’s struggles to maintain self-confidence as the day of assessments approaches. The author has lived through it and effectively shares his experiences in the story. The book will mostly appeal to baseball and sports lovers. I can recommend this book if this description applies to you.
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