Sunday, November 24, 2019

Book Review: 'The Dog who Played Centerfield: A Baseball Story' by Steven M. Roth

‘This was a happy dog I had there, and so I was one very happy kid’

The grandfather and grandson writing team of Steve and Owen Roth have a hit on their hands! While every reader of fine thrillers knows the name Steven M. Roth, this is the debut of Owen M. Roth who at age 8 ½ coaxed, informed and critiqued the writing of Steven, becoming the Beta reader supreme as well as consultant. Add to that information that Owen has first hand experience with the title sport - he plays Little League baseball playing all three outfield positions, plays catcher, and is learning to play shortstop. That bit of history adds even more flavor to the fine little story of dogs and boys and baseball and friendship. 

With a solid storytelling style and the addition of a few pen and ink photographs Steve and Owen have offered us a different take on the roles of dogs and boys and baseball – and it works extremely well. 

In an 84 page chapter book Steve and Owen deliver the story that is well outlined in the synopsis – ‘A dog who plays baseball? How can that be? Well, Parker the dog doesn’t actually PLAY baseball. After all, he’s a four-legged animal. But Parker really understands baseball from having watched so many Little League teams play over the years. So, instead of playing baseball, Parker coaches a boy named Max who plays centerfield for the Kansas City Royals in the Riverdale Little League. Parker has made it his hobby to memorize the strengths and weaknesses of the Little League batters. He uses this information to position Max in centerfield for each hitter on the other team. He does this by pushing and nudging Max into the correct position. Now Parker is looking forward to helping Max when Max’s team plays its arch rival in the game that will decide which team goes to the Little League regional playoffs. But then something awful happens. Just before this important game, the town’s dog-catcher snatches Parker in his net and hides him from Max’s team. No one knows where Parker is. So Max is back on his own in the outfield, not sure where to position himself in centerfield for different batters. Will Max find Parker or will he be on his own, wandering around the outfield, when his team plays the big game?’

Splitting the chapters between Parker and Max further points out the interdependence of a fine friendship between dog and boy - with a lot of excellent overtones to absorb. A success on every level, lets hope this special writing team joins minds and ideas again! 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.