The rise of Neil ""Bull"" Larsen, from fledgling freshman ballplayer to starting catcher on his senior championship team, is captured against a background of adolescent love, sweaty afternoons on the baseball diamond, and nights of summer-camp fun: in other words, a soap opera for pre-teen boys and a fantasy for budding baseball players. Bull is a burly guy who can't clear the bases as fast as he'd like, but his smarts, wry sense of humor, and commendable devotion quickly dispel the dumb-jock stereotype. As Bull recounts for a senior project, baseball is all that he and his best friend, Jeff Hanson, ever think about. Carter (Between a Rock and a Hard Place, 1995, etc.) packs his narrative with action on the field and also shows the young athletes off-season: lifting weights, running sprints, and dreaming about spring training. Off the field, Bull and Jeff bridge cultural differences when they transform a Vietnamese transfer student into a star pitcher; moon over pretty, unattainable girls; and help their teammate Billy escape from an abusive father. At the end of senior year, Bull is unchanged by Billy's accidental death, his break-up with a girlfriend, and the realization that he will never play pro ball. In fact, the story ends without any sign that he's going to take even tentative steps toward maturity. Good as far as it goes, but incomplete.