How fat, overprotected Lloyd, an outcast at school and frequent absentee, gains friends and confidence and independence. On the playground, Lloyd is always chosen last for baseball because he never hits the ball and never runs if he does hit it by accident. But Lloyd has a secret: after school he bats beautifully at practice sessions with his mother's softball team. Then a classmate, Kirby, sees Lloyd at the ball field and begins calling him for his team at school, persisting even though Lloyd too persists in his perverse refusal to play as he could. But Kirby's determined friendship, reinforced by the spunk of a new girl at school who is even more of an outcast than Lloyd is, eventually pays off. In one afternoon Lloyd hits a homer at a class party, passes up fattening sweets, and puts his foot down with his mother, who has insisted on driving him everywhere he goes. Such metamorphoses always seem unrealistically sudden, and Kirby surely seems unusually patient; but Smith's sympathetic, deep-down understanding of Lloyd through his troubled times gives the whole story an affecting credibility.