Hardy (When Brothers Meet, 2017, etc.) tells the story of a small, baseball-loving town in Pennsylvania as it prepares for the annual league championship game—but the rivalry between two teams goes much deeper than friendly competition.
Alex Sardinski, the chief loan officer at the only bank in Pineville, loves two things: baseball and his fiancée, Candy Hollis, a teller where he works. As he prepares for another shot at the championship and a future with Candy, his life seems perfect. Little does he know that farm-equipment business owner Conrad Beamis has a vendetta against him for not approving a business loan two years earlier. Step by step, Conrad sets out to exact his revenge on Alex by taking away what he loves most: first, his relationship with Candy and then the baseball championship. The couple starts having difficulties after Conrad hires Candy as his personal assistant, and a championship for Alex’s Cherokees feels impossible—the business tycoon stacks the Creeks team, and even the umpires work for him. Then a strange boy named Timmy joins the Cherokees for their final game against the Creeks. The baseball diamond becomes a place of transformation, justice, and the supernatural in a comedic romp of a finale. If this book’s antagonist sounds a bit overly diabolical for the context, that’s because he is; indeed, the devilish Conrad comes off as something of a mustache-twirling villain. In contrast, the main character, Alex, is likable though a little bland—somewhat like the story’s small-town setting. Those looking for a simple, somewhat predictable story of an underdog team will enjoy the outcome, however. There are some touching moments, as when Conrad’s autistic son, Ray, gets his first-ever baseball hit. A lot of paranormal occurrences during the game simultaneously amuse the crowd and teach lessons about cheating, fair play, and overall goodness.
A nostalgic, heartwarming look at small-town baseball, but its scheming villain can make it difficult to take seriously at times.