Danilo ""Danny"" Bacigalupo has to live down a considerable childhood trauma, a great guilt: while playing sandlot baseball, he hit a ball that landed on the Adam's apple of a playmate, Mickey Meenen, and that killed him. Growing up Catholic in Chicago, Danny knows all too well about the terrors of Hell, Perdition--and now he's headed straight for them, for sure. In fact, so haunting is Mickey Meenen to him that as Danny grows up to be a star-caliber high-school baseball player, drafted by the pros--and in short order sent up to the majors--Mickey actually melds with Danny, becomes an inescapable alter ego. And at the book's climax, on the field, Mickey's grief-crazed father plays a fateful role (a scene which owes a lot to Robert Coover, probably too much). Baseball aside, Ardizzone basically dusts off what he covered in In The Name of The Father (1978): girls, religion, counterculture in the 60's, all of it done in a popcorn style that alternates between the cloying (""Let's give a big hand to the groundskeepers, son. Because four hundred million years ago, way back in the very early innings, your daddy's first field was a tropical sea. Dandy for frogs and fish and lily pads, but lousy for laying down straight foul lines"") and the leaden (""There are no easy outs. . .Unless you lunge for something beyond your reach. Swing for a ball up around your eyes. This was learning to win, I realized. The key was waiting, watching, control""). Jazzed-up but predictable baseball-as-metaphor-for-life stuff.