Authors: Matt Christopher
Copyright © 2010 by Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.
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First eBook Edition: April 2010
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ell me again, why am I going to see some kid play baseball?” Duane Francis asked Sylvester Coddmyer III.
Sylvester, Duane, and a third boy, Snooky Malone, were riding along a winding bike path to a ball field a few towns away.
Syl opened his mouth to answer, but Snooky beat him to it.
“Because he’s a home run phenom,” Snooky said, “just like Syl was after he met Mr. Baruth. Or
as we think his real name is!”
Duane groaned. “Not that story again! I’m telling you, Syl, that man was just some guy going around impersonating Babe Ruth.”
“Actually,” Syl said hurriedly, “I wanted to see this kid because our team will be playing his team, the Orioles, on Saturday.
He plays third base, like you, Duane, so I thought it would be a good idea for you to check out your competition.”
think Mr. Baruth could be there, right?” Snooky insisted. “That’s the whole reason I’m coming!”
Sylvester glanced at his friend. “What do you mean?”
“My wildest dream is to have a paranormal experience—an experience you, my good friend Syl, have had not once, but
times!” Snooky explained. “I figure my best chance of having one is to stick close to you!”
Sylvester pedaled faster so he wouldn’t see Duane’s expression. He knew that Duane thought Snooky was an oddball. Not that
Syl blamed him; he had trouble believing some of the weird stuff Snooky talked about, too. But then he would think about the
strange and wonderful things that had happened in his baseball past… and suddenly, what Snooky believed didn’t seem so far-fetched
It had all started when Sylvester tried out for his first baseball team, the Hooper Redbirds. He’d always loved baseball,
but he soon learned that loving a sport and being good at it were two very different things. Then he met a man named George
Mr. Baruth gave Syl pointers on his stance, his grip, and other parts of his game. Almost immediately, Sylvester began to
better, especially at the plate. After he met Mr. Baruth, he hit a home run in every game!
Word soon got out about the kid who only hit homers. Reporters showed up to interview him after his games. Photographers took
his picture. A national magazine even offered him a lot of money for the rights to his story. They all asked the same question:
How was he doing it?
“I just hit the ball squarely on the nose,” Sylvester told them.
If they weren’t satisfied with that reply, well, he couldn’t help it. It was the best answer he could give because he wasn’t
completely sure himself how he was doing it!
Snooky, however, claimed to know where Sylvester’s amazing abilities had come from. Snooky had a passion for astrology. He
believed that the positions of the stars, the moon, the sun, and the planets affected people’s lives on Earth.
“You’re a Gemini,” Snooky said, referring to the zodiac sign for people who were born at the end of May. “And right now, Geminis
are very powerful. That’s why you’re hitting so well!”
Syl didn’t buy all that astrology mumbo jumbo. He didn’t believe Snooky when he said Geminis could “see into the beyond” either.
Not at first, anyway.
It was only much later, when Syl was knee-deep in an ongoing mystery, that he wondered if there wasn’t something to what Snooky
said after all.
George Baruth was a great help to Sylvester. But he was something of a puzzle, too. For one thing, no one but Syl had ever
seen him, not even when Mr. Baruth was sitting in the crowded stands during games. For another, Syl always seemed to play
his best when Mr. Baruth was there. By season’s end, Syl couldn’t help but wonder: Who
The mystery deepened the next year when Syl met a man named Cheeko. Like Mr. Baruth, Cheeko offered Syl suggestions on how
to improve his game. Cheeko claimed to be friends with Mr. Baruth, so Sylvester trusted his advice.
Later on, however, he realized that Cheeko wasn’t teaching him to play better, he was teaching him to play dirty. Sylvester
refused to have anything to do with him after that—and the same afternoon, Cheeko vanished.
Syl made a startling discovery soon afterward, when he saw an old baseball card of the most famous ballplayer ever. The player
was home run slugger George Herman “Babe” Ruth, and he looked
like Mr. Baruth!
Syl also found a card of an infamous pitcher named Eddie Cicotte. In 1919, Cicotte and seven of his teammates lost the World
Series on purpose in order to collect money from gamblers. When word of their plot got out, Cicotte and the other guilty players—the
“Black Sox,” as they were later called—were banned from professional baseball forever.
Amazingly, the pitcher was the spitting image of Cheeko!
The mystery didn’t end there, either. Just this past summer, Syl met a man named Charlie Comet. Charlie taught Syl how to
be a switch-hitter—that is, to bat right-handed or left-handed with equal skill. Switch-hitting came in quite handy, Syl soon
And he discovered something else, too. Charlie Comet looked just like a famous switch-hitter, Mickey Mantle!
That made it three times that Syl had been befriended and coached by men who looked
to star baseball players. Duane suggested that the men were actors impersonating ballplayers who had died long ago, or that
they just happened to look like those players.
Syl wasn’t convinced. The only explanation he could come up with—as unlikely as it seemed—was that the men were
of the famous players. Maybe, he thought, Snooky’s belief that Syl could “see into the beyond” wasn’t so far-fetched after
uane and Snooky caught up to Sylvester on the bike path.
“I’m sorry, Snook, I just don’t believe in that otherworldly stuff,” Duane was saying. “And don’t take this the wrong way,
Syl, but why the heck would Babe Ruth bother with
“You think I haven’t asked myself that?” Syl retorted. “All I know is what he once told me—that he was just helping me realize
Snooky nodded knowingly. “And now you think he’s helping some other kid realize
Sylvester didn’t answer. But that was precisely what he’d been thinking.
“Or maybe,” Duane offered, “this home run king is the real deal. You ever think of that possibility?”
“Sure,” Syl said, “which is why it makes sense to check him out! So let’s stop talking about Mr. Baruth and get to the field.”
“Okay,” Duane said, “but I’m doing it for the good of the Comets, not Snooky’s cosmos!”
The boys arrived at the ball park just in time for the start of the Orioles-Jackdaws game.
Sylvester settled in the bleachers with his friends. Then, as casually as he could, he scanned the faces around him. But he
didn’t see Mr. Baruth. His gaze wandered back to the field—and suddenly, he spotted a lone figure standing just beyond the
Orioles’ dugout. The man was tall, over six feet, and he was wearing an old-fashioned baseball cap.
Syl’s heart leaped into his throat—and then just as quickly sank back down again.
It wasn’t him. Mr. Baruth was stocky and had a round, moon-shaped face, a big nose, and a wide grin that lit up his whole
face when he smiled. This man, on the other hand, appeared lean and muscular, and he was scowling. He also had prominent ears
that stuck out on either side of his head. Those ears might have given him a comical look if not for that scowl.
Definitely not Mr. Baruth!
The sudden crack of bat meeting ball snapped his attention back to the field. Syl jumped up, certain he’d just missed the
Orioles’ phenom clobber a home run. It took him a moment to see that the batter had only made a base hit.
Of course the home run kid wasn’t the batter,
he berated himself.
Any coach worth his salt would have his top slugger batting cleanup, not leading off!
The next Oriole batter struck out. Syl watched sympathetically as he trudged back to the dugout. He’d been there himself,
plenty of times.
The third hitter fouled off two pitches and then tapped a short dribbler in the grass toward the first baseline. The pitcher
nabbed the ball and threw to first for the out. The first baseman quickly relayed the ball to second, but that runner was
Sylvester barely noticed. His attention was on the Oriole moving from the on-deck circle to the plate. The boy was the fourth
batter in the lineup—the cleanup position.
“That’s him,” he muttered. “It’s gotta be.”
Sure enough, when the Oriole batter stepped into the batter’s box, everyone in the stands buzzed with excitement.
Syl craned his neck, trying to get a better look at the slugger’s stance. How was he holding the bat? How were his feet placed?
Was he a righty or a lefty? Sylvester hoped to see something—
—that would tell him why this boy was such a good hitter.
But he saw nothing out of the ordinary. From the stands, the batter looked like any other player waiting for a good pitch
to come his way.
That good pitch didn’t come, however. The Jackdaws’ hurler glanced at his coach and nodded. The catcher stood up and took
a step to one side.
“Aw, man, he’s going to walk him intentionally!” a fan in the stands complained. “Come on, it’s only the first inning! Let
him hit it!”
But the pitcher gave the Oriole a free ticket to first.
“You’ll get one next time!” the same fan shouted.
Two innings later, however, when the home run kid got up a second time, he struck out.
The slugger didn’t get up to bat again until the fifth inning. The Orioles were threatening with two runners on base and no
outs. The Jackdaws’ pitcher conferred with his coach—should he walk the Oriole, or pitch to him?
The coach must have signaled for him to pitch, perhaps hoping that the slugger would strike out or hit into a double play.
If so, his hopes were dashed.
One pitch. One swing. And
The kid’s bat connected squarely with the ball! It was a powerful hit, no doubt about it, but Syl thought the center fielder
had a chance to catch it. He was wrong. The fielder misjudged where the ball was going to drop, and instead of landing in
his glove, it fell on the far side of the fence.
“Holy cow!” Duane shouted.
The fans cheered as the runners jogged around the bases toward home. The slugger slapped hands with his teammates and smiled—a
smile that widened as a man wearing a press badge snapped his photo.
An unexpected worm of jealousy wriggled in Syl’s stomach. He swallowed hard and sat down.
Everyone else sat, too, except Snooky. “Man, oh man!” he cried in his high-pitched voice. “I’ve never seen a ball hit quite
like that! Not even by you, Sylvester!”
Several people, including the home run kid and the newspaper photographer, turned to look at them.
“Pipe down, will you, Snooky?” Syl muttered, squirming.
The photographer studied Syl as if trying to place him. Then he snapped his fingers. “I know you! You’re Sylvester Coddmyer
the Third, the kid who only hit homers a while ago! I took your picture for the newspaper, remember?”
More spectators swiveled to stare. Syl hunched his shoulders, wishing that the bleachers beneath him would open up so he could