Twelve year-old Josh LeBlanc is the rising star of his middle school baseball team. He's getting attention from his classmates, a pretty girl, and an inquisitive school newspaper reporter. It's good to be a star! Then his dad, a recently released career minor league baseball player, yanks him from the school team and arranges a try-out for an ultra-competitive travel team, the Titans. Josh makes the team, and Dad is hired by the coach. Amid the brutal practices, time-consuming trips, and internal competition for roster spots and playing time, baseball becomes less of a game and more of a job. On top of that, team members are required to drink special milkshakes and take supplements provided by the coach. Josh suspects that something's not quite right.
Baseball Great is a good story for tween readers who enjoy baseball, and it covers two important youth sport topics: steroid use, and the overly-competitive nature of many teams and leagues. Green doesn't preach about either topic. Although several of the Titans have violent anger outbursts that are presumably related to steroid use, the reader is left to draw that conclusion for himself. Nobody ends-up in the hospital, and the steroids certainly improve the player performance. Green takes the higher ground here - steroid use is cheating, it's illegal, and it's bad for your health.
Categorizing this book as a "steroid book" is an oversimplification. The "win at any cost" attitude espoused by many adults involved in youth sports is a more subtle, yet ultimately more profound topic. The coach is motivated by money and fame, and Dad wants Josh to make the most of his talent. But every reader will notice the glaring difference between the school team and the travel team. No one on the Titans is having any fun.
The book isn't perfect. Jaden, the school newspaper reporter, is just a bit too precocious. Hiding behind a dumpster to take photos of an illegal steroid transaction just doesn't sound like something a 6th grader would do. And these days, someone would tell a parent about a locker-room fight - there would be a follow-up. Still, the situations are within the realm of plausibility, and don't really detract from the book.
Recommend this book to sports fans. Short chapters and a quick pace make this a good choice for capable, reluctant readers. Travel team members may find familiar situations within the pages.