Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Take Me Out to the Bat and Ball Factory by Peggy Thomson

Take Me Out to the Bat and Ball Factory by Peggy Thomson, illustrated by Gloria Kamen

Rating: 3.5 stars

A few weeks ago, at my sister's 40th birthday party, I found out that my Uncle Bob and his high school friend are making baseball bats in their garage.  I listened, totally intrigued and fascinated, at the whys and the hows of the story.  I watched a few videos of his bats being turned and smoothed and was just entranced.  This was a part of baseball--a nitty gritty detail that could so easily get overlooked--I really didn't know much about.

I could hardly believe my eyes when, the very next day, the kids and and I were at our local library and this book was propped up on the stacks.  What a coincidence!

I have to be honest: It's not the most well-written book and it's certainly not for everyone.  Thomson tries to create a story around how bats and balls are made in a very The Magic Schoolbus sort of way.  A group of kids travel together (without a parent or teacher, I amusingly noted) to this bat and ball factory to meet Hank.  Hank guides them around the factory, giving them a ton of facts that they smilingly lap up with a few important questions to help Hank tell them even more.

To me, the back history of bats is really interesting: what sort of wood is used and why, what is the history of the size of bats, how long they are dried, which players had out-of-the-ordinary relationships with bats (for example: The Padres' Tony Gwynn used an extra small bat, just 29 inches long; Roberto Clemente got his first bat from a guava-tree branch)?  Thomson also explains how aluminum bats are made, too--with plenty of interesting comparisons between wood and aluminum, and why players choose one over the other.

Then Hank guides the kids to the ball section, and he explains how a chemical, gooey mix is put into a sphere-like mold.  After it hardens, the ball is covered with either fake or real leather and these covers are sewn into place.  Interestingly, when a worker starts to stitch a ball, it takes nearly 45 minutes.  After a whole lot of practice, that time is reduced to 8 or 9 minutes!

There's a lot of information in this book.  I admit: I think it put Ben to sleep--I read it one night to him, and while I was genuinely enthusiastic about and fascinated by nearly every sentence, he didn't protest when I turned the light out after the last page.  His eyes were already closed.  So…maybe this book is best for a slightly older reader.  Or maybe this just is not the best bedtime book!

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