Six Good Innings: How One Small Town Became a Little League Giant

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9780061473579: Six Good Innings: How One Small Town Became a Little League Giant

In the tradition of Friday Night Lights comes an unforgettable portrait of a small New Jersey town that became known throughout the world for the remarkable exploits of its Little League stars.

Summertime in Toms River means two things: tourists and champions. The tourists head for the beaches; the 12-year-old Little League champions can be found on the baseball diamonds, where they win titles at the local, regional, and international levels.

The Toms River dynasty began in the 1990s, when the team made it to the Little League World Series three times in five years and brought home a historic world championship victory in 1998. But with each passing summer in Toms River comes renewed pressure, as the latest collection of All-Stars strives to leave its mark on the town's imposing baseball legacy.

In Six Good Innings, acclaimed sportswriter Mark Kreidler deftly illuminates the sometimes tense relationship between Toms River and the team that carries the town's hopes and dreams. Following the most recent juggernaut through one tumultuous All-Star season, Kreidler chronicles how the coach, John Puleo, works to strike a balance between healthy competition and bloodless ambition, and how the players themselves reckon with their own fleeting fame as they tumble headlong into adolescence.

Puleo, a man with a gift for inspiring young athletes, commands a team whose recent string of successes has led to speculation that this might be the squad to extend the Toms River tradition of reaching Williamsport, site of the Little League World Series. But along the path to glory, Puleo's players will deal with unexpected injuries, a brutally difficult schedule of games, and the daunting knowledge that they have been identified throughout their region—and within the neighborhood blocks of their own baseball-crazy town—as the team to beat.

With deep empathy, incisive reporting, and intimate access, Kreidler weaves the stories of the coaches, the parents, the fans, and the true boys of summer into a memorable tableau.

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About the Author:

Mark Kreidler is an award-winning journalist and author of the acclaimed Four Days to Glory: Wrestling with the Soul of the American Heartland. A regular contributor to ESPN television, ESPN.com, and ESPN: The Magazine, he lives in northern California.

From Booklist:

*Starred Review* Toms River, New Jersey, has a history in Little League baseball, winning the World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1998. In 2006, its team advanced farther in the competition than any team had in recent years, and—with most of the key players returning—expectations for 2007 were very high. Anything less than a trip to Williamsport would be disappointing. Kreidler, a regular contributor to ESPN and the author of the extraordinary Four Days to Glory (2006), returns with another in-depth examination of an off-the-beaten-path sports story. With virtually unlimited access to the team’s coaches, players, and parents, Kreidler follows the season-long quest for Little League immortality. In an era when too many Little League stories are about parental misbehavior, the most compelling angle to emerge here is the remarkably selfless dedication of everyone involved, from coach to players to parents. This is the story of a community effort to build a champion, and it is a genuine feel-good saga, a fascinating, warm, and decidedly entertaining look inside one branch of youth sports. --Wes Lukowsky

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