Free writing workshop for aspiring authors of young adult and middle grade fiction. The first five pages may be all that agents, editors, and readers read, so get them right with the help of three authors over the course of three weeks. During the third week, an agent will also critique your pages and your pitch and pick a workshop winner - the prize is a partial request!
Name: Richard Gnann Genre: Young Adult Title: Rain Delay
200 word pitch (171 words)
"Playing catch is a way of getting to know another guy without talking, better than you would if you talked."
With an untouchable fastball, Jimbo Warren is the cream of the state’s pitching crop. But, one year ago, Jimbo’s father died and baseball hasn’t been the same since.
After blowing the north side rec championship, Jimbo’s plans for travel baseball are crushed when he and his mom are forced to move to the one-red light town of Peterson, Nebraska. Jimbo leaves behind his two best friends - the girl next door for his whole life, Joni, and Tony, the only catcher he’s ever known. A dressed up hayfield takes the place of elite travel ball tournaments, and the enthusiastic Vince and the bully Larry re-start Jimbo’s rain delayed summer.
Rain Delay is a contemporary young adult baseball tale of a boy escaping from his past into the present. When Jimbo learns to play to win each baseball moment, he is released from Peterson and returns to Atlanta to fulfill his dream.
Name: Richard Gnann Genre: Young Adult Title: Rain Delay
I stood on the mound and watched Ed Reese propeller his bat around twice before leaning way over the plate. Same old Ed. Same old hotdog act.
I had two strikes on Ed in the bottom of the last inning in the North Side Rec Championship. With a man on first, if Ed hit one out of the park, he wins the game for the Astros. Ed was swinging for the fence.
“Go with your best pitch.” I could hear my dad’s voice in my head. That’s something I would never forget.
“Reach back Jimbo.” Tony Sparrow was my catcher and I was his pitcher. Mom called us Batman and Robin, and Tony jerked my mind back into focus.
“Gotcha on radar, Jimbo.” Tony always said he was ground control guiding in a fighter jet. He gave me the same target I had been throwing to since we were nine years old.
My fastball sizzled and I watched it carve a slice off the back corner of the plate. “Strrrrrrrrrrike three. You’re out!”
Ed slammed his bat into the ground and shook his hair like a wet dog. He dragged the bat behind him and stared at the umpire, then turned away to spit on the ground toward me.
“That’s ok Ed, another bad call.” Ed’s dad always pulled one of those old-man lawn chairs up close to the screen near home plate and slurped boiled peanuts the whole game. “You would’ve smoked anything close.”
I knew his last words were for me and the back of my neck got hot.
“Get the next batter!” My mom had on her lucky Mets cap and her lucky big round red sunglasses. She clapped her hands in front of her chin twice. It was her lucky clap. “Come on, Jimbo, next pitch!”
No one wants a mind reading mom, but she did set me back on track. I needed one more out for the Championship.
Tony pounded his catcher’s mitt. “Finish, Jimbo.”
I just blew the doors off the best batter on the north side. All I had to do now was get out a thirteen-year old Punch and Judy hitter, Billy Pepper. I would get the out, my Mets would be North Side champs, and I would start travel ball next week with Diamond Elite, the best travel team in the state.
I could see Coach Perno in the afternoon shadow raise his index finger to wag it at Tony. “One.”
I stepped off the rubber.
“Time.” Tony was beside me on the mound before I wiped the sweat from my forehead. “Coach Perno said throw your fastball three times.”
I just stared at the baseball, studying it like it could tell my fortune.
“What are we crazy thinking about? Throwing your fast ball’s a no-brainer.”
I laid two fingers inside my glove for Tony to see.
Tony slapped his mitt. “You sure?”
The doubt in Tony’s face was honest, but my mind was set. “I’m sure.”
“Ok Jimbo, I’m in. Let’s crazy do it.”
Tony jogged back into the shadow behind the plate and set the target. My curveball dove from the letters to the knees, but snapped inside for ball one. Billy’s eyes were big as hubcaps. His bat didn’t flinch.
I kicked the dirt. The red dust cloud floated on the late afternoon breeze toward right field. I was now behind in the count and for no good reason. You don’t get points for fooling the batter. The idea is to get outs.
I came back with a fastball. Billy took again. “Strrrrrike one.”
Tony’s throw back stung my hand. “Just like that!”
Tony’s message shivered its way up to my elbow, but my mind drifted. Billy was young, but he had seen my pitches before. Time for a changeup.
The pitch stayed high. I saw Billy close his eyes, and he lucked into a dribbler foul up the first baseline.
The Astros dugout exploded like Billy had powered a single to center.
“You can hit him.”
The pine trees leaned over the third baseline fence and the American Legion field scoreboard lights shined bright in their shade.
Mets 3 Astros 2
strikes 2 outs 2
Screams from parents and friends caused my neck to tingle. My heart was racing the last hundred yards of a marathon heading for a photo finish.
Billy tapped the plate once with his bat and loosened his shoulders with a level practice swing. Everyone could see that Billy now believed he could win this game. I shoved the thought away. Everyone knew Billy had about a one in a thousand chance of catching up to my fastball, everyone but Billy. His coolness became a trickle of doubt rolling down to my fingers causing me to grip the ball too tight. I didn’t hear the usual sizzle. Instead of carving off the corner, my fastball split the plate down the middle.
Billy’s eyes were open now and he swung as hard as he could. It was just hard enough to pop a lazy fly into right field. The ball was going to come down for an easy out and I started jumping up and down.
Then I stopped.
Because the road passed close to the ball field, the right field fence angled sharply back toward the infield the last two feet of fair territory. That made the foul pole T-ball distance. The pounding in my ears drowned out the screams of the crowd when Billy’s harmless fly turned into a cruise missile rocketing fair toward the fence.
A thousand to one chance to touch my fastball and a thousand to one chance to land fair over the fence. That’s a million to one chance that came home for Billy Pepper when the ball bounced fair off the high chain link beyond first base and tapped the hood of a passing convertible.
From the mound, I had a perfect spot to watch the Astros push Billy to the ground and pile on top. I turned away to see my own teammates trudge off the field after losing the Championship because of my stupidity. They didn’t even stop in the dugout before shuffling to their speechless parents.
“Tough one, Jimbo.” I hadn’t seen Coach Perno walk out to the mound. “Let’s go, ok?”
He turned to lead me across the infield.
Then he stopped and turned back. “You’re one heck of a pitcher. And I know your dad would have been proud of you.”
Maybe, but never I had been brainless picking pitches when my dad was here. I never had any doubts when Dad was here.
I knew Coach Perno wanted to say the right thing, but his last words carved a hole in my chest. “We would have all given anything to have your dad here.”
It was the second worst day of my life.
When I saw Diamond Elite head Coach Mickey Wells shaking Ed’s hand, I knew it would get worse.