Sometimes persistence can pay off for more than one person. The author of this baseball novel, Michael Lortz, sent me a review copy several months ago and admittedly I had forgotten about it. Mr. Lortz reminded me of the book on more than one occasion and I finally got around to reading it. That turned out to be a wise choice, and I am happy to say that I enjoyed it. Here is my review of "Curveball at the Crossroads"
Title/Author: “Curveball at the Crossroads” by Michael Lortz
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good)
Review: Baseball fans can probably name many players who were great for a year or two, then because of injury or ineffectiveness became forgotten as quickly as they became household names – Mark Fidrych and Joe Charboneau just to name two. Michael Lortz has written a novel about a fictional pitcher JaMark Reliford, who became one. But not for the reasons that real ballplayers suffered from that indignity. Instead, after JaMark suffered an injury in high school baseball and hit “rock bottom”, he made a deal with the Devil that made him a star, but also had its consequences.
This story was an enjoyable read for a few reasons. One is that Lortz developed his characters well, especially JaMark, his love Betsy, JaMark’s Uncle Rufus and Inga, the old woman who Uncle Rufus said was the only one who could help JaMark. All of them are people with whom the reader can relate, even if the reader was never a major league pitcher, an awesome Southern cook or someone who had trouble staying out of jail.
Another part is the baseball scenes. While some of the play will most likely never happen in real life, they are fun to read. Two examples – JaMark pitches a minor league game in which he strikes out all 27 batters on 81 pitches – nine “immaculate innings.” Another is pitching seven innings in the MLB All-Star game – that will never happen when it's an exhibition game to show off all the stars. But for the actual games, with the thinking by JaMark during his pitching and the description of both good and bad outings for him, a baseball fan will enjoy the realistic description.
The last characteristic of the book I liked was how Lortz’s story had a lot of elements of good baseball movies and stories woven together. He clearly didn’t steal anything from them, but if a reader has seen any of these baseball movies, then they will see how JaMark or others are just like some of the people in scenes of these movies: “The Scout” (where I remembered the above mentioned perfect game), “Rookie of the Year”, “Field of Dreams” and “Major League.” This is not to say that one had to see those movies to enjoy the book, but fans of them will look at parts of this story and remember them. Not to mention I kept hearing the song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” throughout the story – even though it takes place in Mississippi.
The story of JaMark Reliford is an engrossing tale that one doesn’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy, but those who love the sport will want to read this if they enjoy baseball fiction.
I wish to thank Mr. Lortz for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.