Read The Distance to Home Online

Authors: Jenn Bishop

The Distance to Home (16 page)

glossary of baseball terms

bat leadoff:
To bat first in the starting lineup or to be the first batter in an inning.

complete game:
When the starting pitcher pitches the entire game.

A type of pitch that is held and thrown in a way that makes it curve as
it reaches home plate.

Cy Young Award:
Named after Hall of Fame pitcher Cy Young, this award is given each year to the best pitcher in each of the two major leagues, the American and the National. It's a huge honor to win the Cy Young.

Stands for
earned run average
. To calculate a pitcher's ERA, divide the number of runs scored off her pitches by the number of innings pitched, then multiply by nine. (For example, if a pitcher gives up four runs over seven innings, her ERA would be 5.14.)

The most common type of pitch, it is thrown at or near the pitcher's maximum velocity. The speed of the ball is the primary reason why it's hard to hit.

go-ahead run:
The run that gives the team that is batting the lead in a game.

grand slam:
A home run with the bases loaded, scoring four runs (the most you can score with one swing of the bat).

This type of pitch is thrown with minimal spin, causing it to move unpredictably. The ball is held with the knuckles or fingertips. It's difficult for batters to hit and for catchers to catch. It's also difficult for pitchers to throw. As a result, very few pitchers in professional baseball are knuckleballers.

line drive:
A sharply hit ball that travels almost parallel to the ground (as opposed to a fly ball, which is batted high into the air).

major league baseball (MLB):
The highest level of professional baseball played in the United States and Canada. There are a total of thirty major league teams, divided between the American League and the National League.

minor league baseball:
All the levels of professional baseball played below the major leagues, with official links to major league teams. In the current system, in order of descending skill level:
(or Class AAA),
(or Class AA),
(includes High-A and Low-A),
Single-A Short Season,
The Tri-City Bandits, though fictional, would be considered a Low-A team.

on-deck circle:
The location in foul territory where the batter who is up next waits.

Opening Day:
The first game of the baseball season. For a team that opens the regular season on the road, its first home game is regarded as Opening Day by fans in that city.

paint the corners:
To throw pitches at the edges of the strike zone.

A ball that is hit very high and stays in the infield.

road trip:
A series of away games. In the low minor leagues, teams still travel by bus. But major league road trips often involve flying on a private team plane.

When a team prevents its opponent from scoring any runs in a game.

signing bonus:
When high school and college players are drafted by an MLB team, they're offered money as an incentive to sign with that team. Signing bonuses for players picked in the first round are often several million dollars.

This type of pitch is thrown harder than a curveball but slower than a fastball. A slider moves horizontally and drops as it gets closer to home plate.

spring training:
From mid-February until Opening Day, major league teams practice together and hold exhibition games at training camps in Arizona and Florida.

starter, starting pitcher:
The first pitcher in the game. Any pitcher who comes in after the starter is considered a relief pitcher. In a typical rotation, a starting pitcher will pitch every fifth game. Both Brandon and Hector begin as starting pitchers for the Bandits.

starting lineup:
The official list of the players who will participate in the game when it begins.

three-two (3-2) count:
Also known as a
full count
, this means a batter has three balls and two strikes. One more ball and first base is hers. One more strike and she's out!

author's note

While this is a work of fiction,
in which host families open up their homes to minor league baseball players, are real. Single-A and Double-A teams all across the country coordinate homestays in their local communities. Though first-round draft picks often earn multimillion-dollar signing bonuses, the majority of minor league players (roughly ages eighteen to twenty-three) make very small paychecks as they begin their baseball careers. By the time they reach Triple-A, players are earning enough to afford apartments.

Most of those who take advantage of homestays are recent college or high school graduates or, as in the case of Hector, are brand-new to the United States. Their host families provide food, a spare bedroom, and an immediate connection to the community, but what they receive in return is something intangible: a lifelong connection to a baseball player. Many families will host year after year, and are likely to come to all the team's home games. A few years ago, when I went to a Kane County Cougars (Single-A) game outside of Chicago, my husband and I sat behind home plate and talked to one of the host families throughout the game. Back then, the Cougars were a minor league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, my husband's favorite team, and this family told us about all the A's players who had stayed in their house over the years, including Joe Blanton and 2005 Rookie of the Year Huston Street.

Can you imagine being able to say an MLB All-Star stayed in your house for the summer? How about considering a famous baseball player practically part of your family?

For the host family of designated hitter and catcher Victor Martinez, a five-time All-Star and current Detroit Tiger, his one summer with them was the beginning of something special. Martinez played only one season with the Single-A Short Season Mahoning Valley Scrappers before moving up in the Cleveland Indians' organization, but far away from his home country of Venezuela, he developed a real bond with his host family. More than a dozen years later, Martinez still plays professional baseball, his son, Victor Jose, tagging along with him to games and calling his father's host mom “Grandma.”

Interested in learning more about hosting and how your family might get involved? Most minor league teams that offer homestays to their players have contact information on their websites. There are also college baseball summer leagues, such as the Cape Cod Baseball League (Massachusetts), which connect players with host families.


Writing a book is a lot like enduring a 162-game baseball season. There are ups and downs, boring stretches with not a whole lot of action, not to mention plenty of curveballs. The truth is, there's no way you can break into the big leagues without a mountain of support behind you.

A fingers-in-my-mouth cheering whistle for my intrepid agent, Katie Grimm, who never gave up on this book. I can't imagine not having you on my (and Quinnen's) team. I'm so grateful to my editor, Kelly Delaney, for continuing to find ways to make this manuscript stronger and for making me a better writer. And for the entire team at Knopf—Kate Gartner, Artie Bennett, Jim Armstrong, Diana Varvara, and Trish Parcell—who helped turn my Word document into this beautiful book you're now holding. I feel incredibly blessed to start my writing career at an imprint that has published so many of my favorite titles.

While there's no such thing as the minor leagues for writing, I feel deeply indebted to the writing boot camp that was the two-year MFA program in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Thank you, Rita Williams-Garcia, for being my very first reader on the first draft of this project. I cannot put into words what it meant to me to be able to have you as a sounding board as I worked my way into this story. To Louise Hawes, Mark Karlins, and everyone who was in our summer 2012 workshop: thank you for your honest, instructive feedback, and for seeing the heart of this story even before I did. Betsy Partridge, Sarah Ellis, and A. S. King: thank you for everything you have taught me (and are still teaching me) about characters and story and plot. In the solitary world of writing, feeling like you're not doing it alone is everything. I'm so grateful for, and perpetually in awe of, my fellow M.A.G.I.C. I.F.s.

In baseball, there are the pitching and hitting coaches and an unending behind-the-scenes staff that make professional athletes look good. For us writers, it's our early readers, whose feedback on first and second and—okay—twelfth drafts helps shape the final product. Deb Alt, Gwendolyn Heasley Carter, Daniel Kenis, Alison Frew-Kimball, Erica Perkins, Jen Petro-Roy, Cynthia Surrisi, Chin Lin Wong, and Matt Zakosek—I'm so grateful for your feedback and your friendship. To Alison Weiss, thank you for your love of Quinnen and this story and everything you brought to this manuscript. To Erin Cohen, Libby Pearson, Elizabeth Entwistle, Autumn Krause, Stephanie Matushek, Bryan Barnes, Kai Barnes—thank you for rooting for me on the long path to publication.

Even though it's been a few years since I left the library world, I can't help but count my fellow librarians among my teammates: the staffs of the Homewood (Illinois) Public Library, Concord-Carlisle High School, Gleason Public Library in Carlisle, Massachusetts, and the Malden Public Library. Thank you for the innumerable ways you have supported my writing over the years. And for all the teens who taught me so much in library writing workshops, book discussion groups, and the CCHS YA Galley Group: I hear you in the back of my head as I conceive and write each book. For my fellow Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee members: reading and discussing 200+ YA books with you was such a privilege and has deeply informed my writing. Thank you for your candid feedback and support, especially Mike Fleming, Alissa Lauzon, and Patti Tjomsland.

I would never have made it this far without the support of my parents, who've read nearly everything I've ever written and loved it all (or at least pretended to). Thanks to my mom and dad, for everything. And to my husband, Colin, who endured what had to be the most excruciating two months of living with me imaginable, thank you for providing a sane counterpoint to my writerly crazy, day in and day out. And for grinding it out through all those games at Fenway. I know you will never love the Red Sox as I do, and that's okay.

And finally, to my home team, the Red Sox. The grit and personality of your ever-evolving team is both an inspiration and a necessary distraction from the real world. I grew up with the belief that the Red Sox would never win the World Series, and when they finally did in 2004, my world broke open. What other impossibles were possible? Thank you for teaching me to believe.

about the author

Jenn Bishop
is a former youth and teen services librarian. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she studied English, and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she received her MFA in writing for children and young adults. Along with her husband and cat, Jenn lives just outside of Boston, where she roots for the Red Sox. Visit her online at

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