Double Play at Short


By Matt Christopher

Illustrated by Karen Meyer

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Twelve-year-old Danny thinks that there is something very familiar about the girl who plays shortstop on the team he faces during the championship series, and his curiosity leads him to a surprising discovery about his own adoption.



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First eBook Edition: December 2009

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Matt Christopher® is a registered trademark of Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-316-09479-5



The ball settled solidly in the cup of Danny Walker's well-oiled glove.

"Lucky!" called out Joel Jackson, his best buddy and the Bullets' center fielder.

"Nah, just talented," said Danny with a big smile. He pegged the ball over to Frankie Snow, the Bullets' relief infielder, then gazed around the field. All his teammates were keyed up, but he was relaxed.

He could afford to be. Danny Walker was a natural — on the field as well as at bat.

As the Bullets continued their warm-up, he felt great. Today was the first game in their five-game championship series against the Jaguars. That alone made the warm-up more intense than usual. Add to that the fact that the players' stats for this series would help determine who'd be chosen for the county All-Star team, and you got a pressure-filled situation.

Baseballs whizzed from player to player in every direction. A few got dropped. Sometimes a player even got bopped accidentally by a teammate.

But Danny was always on the alert. His muscles were poised and ready to respond to any ball that came in his direction.

"Way to go, Danny," called his friend Joanne Bell, the Bullets' first baseman, as he scooped up another one of Joel's throws.

Danny spun around and hurled the ball in her direction. Joanne stretched forward and snagged the ball in the elongated cup of her trapper's mitt. She was really sharp at first base.

But not as consistent as Danny was at shortstop. He seemed made for the position. He stood about five feet, four inches high, and he was solid, without an ounce of fat. With his strong arms and legs, he could get low to the ground or leap high into the air. Whatever it took to get the ball or stop the runner between second and third, Danny was right there. He even wore his wavy, dark auburn hair cut short so it wouldn't flop in his eyes and get in his way.

Danny was the Bullets' top hitter. He had more hits and runs batted in than any other player on the team. And he was just as valuable on the field. The combination of hitting and fielding made him an almost sure pick for the county All-Star team.

The umpire's whistle blew. It was time for the game to begin. Danny tossed one more ball over to the Bullets' third baseman, Mike Worsley, then headed toward the dugout. He lined up with the rest of the Bullets as the scratchy sound of "The Star-Spangled Banner" poured out of the loudspeakers.

"Play ball!" the ump shouted when the music stopped.

The Bullets were first at bat. Vern Labar, their second baseman, jogged over to the plate. Danny moved to the far side of the dugout. He leaned on one knee and watched Vern crouch down into his batting position.

The first pitch was high. Vern wisely let it go by.

The next one was down the middle. Vern swung at it and missed.

Then, with the count at 1 and 1, the pitcher released one that was a little bit inside, just the way Vern liked them. He swung at it and connected. The ball went sizzling by the pitcher's mound and took a high bounce. It looked as though it would squeeze through the hole just to the left of second base.

But the Jaguars' shortstop was too fast. A streak of white with green edges, she snagged the ball in her outstretched glove and pulled it in. Danny could see her auburn ponytail flying behind her cap as she quickly pegged the ball to first base for the out.

Boy, she's fast on her feet, he thought. He made a mental note to keep the ball away from the general vicinity of shortstop.

Unlike some kids, who studied every statistic about every game and memorized scores and standings, Danny's great interest in baseball had always been right on the diamond. He knew who was who in the league and where the Bullets stood in terms of games ahead or behind, but he didn't spend a whole lot of time analyzing those things. He sized up the opposing team right off during a game, then let his intuition take over. After all, relying on his instincts made him a sharp infielder. That, and his strong batting average, made him a real asset to any team — including the All-Stars, he hoped.

Elaine Norbert, the Bullets' right fielder, was up next. She was tall and skinny, and the Bullets' uniform, white and blue trim, made her seem even taller. She looked as though the gentlest little breeze could knock her over. But somehow or other, Elaine sure had a way of scaring pitchers. Instead of taking advantage of the big strike zone, they ended up handing her the ball on a silver platter.

Danny flopped down on the bench to watch the action from a different area of the dugout. As usual, he just couldn't sit still now that the game had started. "Antsy," his dad called him. "You've got ants in your pants, Danny," he'd say.

The first pitch to Elaine was so low, it almost raised up the dust in front of the plate. Danny smiled to himself as he saw Elaine scowl at Andy Hooten, the Jaguars' pitcher.

"Looks like Elaine's starting to work him over right away," said Joel Jackson, seated next to Danny on the bench. "I don't know how she does it."

"She just acts tough. And they fall for it," said Danny.

"Hey, whatever works," said Joel.

It didn't surprise either boy that the second pitch was right where Elaine wanted it — straight down the middle.

Her bat connected solidly, and the ball took off over the second baseman's head and into the grass. The right fielder came running in and stopped it from going farther. He threw to first, but Elaine was already on base, tucking her hair under her blue cap.

Good, thought Danny. That means we have a chance of scoring a run right off in the first inning. And there's a chance I'll get to bat, too. I hope I can add another hit to my stats. Every little bit helps!

Next up for the Bullets was Mike Worsley, the team's third baseman.

"Come on, Mike," Danny shouted. "Drive her home!"

He said the words, but deep down he didn't really think much of Elaine's chance of crossing the plate. Mike was a terrific fielder, but his hitting had fallen off lately and he was clearly in a slump. Mike had struck out three times in the last pre-series game the Bullets had played just last week.

This time, he surprised everyone. He connected solidly on the third pitch. For a moment it looked as though the ball would go over the fence for a home run. Then, suddenly, it dropped — right into the mitt of the Jaguars' left fielder, Wally Mills. Wally pegged it to second, but he was too late. Elaine slid safely under the second baseman's glove.

Danny noticed that the Jaguars' shortstop had covered the play just right. She was in a position, all set to make the tag, in case Elaine tried to go farther.

In fact, he found that he was watching the shortstop position almost more than the action at the plate. Ken Hunter, the Bullets' left fielder, took his turn at bat. Ken was a little short for a twelve-year-old and crouched in at the plate real tight. That didn't give pitchers much of strike zone to go for. It usually made for some tricky calls by the ump, too.

The first pitch was much too high. Ball one.

The next pitch surprised everyone. A meatball right down the middle, it went for a called strike. Ken stepped back from the plate, rubbed his hands on his chunky thighs, then moved back into position.

Crouched on one knee in the on-deck circle, Danny sent his teammate a silent signal. Pay attention, buddy. Eyes sharp.

It seemed like Ken picked up on his message. He swung at the next pitch and hit a long, long, long, high fly ball — that fell just outside the third base line. Foul!

'The Jaguars' third baseman chased after the ball, which had landed midway between him and left field. For a moment, it had looked as though Elaine might try to advance to third. But the Jaguars' shortstop had put an end to any such idea. She was right there, covering the position, glove extended for any throw that might come her way.

With a 1 and 2 count, the Jaguars had a shot at retiring the Bullets right then and there. But they missed their chance. As Ken hunkered down at the plate, the next three pitches were all over the place. The ump called them, and Ken got a walk. He dropped his bat and trotted down the line to first base.

Two runners on base. As Danny came up to bat, he knew that he had a good chance to put the Bullets on the scoreboard. That would give the team a great psychological advantage for the whole series.

"Come on, Danny!" he heard a voice cheer from the stands. He recognized the sound of his older sister, Jennifer. Although she was all wrapped up with her work as the editor of the school newspaper, she still tried to make as many of his games as possible.

Both Danny and Jennifer had been adopted when they were infants. But they were as close as any biological brother and sister. In fact, Mrs. Walker used to joke with them and say, "If I knew that you kids would turn out so well, we would have put in for a dozen just like you."

But Danny wasn't thinking about that now. He scuffled his toe in the dirt next to the plate, hefted the bat into position over his left shoulder, and gazed out into the field. He knew some pitchers had trouble throwing to lefties — and since Danny fielded righty, they usually weren't prepared for him to take a left-handed stance.

But today was different. The pitcher didn't even hesitate.


Danny scowled and stepped out of the batter's box. He eyed the pitcher but shifted his gaze slightly to the left when a blaze of red hair caught his attention. Even though Danny wasn't in the box, the Jaguars' shortstop was hunkered down in position. She shifted from one foot to the other, her ponytail swinging out behind her. She looked ready for anything.

For some reason, she made Danny uneasy.

"Play ball!"

Danny started at the umpire's call. It wasn't like him to let his mind wander during a game.

Hey, take your own advice, Walker, he said to himself. Pay attention! He moved back to the plate and gripped the bat. He was ready.

The ball was coming straight toward him. He had just enough time to respond to what looked like his kind of pitch. Instinct took over.

Danny swung hard.


On Sale
Dec 19, 2009
Page Count
176 pages

Matt Christopher

About the Author

Matt Christopher is the best-selling name behind more than 100 sports-themed books for young readers.

Learn more about this author