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About The Book

Jalen DeLuca applies his baseball genius to his own playing in the follow-up to Tim Green and Derek Jeter’s New York Times bestselling novel Baseball Genius.

Jalen DeLuca loves baseball. But he’s more than just a fan and a talented player; Jalen is a baseball genius. He can analyze and predict almost exactly what a pitcher is going to do with his next pitch. His unique ability helped him save the career of the Yankees’s star baseman, James “JY” Yager, by signaling the pitches from the stands.

Now turning his focus to his own baseball career, Jalen has to put his genius into action in new and untested ways. But without the stats and information he has on the pro players, analyzing the pitchers seems impossible. And even if he knows what the pitch will be, actually hitting it takes more than intuition.

As if the pressure of the team and drama with his friends weren’t enough, one major event changes everything—Jalen’s mom comes back into his life. Can Jalen work through it all to hit a grand slam and make his baseball dreams a reality?

Excerpt

Chapter 1 1
JALEN WAS TOO AMPED UP from hitting the championship winning home run to leave the field of Harvard Stadium. He’d never experienced anything so thrilling. Could anything ever again be as exciting?

Then the answer appeared out of nowhere.

There she was, tall and upright, with skin as dark as those enormous eyes. She was elegant and majestic, wearing an electric-blue dress with an inky-black flower pattern. Her cheeks had lost some of the roundness he’d seen in her picture so many thousands of times, but the thinner face made her cheekbones more pronounced, reminding Jalen of his best friend Cat’s mom.

He knew who she was. She didn’t have to say it, even though she did, and the words were the sweetest sounds he’d ever heard.

“Hello, Jalen. I’m your mother.”

Jalen’s eyes darted between this amazing woman in the blue dress and the woman with her, Emery, the private detective he’d hired. Stepping forward, Emery nodded. “Meet your mom. Elizabeth.”

Ever since he could remember, Jalen had longed for his mother’s return. Now, this surprise reunion unleashed a million thoughts and feelings. His mind filled with questions, but his throat choked back any words.

He couldn’t stop looking, comparing himself to her. He was almost as tall as she was. Suddenly his mother flung open her arms, reached out, and hugged him. He hugged her back fiercely, wanting to be sure this was real.

“My baby,” she said with her nose buried in the dark curly hair near his ear. “I am so sorry.”

“Everything’s okay,” he said, overcome by her closeness and fighting not to lose it.

She squeezed him even tighter.

“Did you see my hit?” He pulled back, but she kept hold of his hand.

“I did see—a home run for the win. It’s a good sign.” She smiled, and her teeth sparkled in the late afternoon sun. The bright blue dress she wore reminded him of blue paint in the art room.

“Sign?” he asked.

“For us. That it will be good.” She glanced at everyone standing around them in silence. “Your friends?”

“Yes.” Jalen turned to them, gesturing with his free hand. “JY—James Yager from the Yankees. Maybe you recognize him.”

“I’m sorry that I don’t, but I’m glad to know you. Please call me Liz.” She shook JY’s hand. “When Emery found me, she told me you were helping Jalen with his search.”

“Glad to,” JY said.

“This is Cat, my best friend, and her mom, Mrs. Hewlett, and Daniel, my other best friend.”

His friends shook hands and Cat’s mom said, “So very nice to meet you. You have a fine boy.”

“Fine.” His mother sighed and looked at him with just the hint of a smile. “I have a fine boy.”

“I think we’ll give the two of you some time without us all gawking,” Cat’s mom said.

Emery patted his back and said, “We’ll talk later.”

Jalen’s mom was still holding his hand, but then he pulled away, uncertain how he felt. Unsure how to act.

“What about the team? The bus?” he asked, feeling guilty that thoughts about the game and his dad were suddenly crowding his mind.

“They can wait fifteen or twenty extra minutes,” JY said. “I’ll text Coach Allen. He’ll understand. My gosh, who wouldn’t… it’s your mom.”

Cat’s mom began herding Cat and Daniel and JY and even Emery toward the parking lot.

“I’ll get your gear to the bus, amigo.” Daniel headed to the dugout.

“Thanks,” Jalen called, turning back to his mom.

She reached out again for his hand. Beyond her Jalen could see the rows of seats so recently filled with fans and food and noise and celebration.

“Jalen?”

He knew that she wanted him to look at her, and so he did. “Yes?” Her big dark eyes glowed. A black band held her long curly hair—so like his—off her face.

“At first I didn’t let myself think about you. It hurt too much. And then I had a chance to come back to the States and perform. I have a weekend gig in Boston. When Emery first contacted me, I couldn’t believe you’d forgive me.… I came to the games yesterday, too.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “I’m sorry to get all jumbled up. I’m just so excited.”

He could see how badly his mother wanted everything to be better—all at once—but he shook his head. “I don’t get it, just not thinking enough about your own son. Not caring enough about me to call or write. Not ever.”

She stretched out her other hand and touched Jalen’s arm, blinking back tears. “I know. I’m sorry. For everything.”

The only response Jalen could muster was to listen to her words and nod, as his eyes searched her face.

“Huh. Well.” His mom forced a smile. “Let’s get you on that bus.”

She turned, and he went with her, still feeling like it was unreal. “Um, what happened? I mean, why did you go?”

“Didn’t Fabio tell you?”

“Dad said you had a dream. He said you needed to go.”

She relaxed a little. “Yes. That’s right. I’m a singer. I had an amazing opportunity. I thought it was worth everything. I believed I could make it big. I still do, but nothing is as easy as you dream it will be. I’ve been so close, Jalen.… I’ve learned that anything worth having never comes easy.”

“I’m gonna play in the big leagues,” he said, jamming a thumb into his chest.

“See? That’s your dream.” She stopped and gestured with her hands. Her long fingers fluttered like wings. “You need to follow that dream. We don’t get many chances to make it come true.”

A jazzy ringtone shattered the moment. His mom fumbled in her purse, found her phone, and listened intensely.

“Oh no!” she said. “I’ll be right there.” She ended the call and looked at Jalen.

“Jalen—I’ve got to run. I’m already late.”

Jalen couldn’t believe it. “But we just met.”

“I’m so sorry, Jalen. I have to go.”

She gave him a quick hug and dashed away.

His eyes followed her until she reached the corner of the stadium.

“Mom!” he shouted.

The flash of her bright blue dress was the last image he had before she disappeared from sight. She never looked back.

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for

Baseball Genius 3: Grand Slam

By Tim Green and Derek Jeter

About the Book

This is the third installment in Derek Jeter and Tim Green’s Baseball Genius series.

Twelve-year-old Jalen DeLuca has an unusual ability to predict pitches, a talent that helped him befriend Yankee’s star James “JY” Yeager and work his way up to a spot on a competitive travel team. Jalen quickly learns that “nothing is as easy as you dream it will be.” First, his mother reappears in his life, along with her new boyfriend. Then his father’s restaurant gets a franchise opportunity, new teammates on the Bandits threaten his old friendships, and JY gets traded to Atlanta. Now the Bronxville Bandits have a chance to play Lakeland, the number one team in the nation, putting both Jalen’s athletic skills and baseball genius to the test. He will have to keep his head in the game if he wants a shot at his dream of earning a scholarship to the prestigious Sports Academy.

Discussion Questions

1. Why do you think Jalen is hesitant to tell his father that his mother has returned? What do you think will happen when his father eventually learns the truth? In chapter 41, Jalen’s mother uses a baseball analogy to explain why it is important to tell Fabio the truth. Explain what this analogy means.

2. What does the YouTube clip of Jalen at JY’s game insinuate about Jalen’s actions? Why is he worried about the clip going viral? What potential consequences exist if the clip goes viral and people believe it?

3. How does being on the Bandits and his new friendship with Gertzy complicate Jalen’s friendship with Daniel? Think about a time when one of your friendships faced a challenge. What happened? Were you able to remain friends, or did you grow apart? What advice would you have for someone facing a similar situation?

4. Jalen’s teammate, Fanny, loves to play pranks on his friends and enemies. How do you feel about being pranked? Do you think it’s okay for friends to prank each other? What might happen if someone doesn’t find the prank or joke to be funny? Why do you think the coach forbids any further pranking until after the tournament at Lakeland? Why does Fanny take full responsibility for the prank they pull on Blondie? Do you think Fanny does the right thing when he takes all the blame? Explain your answers.

5. Lakeland is a school specifically for student-athletes. If you could open a school tailored specifically to an extracurricular activity, what would it be and why? How would the school help the students in it follow their dreams? Brainstorm ideas with your classmates.

6. Gertzy tells Jalen about the theory from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers that says to master a skill, you have to put in 10,000 hours of practice. How does the time Jalen spends practicing his swing pay off? What skill would you like to master? What fundamentals could you practice to help you improve?

7. What reason does the Yankees general manager, Foxx, give for trading JY to the Atlanta Braves? Why does Jalen think this is a bad decision? Think of a time when you thought someone was making a bad decision. Did you speak up? What was your reasoning? What was the outcome?

8. Jalen’s best friend is a girl named Cat. Do you think it’s unusual for boys and girls to be best friends? Do you think Jalen is a good friend to Cat and Daniel? What do you look for in a friend? Explain your answers.

9. George tells Jalen that his mother needs time before she performs to concentrate on her performance. Later, Jalen finds that he needs to focus in order to predict pitches and get in the zone of his own game. Why is it necessary to be mentally prepared to compete or perform? What strategies do you use to help yourself focus before a game, test, or performance?

10. What does it mean to be overconfident? How does being overconfident hurt the Lakeland team? Have you ever been overconfident? Can you think of any strategies to help keep you from making the same mistake that the Lakeland team makes?

11. One of the authors of this book, Derek Jeter, was a celebrated player with the New York Yankees for twenty years. How might his experiences as a World Series Champion and member of the Baseball Hall of Fame inform the way he writes about baseball? Think about what makes the book’s baseball game scenes so visual and gripping.

12. Jalen asks himself which is more important, “being true and loyal and living with Dad . . . or taking his big chance to follow his MLB dream.” Is it an easy question to answer? How does he resolve this dilemma? Explain your answers.

Extension Activities

1. Jalen's father’s deal to franchise the Silver Liner Diner means they will have the financial security they did not have when his father owned a single restaurant. Research how franchising works. Why will having franchises result in increased income for Fabio? Working with a group of classmates, develop an idea for a business that you could franchise. Then present your business idea to your class in a fun business pitch competition.

2. When the Bronxville Bandits play in the Lakeland tournament, their games are watched by scouts from colleges and major league teams. What are the rules for recruiting student-athletes? How young can players be officially and unofficially recruited? Do you think the current rules are appropriate, or do you think they need to be changed? Have a class debate about the pros and cons of recruiting young players, and research the answers to any other questions you have on this topic.

3. Research the life and career of authors Derek Jeter or Tim Green. Use the information you gather to create a biography; this can be in the form of a report, video, PowerPoint, or even an illustrated children's book or graphic novel.

4. Jalen has the ability to predict pitches. Research the different types of pitches, and create a poster that explains what makes each pitch unique and difficult for a player to hit.

5. Jalen shares this reflection in chapter 28: “Something he thought was going to be a real nightmare was less threatening every time he looked, and something he thought would be a dream come true had given him nightmares.” Write a reflective essay about a time when something you worried about ended up not being as bad as you feared, or when something you were excited about ended up not being as good as you hoped it would be. What did you learn from your experience?

6. Jalen and his mother’s partner, George, connect over their love of sports. George grew up playing cricket, a game that some people believe inspired the creation of baseball. Research the history of your favorite sport. How was it invented? Does it have a connection to any specific world culture? How has it changed over time? Share your discoveries with your class.

Guide prepared by Amy Jurskis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy in Florida.

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit simonandschuster.net or simonandschuster.net/thebookpantry.

About The Authors

Photograph by Laura Lilly

Tim Green was an NFL first-round draft pick and a star defensive player for eight years with the Atlanta Falcons. He is the New York Times bestselling author of dozens of books for adults and kids including The Dark Side of the Game, The Fifth Angel, Exact Revenge, Football Genius, Football Hero, Kid Owner, and Left Out. Tim graduated co-valedictorian with a degree in English literature from Syracuse University before earning a law degree with honors. He has been an NFL commentator for FOX Sports and NPR. Tim and his family live in upstate New York. 

Maureen Cavanagh/Jeter Publishing

Derek Jeter is a fourteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner who played for one team—the storied New York Yankees—for all twenty seasons of his major league career. His grace and class on and off the field have made him an icon and role model far beyond the world of baseball.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Aladdin (March 22, 2022)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534406728
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 690L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ V These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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