About the Books
Sixth grader Mackenzie Kelly’s first love was soccer until her best friend talked her into playing summer softball. Now Mack is eager to be on her school’s softball team and dreams of playing in the Olympics with her idol, Cat Osterman. But first she needs to bring up her failing English grade to stay on the team. When she learns softball has been cut from the Olympics, she’s determined somehow to get it back into the Olympic Games so she can fulfill her dream.
“I just wanted to let you know I received the book and I think it is FANTASTIC!” – Jessica Mendoza, US Olympic Softball Team
“Thank you, Ms. Clanton, for helping me to spread the word about softball.” – Jamie Gray, http://www.savesoftball.com
Bag of Chips
Mackenzie Kelly adjusted her batting helmet and raised her bat. She waited anxiously for the signal from the coach. On the first day of tryouts, Coach Parks told them she rarely took sixth graders, but Mack was determined to make the team anyway.
Coach Parks held up her stop watch and yelled, “Go.”
Mack swung the bat, aiming at nothing, dropped it to the ground, and sprinted toward first. The other girls cheered her on. She exploded toward second after using the new technique Coach taught them to round first base. She felt an extra burst of energy as she hit second and headed toward third. She was doing great. She just knew it. Her adrenaline kicked in as she approached third base, but just as she got ready to fly the final sixty feet to home plate, her foot slipped on the base and she was airborne. She braced herself for the landing.
“Oof,” she cried when she hit the ground. She stared up at the January Florida sky, but regrouped in a hurry. She leaped to her feet and ran the rest of the way home.
She crossed the plate, and all the girls clapped and cheered for her, except one.
Sixth grader Halie Henri laughed out loud. “What a klutz,” she said to her seventh grade friends. “She can’t even run the bases.”
Mack couldn’t look at them, any of them. Tears stung her eyes. There was no way she’d ever make the middle school softball team now, and because of that she’d never make the Olympic team or win a gold medal either.
Coach Parks appeared out of nowhere and clapped her on the back. “You okay, kiddo?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Mack didn’t make eye contact with Coach Parks. She was too embarrassed.
“You were going pretty fast. In fact, even with falling, I think you beat out some of the other girls.”
“Really?” Mack wasn’t sure if Coach Parks was just saying that to cheer her up, but even so, it did kind of make her feel better. “Thanks, Coach.”
“No problem, kiddo.”
Coach Parks gathered the twenty-five or so sixth, seventh, and eighth graders around her. “I’ll post the team roster outside the P.E. office tomorrow during lunch. You’ve made this an incredibly difficult decision for me, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t make the team this year, especially you sixth graders. I want you to try out again next year. Okay, that’s it for today.”
Mack’s shoulders sagged. She didn’t want to have to wait until next year. She had played soccer most of her life, but then her best friend Ashley Ames made her play softball the summer before. Ashley’s dad had put together a team for the Winterford town league. Although Mack loved soccer, softball was way better. She could run, just like in soccer, but she could also hit and throw and catch and dive and slide. After playing softball in the twelve and under softball league, she was hooked.
Ashley grabbed Mack’s arm and shook it vigorously. “Dude, do you think we’ll make it? I’m so nervous.”
“Pfft. Not with my fabulous fall back there.”
“Oh, c’mon, dude. Coach Parks won’t cut you just because of that.”
Mack frowned. “You heard her. She wants sixth graders to try out again next year.”
“She said to try out again if we don’t make the team, and we’re both going to make it. This year.” Ashley took off her hair band and shook her dirty blonde ponytail free.
Mack sighed. “Halie will make it. They need another pitcher. She probably thinks she’ll start, too.”
“Yeah, no kidding. Halie thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips.”
Mack laughed and rolled her eyes.
“Oh, don’t worry about her,” Ashley said. “My dad says people who make fun of other people are just insecure.”
“Whatever.” Mack wasn’t convinced. “Bag of Chips will make the team for sure, but there’s no way Coach’ll take you and me, too. She won’t take three sixth graders.” She sighed and threw her dad’s old glove into her bag and then put the borrowed school helmet on the rack in the dugout. She pulled the rubber band out of her hair and raked her fingers through the dark waves.
“Hey, dude,” Ashley said, “let’s be positive about this, okay? What number do you want when Coach hands out uniforms?”
Mack couldn’t stop her smile. “Ha! What do you think?”
“Oh, you’re so predictable. Okay, number eight for you, but what if Halie wants Cat Osterman’s number, too?”
“You and I both know that Halie will want twenty-seven for Jennie Finch. I mean, they’re both blondes, and Halie wears that Jennie Finch hair band all the time.”
“Yeah, but what if she—?”
“Okay, okay,” Mack said. “If Halie takes eight, then I’ll take two, Jessica Mendoza.”
“That makes more sense, you know, because Mendoza’s a left fielder like you. Or you could take twenty-nine—Natasha Watley. You run as fast as she does.”
“I wish, but Watley doesn’t fall down like I do. What number do you want, as if I didn’t know?”
“Let’s see, could it be three? The number of a certain second baseman on Team USA?”
“When Lovieanne Jung retires I’m taking her position and her number. But c’mon, my dad’s probably holding his breath in the car, waiting to find out if we made the team. Too bad he has to wait another day.”
“Yeah, too bad for us, too.”
Mack picked up her bag, hoping she would need it for softball practice the next day. Otherwise, it was back to soccer full time.