Written by Fred Bowen
Once in a while there comes a sports story that is so much more than the usual story of wins and losses. Fred Bowen’s Perfect Game immerses his readers in the world of baseball: the preparation, the statistics, and then ever so gently lifts them out of that and into a world known to few children — the world of the Special Olympics Unified Sports.
Isaac Burnett is an expert pitcher. The opening chapter clues the reader to his search for perfection. He dresses for the game, checking and rechecking in the mirror that“…everything was just the way he liked it. The socks. The pants. The shirt. And last but not least, the hat.” He steps out ready for the perfect game.
There is a lot of technical description, but even readers who do not play baseball get the gist: the perfect game gets away from Isaac. He tries again and again, but it does not happen. His father urges him to practice more, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” And who knows, his father tells him, “maybe enough perfect practice will get you a perfect game.”
Coach Parks senses Isaac’s growing frustration. He does not lecture, or demand more; he just engineers a change of path. He asks Isaac to help with another team. Reluctantly Isaac agrees, but he is not prepared for the scene of absolute bedlam that greets him at the practice gym. He did not know this was a team of ‘retards’. Maya, the coach’s helper sets him right. “That’s not a word we use,” she tells him. “And you shouldn’t either. It’s really not nice.”
Bit by bit Isaac learns to appreciate the spirit that informs the players. He sees Kevin, a young boy with Syndrome X, blossom into a good shooter and slowly leaves the sanctuary of the quiet corner to step out onto the court. The readers learn along with him, and that is the best way to teach, isn’t it? That words can hurt, that the effort is what counts, and most importantly that playing for the team’s win is “perfect enough.”
What a perfect addition to any reading list! The back matter gives additional information about the 23 perfect games and the Special Olympics Unified Sports. There is enough matter to create many reading activities and discussion points.
About the story: http://www.fredbowen.com/perfect_game_116987.htm
Author Bio: http://www.fredbowen.com/bio.htm
List of Perfect Games: http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/history/rare_feats/index.jsp?feature=perfect_game