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Chapter 1

I couldn’t believe it.         

I just couldn’t believe it!

From the time I was six years-old, I, Ben Taylor, was the best basketball player in my class. In fact, I was the only one who was able to shoot the ball into a ten-foot basket. And as I got older, I was always the one picked first for recess games, and I was always one of the best players of my recreation league basketball team. The starting point guard, of course.

I’m not necessarily the fastest guy around, but I work on my fundamentals. Every day after school, I shoot and dribble outside for at least an hour. I work on set shots, jump shots, free throws, you name it.

I’m a good defender, too. I pride myself on keeping my opponent to a minimum of points.

And now?

Now I’m in seventh grade, and it’s our school team’s first basketball game of the season. And for the first time in my life, I’m a backup.

This year, there is a new point guard on our team, the Ridgeview Eagles. His name is Gerald, and he moved in this past summer from out of town. I have to admit, he’s good. We had been competing for the starting point guard spot since team practices had started in late fall.

Whenever we asked, Coach Jones told us that he hadn’t yet made his decision on who would be the starter. Just last week, Coach Jones had told us the rest of the starting lineup, but said that he would have to let us know on game day who would be the starting point guard. Gerald is good, sure, but I never believed that he would actually get the starting spot.

And now? Now? Now I’m sitting on the bench, watching the team play the first quarter of our first game without me.

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Big Shot: The Prequel, Episode 2

“So, Ben,” my sister Liz asked me one afternoon. “Did you give it any more thought?”

“Did I give any more thought to what?” I asked.

“You know,” Liz said, “the musical instrument thing. Did you decide what instrument you’re going to try.”

“Eh, I don’t know about that, Liz,” I responded, “I don’t really think I want to start playing an instrument now.”

“Why not? It’s a great way to spend your free time during the off-season,” Liz responded. “Plus, if you learn an instrument, we can play duets.”

“Duets? Since when do you play an instrument?” I asked. 

“I played recorder in fourth grade,” Liz said. “That’s technically an instrument.”

“So we’re going to have duets with your recorder from six years ago and what, exactly? What instrument do you think I should play? Recorder, too?” I asked, incredulous.

“How about french horn?” Liz asked.

“French horn and recorder duets?” I asked back to Liz, still incredulous. “Do those really go together?”

“Forget about the duets for a second. French horn is a great idea. I mean, it’s a challenging instrument to play, but think about it. If you start now, you could get really good. Who knows where it could take you? Maybe one day you’d play next to Sarah Willis!”

“Sarah Willis? Who’s that?” I asked, confused.

“You don’t know who Sarah Willis is? Do I have to explain everything to you? Sarah Willis plays french horn in the Berlin Philharmonic, but does so much more cool stuff, too, online and on TV. Maybe if you get really good, you could play with her.”

“Okay, Liz,” I said, walking away. “I’ll think about it.”

I decided to just stick with basketball.


In school the next morning, I saw my best friend, William.

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked me.

“Not much,” I replied. “I decided to follow your advice, and dedicate the off-season to practicing basketball. Want to shoot hoops after school today?”

“Sounds good,” William said. “At your house, or at the park?”

“Whatever you want,” I said.

William said, “Let’s meet at the park at four, then. “Who knows? Maybe other people will be there and we can get a game going.”

“Sure thing,” I said. “See you then.”


I got to the Johnson Park basketball courts at 4:02, according to my watch.

“You’re late, Taylor!” I heard William’s call out from the closest court. We were the only ones at the park.

I jogged over to William before responding to him.

“It’s 4:02 right now. You’re seriously giving me a hard time about a couple of minutes?” I said, smiling a little in disbelief. He couldn’t actually be serious.

“Hey, you never know what you can accomplish with a few extra minutes,” William retorted, smiling, and hoisted up a shot.

William’s shot missed long, and I chased down the rebound. I dribbled once to my right and fired up a shot that missed short and bounced back in my direction..

I picked up the ball, dribbled again, and shot. This time, the ball swished through the hoop.

“You know what they say,” I called back to William, smiling. “Better late than never.”

We shot around for about ten minutes before two other boys got to the park and started playing on the far court. I didn’t recognize them. One looked about our age and the other one looked like he was a couple years older, based on his height. William and I kept shooting, but also kept an eye on the other boys.

After a few minutes, William walked up to me, pointed to the boys playing on the other court, and asked me quietly. “Hey, want to challenge them to a game of two-on-two?”

“You mean you and me versus those two guys?” I asked back.

“No,” William said sarcastically. “You and Lebron James versus those two guys. I just have to call him first to see if he’s available.” William paused for a half-second before saying, “Yes, of course I mean us two versus them two. Got a problem with that?”

“Only that one of those guys looks really tall. And really good. You gonna guard him?”  I said back to William.

“No, you’d take him. You’re the better defender,” William said, serious.

“I think I’ll pass, then. Let’s just keep shooting together. If you want, we can play one-on-one, just ourselves.” I said back to William.

“Whatever you say, Taylor,” William said, and we went back to playing.


William and I played basketball many more times at the park over the next several months. About half the time, we ended up playing against other guys who came to the park. I saw that same tall guy a few more times, but I never had the guts to challenge him to a game. He seemed a lot taller and stronger than I was, and even though I considered myself a really good player for my age, I didn’t want to risk being embarrassed on the court.


The new school year starting meant that our first basketball practices were only weeks away. At Ridgeview, Coach Jones was particular about having a small, disciplined team, and most of our players from last year would be returning to the team again this year. William and I would of course be the starting guards, and we’d really just need to fill in a few roster spots left open by the players who graduated eighth grade.

On the first day of school, I saw William.standing just inside the entrance of the building.

“Hey, Taylor, you’re late!” William called to me, with a serious look on his face.

“No I’m not,” I said back. “The first bell isn’t for another ten minutes.” 

“Fair enough,” William said back, now smiling.

“Will, are you excited?” I asked, slapping him on the back. 

“For what?” William asked back. “The first day of school? No way. School’s fine, but there are definitely other places I’d rather be right now. Like home, eating crackers.”

“Crackers?” I asked back, incredulous. “You’re imagining a place you’d rather be. You could have picked any food for your dream snack, and you picked crackers? Like, plain crackers? Nothing on them?”

“I mean, it’s not my favorite,” William said back defensively. “We just happen to have crackers in the house right now.”

“Whatever you say, William.” I said, starting to walk down the hallway to my first period class. “I hope you’ll get a chance to at least eat some crackers after–” I stopped in the middle of my sentence, and stopped walking, too.

“Lighten up, Ben. It’s just crackers. A simple, yet tasty snack.” William said.

“Forget about the crackers,” I said back to William, in a low voice. “He’s here.”

“Who?” William asked, looking around for who I was talking about.

“Him,” I said, gesturing with my head to my left side. “The guy from the park that I never wanted to play against. Does he go to our school now or something?”

“Let’s find out,” William responded, and starting walking toward him. I followed.

William reached the kid about two steps before I did, and cordially greeted him. I don’t know if I would have had the guts to just walk up to someone new and say hello, but William had always been braver than me. Maybe it was the crackers…

“Hey,” said William, “I’m William Lee. I’m in seventh grade. That’s Ben Taylor.”  

I mustered a meek wave. The tall boy nodded his head back at me.

“Are you new here?” William asked.

“Yeah,” the boy said. “I’m Gerald Moore. My family moved to the neighborhood from Chicago this past summer, so I switched to Ridgeview. I’m also in seventh grade.”

He’s only in seventh grade? Granted, he has the face of a seventh grader, but he has the height and build of someone in ninth or tenth grade.

“Cool,” William said. “You look familiar. Did you ever go to Johnson park to play ball last summer?”

“Yeah,” Gerald responded. “Great park. Great courts. I went there a few times, even last spring, when my parents were visiting the area.”

So it was the same guy!

“You know,” I chimed in, my voice cracking a little, “we’re on the school basketball team. I’m the starting point guard and William’s the shooting guard. Tryouts are starting in just a few weeks. You should join the team. Our small forward from last year graduated, so maybe you could take his spot in the starting lineup.”

“Thanks, I heard a little about the basketball team, and I’m definitely going to come to tryouts. I don’t really play forward, though. I’m more of a point guard myself. My coaches always want to play me at forward because I’m tall, but I like playing guard much more.

Oh man. Baby Lebron James just transferred to our school, and he wants to take my spot on the basketball team. Seems like tryouts are going to be a lot higher stakes than I thought they would be.

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Big Shot: The Prequel, Episode 1


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FWEET!

The referee blew his whistle to signal that our timeout was over. Our team needed to inbound the basketball and play the final moments of our playoff game against the Woodmont Bucks.

My name is Ben Taylor, and I’m in sixth grade at Ridgeview Academy. My best friend is William Lee, who shares my favorite thing to do at school. Nothing to do with class, of course. My favorite thing to do in school, and out of school, for that matter, is to play basketball.

William and I surprised everyone but ourselves some months back when we made the starting lineup on our school basketball team, the Ridgeview Eagles, in only our sixth grade year. William plays shooting guard alongside me, and we always have a ball together on the court. I mean, we obviously have a ball. You can’t play basketball without a ball. I mean that we have a good time. It’s an expression, you know?

I’d say that the Eagles’ season had gone pretty well to this point. We won just over half of our games, and were now in the final tense minute of our playoff game against the Woodmont Bucks. Our team was down by three points, and we really needed to score a field goal on this possession to stay in the game. 

Our power forward, Gabriel Moreno, passed the ball inbounds to me with 47 seconds left on the game clock, and I dribbled it over the midcourt line. I fired the ball over to William, who passed the ball to our center, John Green. John pivoted, turned, and shot the ball off the backboard and into the basket. Two points! We were now only down by one, 48-47, with 34 seconds left to play in the game.

The Bucks brought the ball up the court slowly as we set up in our halfcourt defense. This was now really crunch time, which had nothing to do with chocolate bars made of milk chocolate and crisped rice. Zero. Okay, I guess we could have had Crunch bars as an after-game snack or something, but that’s not what I mean by crunch time. It was an important, pressure-filled moment. If we got a defensive stop here, we’d get the ball back with a chance to win the game.

I stood with my weight on the balls of my feet as I crouched in my defensive stance in front of the dribbling Bucks point guard. A thought about sticking my hand out to try to poke the ball away flashed through my mind, but I restrained myself. It was a risky move, and a foul at this point would send the Bucks to the free throw line and give them an opportunity to increase their lead. On the other hand, if we didn’t pressure them and try to take the ball away, time might run out before we had a chance to score.

After a few seconds, the point guard passed the ball to the shooting guard, who passed the ball to their small forward in the corner. Our small forward, Michael Lopez, tried to play tight defense to trap him in the corner, but the Bucks small forward got around him. He dribbled toward the hoop, and got an open shot off at about 12 feet from the basket. The ball hit the rim and bounced out! John Green got the rebound, passed the ball to me, and our team ran up the court for what we hoped was our final possession, and our chance to win the game. 

“Take it slow, Ben! No rush! 18 seconds left! We have time!” Coach Jones yelled from the sideline.

Neither team had a timeout, so we would have to suffice with Coach Jones yelling instructions from the sidelines.

We set up in our offensive positions, and began to pass the ball around the perimeter of the court. After we worked it around one time, and I had the ball back in my possession, Coach yelled again from the sidelines.

“P-R! P-R! G-B! G-B!”

Though it must have sounded like nonsense to everyone else in attendance, our team knew what Coach meant. He was calling for a pick-and-roll play between Gabriel and me. The play call didn’t surprise me at all. Gabriel was an 8th grader, our star power forward, and was our go-to-guy on offense.

The way the play is designed, Gabriel comes up and stands stationary in order to set a pick on my right side, a little above the foul line. I then dribble to my right around the pick, and Gabriel rolls off and runs down the lane, looking for a possible pass back from me. Under normal circumstances, we’d have two possible scoring options on the play. Either I would be open for a mid-range shot, or Gabriel might be open, or possibly covered by a smaller defender as he cut toward the basket, and it would be up to me to decide whether to pass or not. In a high-pressure situation like this one, however, everyone on our team understood the ball should go to Gabriel. In a high-pressure situation, he was the player who should take the key shot for our team.

It all came down to this moment. The game clock had now ticked down to 8 seconds. If we scored now, we would take the lead with barely any time left on the clock for the Bucks to score, and we would win the game. If we missed…well, I didn’t want to think about that at the moment.

Gabriel came up on my right side to set the pick. I faked as if I was going to my left, then drove to my right, around the pick. I looked back to my left, and sure enough, because our defenders had switched, Gabriel was cutting down the lane with a smaller defender guarding him. I lobbed the ball up to Gabriel, who beautifully caught it in stride, turned, and got off a shot at close range. The ball hit off the backboard, rolled halfway the rim, and out.

The Bucks center pulled down the rebound, and quickly threw it way upcourt to an unguarded Bucks teammate, who caught the ball as the buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the game.

And so, our basketball season ended on a disappointing note. Nevertheless, the younger players had a lot to look forward to next season. Except for Gabriel and one other 8th grader, the rest of our team would likely be returning to the team next season, one year older, stronger and more skilled.


With the basketball season over, I’m finally able to move my focus to other areas for a few months. I thought about trying to learn to play lacrosse, and join our school lacrosse team, but thought better of it when I watched some lacrosse highlights videos. At four feet, seven and a half inches, I imagine that my lack of size would be a disadvantage in lacrosse. Besides, who wants to get hit with a metal pole?

My older sister Liz recommended I try playing an instrument. She doesn’t play an instrument herself, of course. She just likes giving advice.

When I spoke to my parents about what to do, they recommended that I try spending extra time studying math in order to improve. A sensible idea, of course, but extra math? Come on! When I spoke to William about it, he predictably thought that I shouldn’t start anything new, and simply use my extra time to play basketball together with him. Basketball is definitely my favorite thing, and I enjoy it, but do I really have to spend every free minute playing?

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The 30 Million and 1 Million Word Gaps, and What They Mean for Us

The 30 Million Word Gap

When hearing the number for the first time, it’s impossible not to do a double-take. Thirty million is a number that is barely comprehensible, and to try to fathom a set of 30 million words is definitely impossible. Most sophisticated English speakers probably don’t even realize they know so many words.

However, 30 million words is indeed the number that researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley suggested separate the vocabularies of preschool children from “welfare class” families and “professional class” families. Their study, based in Kansas City, Kansas in 1992, has been cited over 8,000 times.

Over time, however, other researchers have poked holes in Hart and Risley’s findings, questioning the small sample size of 42 families and some underlying assumptions in their methodology, among other problems, described clearly and simply in this NPR article.

Were the dramatic conclusions of Hart and Risley accurate and valid? While that is a question for researchers to debate, the resultant interventions that were spearheaded to combat this issue, no matter the true magnitude, were laudable.

The 1 Million Word Gap

The one million word gap is a recent finding from researchers at Ohio State University regarding differences among five year-olds whose parents read various amounts to them. The 2019 study assessed that five year-old children whose parents read them five age-appropriate books per day enter kindergarten having heard 1.4 million more words than children whose parents never read to them.

According to Ohio State University, this is how the research was conducted:

“Logan and her colleagues randomly selected 30 books from both lists and counted how many words were in each book. They found that board books contained an average of 140 words, while picture books contained an average of 228 words.

With that information, the researchers calculated how many words a child would hear from birth through his or her 5th birthday at different levels of reading. They assumed that kids would be read board books through their 3rd birthday, and picture books the next two years, and that every reading session (except for one category) would include one book.

They also assumed that parents who reported never reading to their kids actually read one book to their children every other month.”

Jessica Logan, who headed the study, commented that the figure in her belief is somewhat conservative, as extra-textual discussion with parents would likely increase the potential disparity.

What These Studies Mean for Parents

So, what do these studies mean for us as parents and educators? Should we make sure to read our young children five books a day, or make sure to sit them down regularly for long conversations?

While that might be best in an ideal world, many times we’re forced to come up with backup plans and alternate arrangements that won’t allow us to meet these quotas. Nonetheless, the principle is still valid: the more conversations we have with our children, and the more books we expose them to, the more words with which they will emerge, which will help prepare them to become readers themselves. Even if we can’t manage five books a day, the more we read, or whatever we can do to expose our children to more words, the better.

Top 8 Ways to Get Your Kid to Read

Let’s face it. Some kids just aren’t naturally drawn to reading, and will choose almost any activity over picking up a book and reading. At the same time, however, we know that reading is important, and deep down, some kids might know it as well. So what can we do to make it more likely that our reluctant readers will spend time reading?

1. Choose books in your child’s area of interest

There are so many good books available on so many topics, both in fiction and non-fiction, that there’s no need to force your child to read any particular classic or book that you loved from your childhood. Just have a conversation about what he or she is interested in, and guide them to a book that relates to his or her interest.

2. Empower your child to pick out his or her own book

Take your child to the library, the bookstore or shopping on amazon, and let your child choose for him or herself. Having some ownership over the process will probably lead to less opposition on the part of your child. If parental concerns about wholesome content are an issue, try to ask around about authors that other parents trust, or try to find out more about books at a site like common sense media.

3. Set up a nice spot to read

Your children could have the most interesting book in the world, but if there isn’t a place to read that is quiet and free of distractions, it’s going to be much harder to get pulled into the story. As much as you can, try to create a comfortable space for your child to begin reading a book. If you’re comfortable with your child snacking while he or she reads, all the better. Once kids really get into a book, they’ll make sure to seek out their own quiet spaces if the initial one isn’t available.

4. Give books as gifts

If books are portrayed as valuable commodities, your child might come to treasure them as well. That doesn’t mean that he or she won’t leave them strewn on the sofa or the floor, but you’d probably rather have that problem than have a child that won’t read.

5. Model!

Not on the catwalk! Parents are children’s ultimate role models. If children see that their parents ascribe importance to reading, they will likely assimilate this value as well.

6. Consider alternatives to books

Not all kids need to develop a love of reading by starting with traditional story books. Magazines, newspapers and comics strips can be other ways of getting your kids to engage with the written word.

If your child likes stories, but not the reading part, audiobooks can be used when on the go, or in the home, even in conjunction with books. While the use of audiobooks helps more with listening comprehension than reading comprehension, it’s certainly better than nothing. And who knows what it can lead to?

7. Let the kid stay up late to read!

Some kids have earlier bedtimes than others. If your child has a relatively early bedtime, consider letting your child try staying up a little later—on the condition that he or she spends that time reading.

One parent told me that she has a specific formula for hooking her children on reading: she begins an exciting book together with her child before bedtime, and right before the climax of the story, she stops the story, turns out the bedroom light, but manages to “forget” the book and a flashlight in the room.

8. Read together with your child

Parent-child reading time enriches your child’s literacy skills, and quality time for the both of you. It’s time well-spent, and likely to lead to your child’s own independent reading habit.

9. Turn on closed captioning

Yes, you read that correctly. Turning on closed captioning on your children’s favorite shows leads them to engage with the words on the screen, whether they like it or not. This helps build literacy and vocabulary, studies show. I wouldn’t recommend turning on these shows expressly for the purpose of building literacy, but if the screen is on anyway, it’s worth it to have closed captioning on.

10. Know when to back off

If you like to give points, rewards and prizes for reading, go for it! It probably can’t hurt. Don’t push too hard, though. Making reading into an issue about which you fight with your child, or something you force him or her to do will only backfire in the end. Every parent is an expert on his or her children, and needs to know when the moment is right for gentle pushing and encouragement, and when it’s more appropriate to take a break.

Conclusion

Not all children are born loving to read. Some pick up the habit eventually, and some people go through life never truly enjoying books. Will trying the above suggestions guarantee that your child will become a bookworm? Probably not. Nevertheless, a parent’s investment early on will likely pay significant dividends as your child grows, matures, and is forced to deal with the rigors of the education system and professional training.

Donny’s Perfect Game: Chapter 1

“Donny, wake up!”

I let out a low groan and slightly lifted one eyelid. “What?”

“Donny, wake up now! You’re going to be late for school,” my mom said firmly.

I pulled myself out of bed, slowly walked to the bathroom, washed my hands, and put on the outfit for school I had picked out the night before.

I had the dream again last night. This was the fourth night in a row. Maybe that’s why I was still feeling tired, even though I had gone to sleep early.

I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a bowl and a spoon, and poured myself some cereal and milk. As I ate my breakfast, my mother walked into the room, tousled my light brown hair, and gave me a kiss on the forehead before starting to make herself some coffee.

“Mom, I had the dream again,” I said.

“What dream, honey?” my mom asked, her back turned to me.

“Mom, you know. The nightmare I’ve had every night this week.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t know if I’d call it a nightmare.”

“It sure feels like one to me.”

The dream was always the same. I am pitching for my little league team, which I love to do. I’m pitching great. My fastballs are fast. My changeups keep the batters off balance. My curveballs go exactly over the corner of the plate. Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. Then a ground out. Then another strikeout. Everything goes great, inning after inning. I’m pitching a perfect game!

A perfect game, that is, until one of my pitches goes wild. My curveball accidentally curves a little too much, and causes the batter to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit. In my dream, the batter gets up off the ground and glares at me with anger in his eyes. And that’s when the dream becomes a nightmare.

I can’t calm down and get control, no matter how hard I try. All my breaking pitches start to miss the plate. My fastball slows down, and my changeup doesn’t fool anyone. I give up two walks, then a single and two doubles, and then finally a home run. And just like that, my perfect game has become a six-run inning that I just can’t get out of. The manager takes me out of the game.

Then I wake up in a sweat.

That’s how the dream has happened the last four nights.

“Oh, Donny, I’m sorry that you have been having that bad dream over and over again. Maybe you could talk to Coach Max about it later,” Mom suggested.

“I can’t tell Coach Max!” I said loudly, almost yelling. “He’s going to think I never got over what happened at last year’s playoff game, and he’ll never let me pitch again!”

“But you didn’t get over it, honey,” Mom replied calmly. “That’s why you keep having the dream.”

“Well, yes, but…he’s not supposed to know that,” I said. “And besides, the dream has to stop sometime, right?”

HONK! HONK!

The loud horn of the school bus interrupted our conversation.

“Donny, you’re late for the bus again! Hurry up! It’s waiting for you!”

 I took one last bite, stood up, and got my backpack on. As I was about to walk out the door, my mom stopped me.

“Donny, your pants look short. Have you been growing?”

The fact was, I had been growing. I was already pretty tall for my age. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was measured at 5’2”, but I felt like I had grown at least an inch or so since then. But now wasn’t really the time to talk about that.

“Mom, I gotta go. Can’t talk now,” I quickly said, and kept walking to the door.

“Maybe we can go out to look for new pants one evening this week,” my mom said, ignoring the fact that I was already late.

HONK! HONK!

“Mom, I have to go! Love you! Bye!” I called as I ran out the door.


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Available NOW on Amazon! Donny’s Perfect Game

Donny’s Perfect Game, M. L. Shochet’s debut novel, follows Donny Shapiro as he navigates through the challenges of baseball, school, and playing alongside his archrival… on his quest to pitch the perfect game!

It’s the book reviewers are calling the “perfect summer read or classroom novel all kids would enjoy!”

“It kept us engaged, chuckling and loving the life lessons. We look forward to the next in the sports series!”

“Donny’s Perfect Game is “perfect” for middle school readers; offering inspiration about overcoming fears, adversity and finding out that perfection can be found in unlikely places.”

See how reviewers are raving about it!

Be sure to watch the trailer, scroll down to read a sample, and order your copy today!

Donny’s Perfect Game: Chapter 1

“Donny, wake up!”

I let out a low groan and slightly lifted one eyelid. “What?”

“Donny, wake up now! You’re going to be late for school,” my mom said firmly.

I pulled myself out of bed, slowly walked to the bathroom, washed my hands, and put on the outfit for school I had picked out the night before.

I had the dream again last night. This was the fourth night in a row. Maybe that’s why I was still feeling tired, even though I had gone to sleep early.

I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a bowl and a spoon, and poured myself some cereal and milk. As I ate my breakfast, my mother walked into the room, tousled my light brown hair, and gave me a kiss on the forehead before starting to make herself some coffee.

“Mom, I had the dream again,” I said.

“What dream, honey?” my mom asked, her back turned to me.

“Mom, you know. The nightmare I’ve had every night this week.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t know if I’d call it a nightmare.”

“It sure feels like one to me.”

The dream was always the same. I am pitching for my little league team, which I love to do. I’m pitching great. My fastballs are fast. My changeups keep the batters off balance. My curveballs go exactly over the corner of the plate. Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. Then a ground out. Then another strikeout. Everything goes great, inning after inning. I’m pitching a perfect game!

A perfect game, that is, until one of my pitches goes wild. My curveball accidentally curves a little too much, and causes the batter to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit. In my dream, the batter gets up off the ground and glares at me with anger in his eyes. And that’s when the dream becomes a nightmare.

I can’t calm down and get control, no matter how hard I try. All my breaking pitches start to miss the plate. My fastball slows down, and my changeup doesn’t fool anyone. I give up two walks, then a single and two doubles, and then finally a home run. And just like that, my perfect game has become a six-run inning that I just can’t get out of. The manager takes me out of the game.

Then I wake up in a sweat.

That’s how the dream has happened the last four nights.

“Oh, Donny, I’m sorry that you have been having that bad dream over and over again. Maybe you could talk to Coach Max about it later,” Mom suggested.

“I can’t tell Coach Max!” I said loudly, almost yelling. “He’s going to think I never got over what happened at last year’s playoff game, and he’ll never let me pitch again!”

“But you didn’t get over it, honey,” Mom replied calmly. “That’s why you keep having the dream.”

“Well, yes, but…he’s not supposed to know that,” I said. “And besides, the dream has to stop sometime, right?”

HONK! HONK!

The loud horn of the school bus interrupted our conversation.

“Donny, you’re late for the bus again! Hurry up! It’s waiting for you!”

 I took one last bite, stood up, and got my backpack on. As I was about to walk out the door, my mom stopped me.

“Donny, your pants look short. Have you been growing?”

The fact was, I had been growing. I was already pretty tall for my age. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was measured at 5’2”, but I felt like I had grown at least an inch or so since then. But now wasn’t really the time to talk about that.

“Mom, I gotta go. Can’t talk now,” I quickly said, and kept walking to the door.

“Maybe we can go out to look for new pants one evening this week,” my mom said, ignoring the fact that I was already late.

HONK! HONK!

“Mom, I have to go! Love you! Bye!” I called as I ran out the door.

Order your copy of Donny’s Perfect Game today!

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

FREE FOR ONLY ONE MORE DAY! Donny’s Perfect Game

Available FREE for only one more day, on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited! Make sure to download your copy by July 9th!

Ranked #1 in Children’s Baseball Books in the Kindle Store!

Donny’s Perfect Game, M. L. Shochet’s debut novel, follows Donny Shapiro as he navigates through the challenges of baseball, school, and playing alongside his archrival… on his quest to pitch the perfect game!

Be sure to watch the trailer, and scroll down to read a sample!

Donny’s Perfect Game: Chapter 1

“Donny, wake up!”

I let out a low groan and slightly lifted one eyelid. “What?”

“Donny, wake up now! You’re going to be late for school,” my mom said firmly.

I pulled myself out of bed, slowly walked to the bathroom, washed my hands, and put on the outfit for school I had picked out the night before.

I had the dream again last night. This was the fourth night in a row. Maybe that’s why I was still feeling tired, even though I had gone to sleep early.

I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a bowl and a spoon, and poured myself some cereal and milk. As I ate my breakfast, my mother walked into the room, tousled my light brown hair, and gave me a kiss on the forehead before starting to make herself some coffee.

“Mom, I had the dream again,” I said.

“What dream, honey?” my mom asked, her back turned to me.

“Mom, you know. The nightmare I’ve had every night this week.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t know if I’d call it a nightmare.”

“It sure feels like one to me.”

The dream was always the same. I am pitching for my little league team, which I love to do. I’m pitching great. My fastballs are fast. My changeups keep the batters off balance. My curveballs go exactly over the corner of the plate. Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. Then a ground out. Then another strikeout. Everything goes great, inning after inning. I’m pitching a perfect game!

A perfect game, that is, until one of my pitches goes wild. My curveball accidentally curves a little too much, and causes the batter to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit. In my dream, the batter gets up off the ground and glares at me with anger in his eyes. And that’s when the dream becomes a nightmare.

I can’t calm down and get control, no matter how hard I try. All my breaking pitches start to miss the plate. My fastball slows down, and my changeup doesn’t fool anyone. I give up two walks, then a single and two doubles, and then finally a home run. And just like that, my perfect game has become a six-run inning that I just can’t get out of. The manager takes me out of the game.

Then I wake up in a sweat.

That’s how the dream has happened the last four nights.

“Oh, Donny, I’m sorry that you have been having that bad dream over and over again. Maybe you could talk to Coach Max about it later,” Mom suggested.

“I can’t tell Coach Max!” I said loudly, almost yelling. “He’s going to think I never got over what happened at last year’s playoff game, and he’ll never let me pitch again!”

“But you didn’t get over it, honey,” Mom replied calmly. “That’s why you keep having the dream.”

“Well, yes, but…he’s not supposed to know that,” I said. “And besides, the dream has to stop sometime, right?”

HONK! HONK!

The loud horn of the school bus interrupted our conversation.

“Donny, you’re late for the bus again! Hurry up! It’s waiting for you!”

 I took one last bite, stood up, and got my backpack on. As I was about to walk out the door, my mom stopped me.

“Donny, your pants look short. Have you been growing?”

The fact was, I had been growing. I was already pretty tall for my age. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was measured at 5’2”, but I felt like I had grown at least an inch or so since then. But now wasn’t really the time to talk about that.

“Mom, I gotta go. Can’t talk now,” I quickly said, and kept walking to the door.

“Maybe we can go out to look for new pants one evening this week,” my mom said, ignoring the fact that I was already late.

HONK! HONK!

“Mom, I have to go! Love you! Bye!” I called as I ran out the door.

Order your copy from Amazon today!

BENchwarmer, Chapter 7

This is the seventh chapter of the BENchwarmer serial, published exclusively on wholesome-stories.com. Make sure you have read the earlier chapters before reading this one.

With their chances of winning quickly fading, I fully expected the Sharks to ramp up their level of intensity. I thought they’d play aggressive defense, something like a full-court press. Maybe they’d try to trap us and steal the ball away in order to make up some quick points. Those types of aggressive defenses are risky, but do have the potential to help teams catch up.

To my surprise, the Sharks just continued playing as if the score were tied, instead of us leading by 22 points. That was just fine with me–the lower the pressure, the better.

While I stayed on the floor for the next few minutes, both teams played about even, and I managed to throw a few good passes to help set up some of my team’s field goals. With twelve minutes left on the play clock, I was taken out of the game, along with the other reserves, in order to allow the starters to finish the game.

I watched the rest of the game from the bench as the Eagles coasted to victory against the Sharks. When the final buzzer had sounded, our team had won by a huge margin, 59-40, and everyone was smiling, even me. Winning has a certain magic to it that can lift downtrodden spirits, even mine. Moreover, the Eagles seemed really strong this year, and a big win like this was a good way to begin our season.

After we shook hands with the other team and wished them “good game”, Coach Jones called us back to the bench to give us some final words before sending us home.

“I’m really impressed with how you guys played today. Really good effort from beginning to end, Eagles. You moved the ball well on offense and played solid defense the whole game. Just a really great job all around. If we can keep this up, I think we’ll have a good shot at going far in the playoffs this year.”

Everyone smiled when Coach said that last line. Coach Jones’s conservative philosophy was always, “One game at a time,” so it was an exciting surprise to hear him predict a deep playoff run after the very first game of the season. Coach hadn’t finished speaking, though.

“And Gerald, wow. You really showed you earned the starting spot with your performance today. Great play on both sides of the ball. We’re so fortunate to have you on our team,” Coach continued.

Listening to Coach Jones had taken me on an emotional ride, from excitement to dejection. My disappointment during the earlier parts of the game had been balanced out by the playing time I had received in the second half, as well as the joy of seeing our team so thoroughly win. Coach had just given our team so much praise after a good game. But when singled out Gerald in such a complimentary way, it reminded me of what I had used to mean to our team, and how much things had changed.

I stared at the ground as I listened to Coach remind the team about our practice after school this coming Tuesday. It was still hard for me to swallow the thought that I was going to be a backup from now on.

I wasn’t ready to give up hope yet, though. If my father had taught me anything, it was that I was capable of anything. My next order of business would be to speak to my Dad to come up with a plan for earning my starting spot back.

Chapter 8 coming soon

Available Now, FREE! Donny’s Perfect Game

Available now, FREE for a limited time only, on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited

Donny’s Perfect Game, M. L. Shochet’s debut novel, follows Donny Shapiro as he navigates through the challenges of baseball, school, and playing alongside his archrival… on his quest to pitch the perfect game!

Be sure to watch the trailer, and scroll down to read a sample!

Donny’s Perfect Game: Chapter 1

“Donny, wake up!”

I let out a low groan and slightly lifted one eyelid. “What?”

“Donny, wake up now! You’re going to be late for school,” my mom said firmly.

I pulled myself out of bed, slowly walked to the bathroom, washed my hands, and put on the outfit for school I had picked out the night before.

I had the dream again last night. This was the fourth night in a row. Maybe that’s why I was still feeling tired, even though I had gone to sleep early.

I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a bowl and a spoon, and poured myself some cereal and milk. As I ate my breakfast, my mother walked into the room, tousled my light brown hair, and gave me a kiss on the forehead before starting to make herself some coffee.

“Mom, I had the dream again,” I said.

“What dream, honey?” my mom asked, her back turned to me.

“Mom, you know. The nightmare I’ve had every night this week.”

“Oh, honey, I don’t know if I’d call it a nightmare.”

“It sure feels like one to me.”

The dream was always the same. I am pitching for my little league team, which I love to do. I’m pitching great. My fastballs are fast. My changeups keep the batters off balance. My curveballs go exactly over the corner of the plate. Strike one. Strike two. Strike three. Then a ground out. Then another strikeout. Everything goes great, inning after inning. I’m pitching a perfect game!

A perfect game, that is, until one of my pitches goes wild. My curveball accidentally curves a little too much, and causes the batter to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit. In my dream, the batter gets up off the ground and glares at me with anger in his eyes. And that’s when the dream becomes a nightmare.

I can’t calm down and get control, no matter how hard I try. All my breaking pitches start to miss the plate. My fastball slows down, and my changeup doesn’t fool anyone. I give up two walks, then a single and two doubles, and then finally a home run. And just like that, my perfect game has become a six-run inning that I just can’t get out of. The manager takes me out of the game.

Then I wake up in a sweat.

That’s how the dream has happened the last four nights.

“Oh, Donny, I’m sorry that you have been having that bad dream over and over again. Maybe you could talk to Coach Max about it later,” Mom suggested.

“I can’t tell Coach Max!” I said loudly, almost yelling. “He’s going to think I never got over what happened at last year’s playoff game, and he’ll never let me pitch again!”

“But you didn’t get over it, honey,” Mom replied calmly. “That’s why you keep having the dream.”

“Well, yes, but…he’s not supposed to know that,” I said. “And besides, the dream has to stop sometime, right?”

HONK! HONK!

The loud horn of the school bus interrupted our conversation.

“Donny, you’re late for the bus again! Hurry up! It’s waiting for you!”

 I took one last bite, stood up, and got my backpack on. As I was about to walk out the door, my mom stopped me.

“Donny, your pants look short. Have you been growing?”

The fact was, I had been growing. I was already pretty tall for my age. At my last doctor’s appointment, I was measured at 5’2”, but I felt like I had grown at least an inch or so since then. But now wasn’t really the time to talk about that.

“Mom, I gotta go. Can’t talk now,” I quickly said, and kept walking to the door.

“Maybe we can go out to look for new pants one evening this week,” my mom said, ignoring the fact that I was already late.

HONK! HONK!

“Mom, I have to go! Love you! Bye!” I called as I ran out the door.

Order your copy from Amazon today!

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