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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.