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About The Book

In the ninth book in the New York Times bestselling middle grade series inspired by the life of iconic New York Yankee Derek Jeter, Derek must learn how to be a team player from the dugout and the importance of taking care of his body.

Seventh grade is off to a rocky start for Derek Jeter. But he’s soon distracted by all that’s going on in his own life…which includes basketball and baseball team responsibilities. He’s talked about it with his parents, and he’s certain he can play both sports while also doing well in school. Quickly, though, the two sports begin to take their toll, and Derek finds himself on the bench with an injury. How can Derek show his commitment to his teammates, his coaches, and the sports he loves when he can’t actively participate?

Inspired by Derek Jeter’s childhood, Switch-Hitter is the ninth book in Jeter Publishing’s New York Times bestselling middle grade baseball series that focuses on key life lessons from Derek Jeter’s Turn 2 Foundation.


Chapter One: A New Season Chapter One A NEW SEASON
“Hey, old man. It’s Vijay on the phone—for you!”

Derek Jeter dropped the pile of folded clothes he’d been holding. They fell right back into the suitcase he’d been unpacking, and he hurried downstairs to pick up the phone from his mom.

“Hey, Vij!” he said breathlessly. “How’s it going?”

“It’s all good now that you’re back,” said Vijay with a little laugh. “How was your trip home?”

“Long and boring,” Derek said. “But the summer was good—always is.”

“Hey, how about we meet up on the Hill, and you can tell me all about it?”

“Ah, I’d love to, but I’m just unpacking. Anyway, after twelve hours in the car, I’m kind of beat.”

“Tomorrow after school, then?”

“For sure. Back to St. Augustine, huh? I can’t believe school’s already starting. I just got home.”

“Well, that’s what happens when you stay on vacation till the last minute,” Vijay pointed out. “Anyway, see you in class.”

Seventh grade. Unreal, huh?”

“I know. Crazy. Where did all those years go?”

“Really. Well, see you tomorrow.” Derek hung up, and turned to find his mom standing there, her arms crossed and an amused look on her face.

“Seventh grade,” she said. “You two are all grown up!”

Derek laughed, but in a way it was true. He did feel suddenly grown-up, or at least on the verge of it.

In other places kids went to different schools starting in sixth or seventh grade. He was still at St. Augustine, so going back shouldn’t have felt much different.

And yet somehow it did. Derek actually felt more nervous than usual about the first day of school. The workload in seventh grade was rumored to be a lot harder. And it was definitely going to be weird going back to school and not seeing Dave there.

Dave Hennum was Derek’s other best friend besides Vijay. But in June the Hennum family had moved all the way to Hong Kong. Dave’s dad had been transferred there for work, and the family was going to live there for the next two years.

Derek wondered how Dave was getting along, with all his friends so far away, and him living in a strange new place, where people mostly spoke a different language. (Although, Dave had assured him that they spoke English, too.)

Derek hadn’t gotten a letter from him for over a month. In that time, Derek had sent Dave three letters—not easy, considering he didn’t like letter writing to begin with.

During the summer he hadn’t noticed Dave’s absence much. Days at the lake in New Jersey with his dozens of cousins were full, noisy, and busy. He’d even gone into the city with his grandma a couple of times, to play ball with the city kids he’d met the summer before.

Overall he’d had his usual great time. He’d practically forgotten about Dave, except when Dave’s letters had come—which hadn’t happened since the end of July.

But now, back in Michigan and with school about to start again, things already felt different. Not having Dave around, it felt like a big part of Derek’s world was gone, and it made him sad in a way he’d never felt before.

Just then, though, Derek’s dad came into the house, carrying a white plastic tub full of mail. “The postman was here and dropped this off,” he said, setting it down on the floor. “I saw your name on one or two envelopes.”

Derek sat down beside the tub and started rifling through the piles of envelopes, magazines, and catalogs—four days’ worth, from the time when his parents had taken off in the car to pick up Derek and his little sister, Sharlee, and drive them home from New Jersey.

Soon Derek found the buried treasure he was looking for—two picture postcards from Dave, and a letter!

One postcard had a picture of a beautiful mountain, with skyscrapers crowding it from top to bottom. It was dated August 10—four weeks ago!

On the back of the card, Dave had written: “This is Victoria Peak, the most famous view in Hong Kong. We went up there on cable cars! It was cool, and a little scary. This place is amazing—very different from the States in a lot of ways, but the same in others.”

That was it. There wasn’t much room on the back of a postcard, after all.

The second card was dated August 15. It showed a beautiful golf course with a pagoda in front of it, and the same mountain, but in the distance this time. “This is the best golf course I’ve ever played,” Dave had written on the back.

Golf was Dave’s passion, in the same way that baseball was Derek’s. That’s why the two of them had always understood each other so well.

The rest of the postcard said: “My dad’s company pays for his membership in the club, so I’ve already played there five times—in just three weeks! It’s a hard course, but I love the challenge!”

Yup, thought Derek, smiling and shaking his head. That’s Dave, all right.

But it was the letter that Derek wanted to see most. Pictures were one thing, but he wanted to know what it was really like for Dave, being in another country thousands of miles away from America.

Derek couldn’t imagine himself in that kind of situation. He hadn’t moved since he was four years old—and he had no intention of moving again anytime soon!

The letter was dated August 25. It read:

Dear Derek,

Well, I finally have time to sit down and write to you. You wouldn’t believe how busy it’s been! I have Cantonese language classes after school—yes, school! They start here at the beginning of August! Can you believe it?

School is harder here than at St. Augustine, and the teachers are really strict too. My parents are always busy—my dad at work, my mom with starting up her own business—so they don’t have much time to do stuff with me. And Chase isn’t here, so I haven’t had too much fun, other than golf.

Chase had been the Hennum family’s driver and had often been in charge of watching Dave, since Mr. and Mrs. Hennum were out working most of the time. But he hadn’t joined the family in Hong Kong.

The best times I’ve had here are on Sundays, when my parents and I go touring around the city and the harbor. There are floating markets, where it’s crowded with boats, all loaded with stuff for sale. We brought home all kinds of foods we’d never seen before, let alone eaten! Most of them taste good, but some are not so great to look at—I’ll leave it at that.

Derek had to laugh. Dave’s sense of humor had obviously survived the trip to China.

But the worst part is not being back home, with you and Vijay and the rest of the kids, hanging out on Jeter’s Hill and playing ball, hitting golf balls at my house.… You know, all that stuff. I get sad sometimes, but I’m sure once I make some friends here, it will get easier.

Derek noticed that Dave still referred to Kalamazoo as “home.” Good. That meant he still missed his old life, and his old friends.…

Well, I guess that’s all for now. You’ll be starting school soon, so at least I won’t have to be jealous anymore, ha-ha.

Your friend,


Derek put the letter down on the table, next to the two postcards. He sat there thinking about what life was going to be like without Dave around. It made him feel at least a little better to know that Dave missed him, too.

But not that much better. Not as good as if Dave were still in Michigan.

“It’s the bottom of the ninth, two on, two out, with the Tigers trailing by a pair, 3–1. The first-place Red Sox have won five straight, and they’re looking for more.… Carsten takes a fastball for ball one.…”

“He’s gonna drive ’em in,” Derek’s dad said confidently as Carsten let ball two go by. “You just watch, Derek.”

Derek looked at his father sitting in his armchair, while Derek and Sharlee shared the couch, and Mom occupied the rocker in the corner. “How do you know that, Dad?”

“Don’t believe me,” Mr. Jeter said, a smile curling one corner of his mouth. “Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

On the next pitch Carsten walloped a line drive into the right field corner. The runner on second scored, and the runner on first was rounding third. Derek and his dad were both yelling, “Go! Go!” Sharlee got up and danced on the couch, until Mrs. Jeter told her to quit it.

“How did you know, Daddy?” Sharlee asked. “How did you—”

But Mr. Jeter wasn’t listening. He wasn’t smiling, either. Kurt Carsten had pulled up lame before reaching second base. The throw came in to the second baseman, who tagged the limping Carsten out before the second runner crossed the plate.

Game over! Somehow the Tigers had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!

“Well, that beats all,” Mr. Jeter said disgustedly. “Why didn’t he just stop at first if he was hurt?”

“Why would he do that, Dad?” Derek asked. “It was a double all the way.”

“Because he’s nursing a hamstring injury, that’s why! You don’t go full-out if you’re protecting an injury. Not only did he cost us this game, but now he’s going to miss a bunch of games—just watch—and for what?”

Derek was puzzled. He’d always played baseball full-out, running as hard and as fast as he could, diving for balls even if they were way out of reach. He couldn’t conceive of a player holding back the way his father was suggesting!

They watched as Carsten limped off the field. “He already missed two weeks with it last month,” said Mr. Jeter. “Now he’s going to wind up missing half the stretch drive, and the team’s going to have to catch Boston without him!” He shook his head. “He should have just sat on the bench and rested it every few games. But not Carsten. No, no—not him.”

“He’s their team leader, Dad! He’s not going to sit down when the team needs him,” Derek pointed out.

“And now the team’s not going to have him for a longer period of time.”

On the TV the on-field reporter caught up to Carsten just as he was about to hit the dugout. Mr. Jeter stood up.

“Where’re you going, Dad?” Derek asked.

“I’m going to go grade some papers. This team drives me crazy.”

“But, Dad—”

“Kurt,” the reporter said, “what happened out there?”

Carsten shook his head sadly. “I think I just pushed my body too hard.”

“Do you think the manager should have rested you longer?”

Carsten shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’re in a pennant chase. I leaned on him to put me out there. So I guess that’s on me.”

“You’re the team leader,” said the reporter. “How are your teammates going to catch Boston now?”

“I want to be out there every game, every inning,” said Carsten. “But we’ll see what the doctors say. Even if I’m on the bench, I can still bring my energy to the dugout every day and cheer my guys on. If I can’t set an example with my game, I can still notice things, and pass them along to my teammates—participate from the bench.”

Mr. Jeter shook his head in dismay. Then he turned to Derek. “Did I ever tell you about when I hurt my knee in college?”

“Uh… a few times,” Derek answered, looking from his mom to Sharlee. All of them had heard the story more than once and were trying not to laugh.

“Well, learn from other people’s mistakes, Derek,” said his dad, wagging his finger. “If you don’t take care of your body, it won’t take care of you.”

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide


By Derek Jeter with Paul Mantell​

Prereading Assignment

Review “Derek Jeter’s Ten Life Lessons.” They are listed in the front of the book.

Discussion Questions

Chapter One — A New Season
Derek Jeter is about to begin a new school year. Back from a summer visiting his grandparents, Jeter is excited to start the seventh grade, but he will miss his best friend Dave Hennum, who moved to Hong Kong in June.

Staying in touch with his friend Dave over the summer was a challenge. How did Derek and his friend Dave communicate over the summer? In what ways do you stay in touch with friends or family members who don’t live nearby, or that you don’t see very often?

Derek’s father watches a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, cheering for a favorite player, Kurt Carsten. During an exciting play, Carsten is injured and tagged out, and Derek’s father is upset. Define a “hamstring injury.” Why was Derek’s father so upset, and how did Derek and his father differ in their assessment of the injury? How do you feel about their debate? Explain your point of view.

Chapter Two — Work and Play

Derek finds himself under a lot of pressure at the start of the new school year: he’s asked to be a team leader for the basketball team; the travel baseball team tryouts are coming up; and his new classes are a lot harder than last year. On top of all that, his nemesis, Gary Parnell, is still around making things challenging, and they must work together on a public-speaking term project.

Why did Coach Nelson select Derek as a team leader? List a few examples.

Define “debate,” then discuss the issues that debates and rebuttals present. Give an example for both words and explain your choices.

Chapter Three — Back on the Hill

Derek and his friends Vijay and Avery get together to play on Jeter Hill, and Avery surprises him with the news that she will not be trying out for baseball this year.

Avery was a very good baseball player. According to Derek, she was better than most. What is keeping her from playing baseball this season?

Derek Jeter is facing a few concerns of his own. What are the issues he faces, and what are his parents’ concerns?

If you were one of Derek’s coaches or parents, what would you recommend he do to balance the workload? Discuss each recommendation as a group.

Chapter Four — The Big Ask

Derek and his little sister, Sharlee, both want to play on two different after-school sports teams. All four Jeters get together to have a family discussion about the pros and cons of deciding between teams and come to a joint decision that everyone appreciates.

What were the issues the family faced, and what factors did they discuss to help them come to a joint decision?

As siblings, Derek and Sharlee each have an enthusiastic interest in sports activities. Sharlee wanted to participate in two completely different sports than the ones Derek chose. However, both had different issues that needed resolving. What were the sports activities they proposed? Define each one and list the expected requirements. What does that tell you about Derek’s and Sharlee’s individual characters? Explain.​
Chapter Five — The Gathering Storm

Derek Jeter is alarmed when his teacher selects Gary Parnell, the smartest kid in class, as his debate partner. Then, at basketball practice, Derek notices two new students on the team seem to be close friends already.

List the reasons why Derek was nervous about the debate assignment and his partner pairing. Discuss the issues and offer recommendations to resolve his concerns.

What was Derek’s assessment of Marcus’s and Gio’s game-playing skills, and what did he observe about their off-court behavior?

Chapter Six — Trial and Triumph

Derek is nervous about the travel baseball team tryouts because there are only three slots and an alternate available. He reflects on a negative experience with a teacher about the importance of making the team.

Describe the details of the awkward incident and discuss the reaction it generated from Derek’s parents.

After tryouts, Derek was sore, exhausted, and in pain. His knees ached, his back hurt, and it was a real effort to just move around. Why was he so uncomfortable? What was his father’s advice and specific point of view? Explain what you would have done.​
Chapter Seven — Be a Leader

For Derek Jeter, the basketball team leader, success means playing smart and allowing his teammates to share victory to win the game. But to his teammate, Gio, success was showing off and enjoying the attention garnered from his unique jump shots.

Explain in your own words which player’s scoring strategy you feel was more beneficial for team victory.

Remembering the rebound strategy advice from Coach Nelson, Derek was able to adjust his game play to achieve an unexpected scoring triumph. It was a thrilling first victory for the Friars. What lessons did Derek learn? What lessons did Gio learn? Using a Venn diagram, compare the game skills of these two characters, listing their differences and their similarities.​
Chapter Eight — Follow the Leader

At the next baseball practice, before they start their exercises, Coach Russell begins the session by introducing the new members of the team, including Derek. He also asks the veteran players to introduce themselves.

Why do you think the coaches felt it was important for the team members to become familiar with one another? What were they looking for as they observed the new team running through their instructional exercises? Be specific.

During the next basketball practice, Coach Nelson warns the team about the upcoming competition. He tells them that the opposing team, St. Monica, is a perennial contender. What did the coach mean by “a perennial contender”? Why was it important for the coach to share this reminder?

Chapter Nine — Guilt and Dread

After school, Derek rushes to grab his uniform from his locker and make the bus, but he trips on the stairs and turns his ankle.

Derek’s friend Vijay notices that he’s limping. What does Vijay say to Derek, and what does it mean? Discuss the quote and its origin in a small group.

Derek is nervous about his debate assignment with Gary Parnell. As he prepares his talking points, Derek is afraid that his classmates will laugh if he is not able to make his position clear. The teacher reminds them that the debates will count for a large part of their semester grade. What kind of advice did Mr. Jeter give Derek in this chapter? What advice would you have given Derek to help settle his anxiety and calm his nerves?

Chapter Ten — By the Skin of Their Teeth

During the next basketball game, Coach Nelson decides to use both the starting lineup and the players on the alternate list to give everyone a chance to participate.

What was the result of this strategic decision by Coach Nelson? How did Derek and Gio react to the gameday lineup? Did his decision affect the outcome of the game?

Although Derek’s leg still hurt from his sprain, he was determined to play through the pain. He wanted to demonstrate strong team leadership skills which resulted in a tenacious defense. What was the result of Derek’s decision to ride out the pain? Do you think that Gio made the best team play choices? Discuss your opinion in a small group setting. Allow for pro and con statements.

Chapter Eleven — Difficult Days

Gary and Derek decide their debate topic will be arguing for and against schools cutting athletic programming in order to focus on academics. Derek’s personal feelings on the topic allow him to bring extra enthusiasm to his debate practice, but he’s sure Gary will work just as hard against him.

What kind of debate strategy practice would work best for Derek? How did he prepare his debate points and polish his presentation delivery?

During baseball practice, Coach Russell announced that he wanted to make position changes to the lineup as an experiment. But Derek was concerned the position changes would be permanent.

What was the coach’s underlying objective for switching around the positions and batting order? What did Derek think of the experiment? Explain your observations.

Chapter Twelve — The Breaking Point

During the next basketball game, Coach Nelson notices Derek limping off the court and wincing when he sits down, and he advises Derek to sit out the rest of the game.

Was this a good strategy so Derek could recover, or should he have pushed on to help the team score more? Explain your opinion. Include an alternative option in your response.

Later Derek has to tell his parents about the injury. They are disappointed to hear that he’s been nursing the pain for over a week. Derek is disappointed in himself because he has aggravated the pain, making him useless for both teams. His doctor says he needs to avoid sports altogether, so he will have to miss practices and a game.

In what ways could Derek have avoided this predicament? How would you have felt in the same situation?

Chapter Thirteen — Sitting It Out

Derek finds himself on the bench as his team plays the first game of the baseball season.

What were his primary concerns and what were his regrets?

Derek’s injury will also affect his place on the Friars’ starting lineup, as well as his shortstop position on the baseball team. Though the baseball team loses their first game, Coach Russell seems to appreciate Derek’s support.

Derek wonders, if he’d been able to play, would the game’s outcome have been different? What lesson do you think Derek learned? What was the incident that caused concern for Coach Nelson? What were the results?

Chapter Fourteen — Ultimate Combat

On the very last day of the debate assignments in his English class, Derek and his opponent Gary are called up. Having sat through the other teams’ presentations, Derek still isn’t sure he’s ready for his public-speaking assignment.

Reread chapter fourteen, paying close attention to the actual debate passages.

Copy Gary and JDerek’s selected debate topic. Make a list of the important points each student made in defense of their positions. Do you agree with the class assessment of the winner, or would you have voted differently? Please explain your own points of view.

What is the key factor in effective debate rebuttals, and why is the opportunity to share a rebuttal so important? Discuss the differences between Gary’s rebuttal arguments and Derek’s perspective. What did you learn from each presentation?

Chapter Fifteen — The Long Road Back

After weeks of recovery, Derek is ready to start playing again, but Coach Russell is hesitant to throw him back into the full swing of their routine. He thinks Derek should acclimate back in slowly to avoid another injury. Although Derek is disappointed, he understands. He does his best to show he’s working hard, and hopefully his coach will let him play shortstop for the final game of the season.

What did Coach Russell finally decide to do, and what was the result?

When Coach Nelson announced to the rest of the basketball team that Derek was returning to play, not everyone was happy to see him. What were some of the team conflicts that Derek faced? And what were the game strategy lessons that led to their success? Discuss what happened between Derek and Gio, and why it was so important for team unity.

Chapter Sixteen — Back in the Game

Finally, it’s game day, the last game of the baseball season, and Derek is more than ready to get started. Before the game, Coach Russell gives a pep talk to the team, and Derek learns he is not in the starting lineup.

How did this game day lineup make Derek feel? In which position did he want to play permanently? Do you think he would be happy playing as an alternate? Explain your answer.

Coach Russell finally gives Derek a chance to play shortstop in the third inning, when the score is tied.

Describe the fielding and batting maneuvers and the game-changing plays that allowed Derek to demonstrate his best potential. Why was this performance a timely and important opportunity?

Chapter Seventeen — The Brass Ring

The basketball team’s most important game of the season is coming up. As team leader, Derek feels that he should talk to Gio about teamwork and sportsmanship before the event. He expects the discussion might be a hostile encounter, and wonders if it would be best to do this before the big game.

Reread the talk that Derek had with Gio just before the big game.

What message was he trying to convey to his teammate?

How did Derek demonstrate leadership skills?

What do you think the game outcome would have been if Derek had decided not to discuss teamwork strategy with Gio?

In a small group setting, discuss your point of view, pro or con.

Earlier in the book, Derek’s dad offered a bit of parental advice because of his son’s anxiety over preparing for his debate assignment. He said, “‘Courage isn’t about not being afraid. It’s about doing what you’re afraid of because it has to be done.’” (Chapter nine)

In what ways can you apply this concept of courage to your own life? Are there any tasks or responsibilities that you must handle that make you apprehensive or anxious? Compose your thoughts and share a dilemma that you are facing or have dealt with in the past. What were the results and what lesson did you learn?

Extension Activities

The Ball’s in Your Court: An Idiom Exercise

Read chapter five, and in small groups discuss why you think this chapter is titled “The Gathering Storm.”

Define what an idiom is, and then discuss the phrase “the ball is in your court.” What does it mean? How does this idiom apply to Derek and Gio’s situation?

Allow twenty minutes for an open in-circle discussion of the phrase/idiom. Suggest students give a real-life example describing what the selected idiom may mean or implies. Provide blank cards for those students who may have a lot to share. Offer this as a timed exercise, allowing at least 30–45 minutes.

Collect the cards and select a few to read out loud. Encourage discussion, debate, and rebuttals.

Definition Options

Partner Debates: What Is Your Point?

Reread chapter fourteen, “Ultimate Combat.”

Have students select a debate topic of interest based on class discussion or personal interest. Topics are available in the links and resources listed below. Prepare a class debate schedule and a partner/debate opponent will be selected for each student. In some instances, an instructor may allow you to choose your own partner. It’s possible to partner in pairs as well, two against two.

After a subject and partner are approved, flip a coin to assign pro or con to each partner in the teams. Students should prepare talking points to defend their debate position. Encourage students to practice their speeches in front of family or friends and apply any advice on presentation that they may receive. Discuss rebuttal strategies before the presentations.

For further reading and debate resources, see below:

Reading Group Guide written by Chrystal Carr Jeter, Children’s Literature Consultant, previously of Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Willoughby Hills, Ohio.

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 or

About The Author

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: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (April 4, 2023)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534499782
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 790L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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