I have read so many wonderful baseball-related books in the last year or so: The Distance to Home, A Long Pitch Home (coming out in September), The Only Game, and The Way Home Looks Now. I now have another great one to add to the list - Soar by Joan Bauer.
The protagonist in Soar is Jeremiah. He is not a baseball player (although he'd like to be), but he is a baseball expert, and he is obsessed with baseball. Walt, Jeremiah's adoptive dad, is a nerdy robotics engineer. Together they form a tight unit, with humor playing a huge role in helping both of them deal with a significant challenge - Jeremiah has had a heart transplant and he deals with serious ongoing health problems as a result. When Walt's job sends them from St. Louis to Hillcrest, Ohio, Jeremiah is overjoyed to find that it is a town that is, like him, obsessed with baseball. The high school team is the state champ, and the community is bonkers for baseball.
While Jeremiah can't play baseball because of his heart issues, he knows the game like no one else, and fairly quickly he takes an active role in reinstating the middle school team after it has more or less disbanded. As a reader, I couldn't help but love Jeremiah and his earnest approach to middle school, and to life. He's quirky, spirited and funny, despite some serious health setbacks.
Although this book probably would be most appreciated by readers who also enjoy baseball, it is not just a "sports fiction" story. The real story lies in the characters, and although Bauer touches upon some heavy stuff (PED use by underage athletes, serious illness and adoption) the overall tone of Soar is fairly light and heartfelt. For readers (like me!) who love baseball and a good emotional wallop, Bauer's newest is a winner.