The second middle grade book in the New York Times bestselling Jeter Publishing imprint, Hit & Miss is a baseball novel inspired by the youth of legendary sports icon and role model Derek Jeter.
“Just try to make solid contact, stay level and in control. Positive thoughts only, right?”
That’s the advice Derek’s father gives him about batting—and a lot more. It seems that Little League season is here. Throughout the long Michigan winter, Derek thought that Opening Day might never come. Now at last he can pursue his dream of one day playing shortstop for the New York Yankees.
As luck would have it, he’s on the Red Sox this year, and they seem to have more talent than the Tigers, the team he was on when last season ended in disappointment. His best friend, Vijay, is with him again, and Derek gets the same number—13!—that his father wore in college. Now if the new kid with the chauffeur turns out to be a player, well, the Red Sox might just win it all.
But as Derek finds out, both baseball and life are hard. Before the season is over, he’ll break out of a slump, bring his teammates closer together, learn a new sport, solve the mystery of why his sister Sharlee seems so quiet, and suffer the consequences for violating “The Contract” he had signed with his parents. Before he can move closer to his dream, there are many lessons to be learned.
Derek threw down his pencil. He’d been doing his homework, even though it was only Saturday morning. Running to the top of the stairs, he looked down to see his father in the living room, holding a basketball.
“Almost finished, Dad. Just one more math problem.” The rule in Derek’s house was, you had to finish your homework before you were allowed to go play. It was right there in his contract with his parents, the one he’d signed the year before. He hadn’t looked at it lately—his dad kept the original safe in his bedroom drawer—but Derek was pretty sure he remembered it all by heart.
“Perfect,” his dad said. “I just finished one of my homework assignments for this weekend too.” He wasn’t kidding. Charles Jeter was in his final year of classes at Western Michigan University, studying for a master’s degree. His dream was to be a counselor for kids at risk, and Derek knew that meant a lot to his father, but being with his own kids was just as important to Derek’s dad.
Derek could hardly wait. Basketball was fun, and he was proud of his progress over the winter. This was his chance to show his dad just how much better he’d gotten.
But the truth was, Derek’s mind wasn’t on basketball, and it wasn’t on homework, either. Because today—this afternoon—was the start of the Little League baseball season. In fact, this afternoon was his first practice!
To Derek, no other sport was as important as baseball. His life’s goal was to be the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. He only hoped he still remembered how to hit, after the offseason.
For six months a year there wasn’t much baseball being played in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where long snowy winters were the rule. His dad had taken him to the batting cages twice in the past two weeks, but it was still so cold out that every time Derek hit the ball, his hands stung.
“I thought you wanted to show me your new jump shot,” his dad called after him with a little laugh. “You’d better get that math problem figured out.”
Derek didn’t take the time to answer. He went back to his desk, sat down, and concentrated, long enough to finish his homework and tie his sneakers. Then he raced downstairs to follow his dad, mom, and sister, Sharlee, out the door. They all piled into the family station wagon, and drove off to the university’s outdoor basketball courts for a thrill-packed game of H-O-R-S-E!
Sharlee loved to be a part of their games, even if she was too little to put the ball into the basket without someone holding her up. Her usual job was ball-hawk, retrieving the balls that got away and bringing them back to the players.
Meanwhile, Mom did the scorekeeping, just to make sure there was no confusion or disagreement. She worked full-time as an accountant for a company, and she’d taught Derek to love math.
Derek was eager to show his family what he could do on the basketball court. He even dared to hope he would beat his dad at H-O-R-S-E, though he knew that wasn’t likely. His dad was a really good athlete, and he was just as competitive as Derek.
Derek sometimes got frustrated when he lost, as he always seemed to. But he knew his dad would never lose on purpose just to make Derek happy. Derek didn’t want to win that way anyhow. It wouldn’t feel like winning, really. Every time he lost to his dad, it just made him want to work harder, so he could beat him the next time, or the time after that—or at least someday.
“Okay, you go first, Derek,” his dad said. “Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Derek dribbled a couple of times, drove to the basket, did a 360-degree turn in midair, and sank the layup off the backboard. Then he turned to wink at Sharlee.
“Whoa!” his mom shouted. “Nice.”
“Yay, Derek!” Sharlee yelled, giggling as she went to get the ball.
“Hey, now,” Mr. Jeter laughed. “No playing favorites. Give me that ball, Sharlee. Here, old man. Let me show you how it’s done.”
He drove to the basket and easily made the same shot Derek had. Sharlee and Mrs. Jeter applauded, but not half as hard as for Derek.
“Okay. What else have you got?” he asked Derek.
This time Derek dribbled between his legs, pulled up, and sank a fifteen-foot jumper.
“All right, all right,” Mr. Jeter said, nodding as Sharlee and Derek’s mom whooped and hollered. He tried the between-the-legs move but got caught up and tangled, and the shot wasn’t even close.
“That’s H for you,” Mrs. Jeter announced, pointing to her husband.
Derek made a move, froze, and sprung into the air, letting a shot fly. The ball swished right through the net. His dad’s imitation came close but clanged off the rim and out.
“H-O,” Mrs. Jeter called out. “Amazing, Derek!”
“Nice shot,” said his dad. “I’ve got to hand it to you. You’re looking good there. Let’s see if you can make that same one again.”
Egged on by his dad, Derek took up the challenge. It was a long and difficult shot, but he’d learned to do it almost with his eyes closed. He lined it up, lifted off—but just as he was about to let it fly, Sharlee yelled, “Derek’s gonna win!”
Her cry startled him, throwing his shot off by just enough for it to miss the rim. Derek groaned in frustration, but he didn’t blame it on Sharlee. He knew she was only five and couldn’t contain her excitement sometimes.
Now it was Mr. Jeter’s turn. He did a double-fake quick drive to the basket, and then sank the layup from the far side with his left hand.
Derek gritted his teeth. He’d never made that shot yet. But he was determined to this time. Sharlee handed him the ball, and he made the double move—but lost control of the ball.
“Bzzzz!” his dad said, mimicking the buzzer.
“H-O to H,” said Mrs. Jeter. “Getting interesting here.”
Soon the game was tied, and then Derek fell behind by one letter. But Derek took advantage of a miss by his dad to throw in a hook shot from fifteen feet. Mr. Jeter couldn’t match that one, and the game was tied again at H-O-R.
Suddenly Sharlee said, “Daddy, I want to shoot now.”
“I know, Sharlee, but the game’s not over yet,” Mr. Jeter said. “When we’re done, it’ll be your turn.”
“But I wanna shoot the ball!” Sharlee had a pretty good shot for a five-year-old, even if you did have to hold her up near the hoop. In fact, she was a really good overall athlete for her age.
It must be hard for her to watch other people play and not be part of it, Derek realized. Just then he saw his buddy Vijay riding by the courts on his bike. “It’s okay, Dad,” he said. “Let Sharlee shoot now. We’ll take a time-out for a couple minutes.”
Mr. Jeter saw Vijay, shrugged, and nodded. He bent down so that Sharlee could leap into his arms and take some shots. Mrs. Jeter got up and handed her the ball, while Derek turned and yelled, “Hey, Vij!” waving to get his friend’s attention.
Vijay slowed his bike and came to a stop on the other side of the chain-link fence. His bike basket was filled with newspapers. Vijay had a morning route on Saturdays, delivering papers from Mount Royal Townhouses, where they both lived, all the way down the avenue to the university, about a mile away.
With the money he earned, he bought heaps of baseball cards. Vijay had the best collection in the neighborhood. He was baseball crazy, in fact, and it was all thanks to Derek, who’d taught him the game when Vijay and his family had first arrived in Kalamazoo.
“Hey, Derek,” he called. “Where’s your mitt? We’ve got practice this afternoon. Don’t you want to warm up first?”
“Busy, Vij,” Derek answered, nodding toward his family. “One last game of H-O-R-S-E. Gotta beat the big guy, show him who’s got game.”
“Oooh, I don’t know, Derek,” Vijay said, grinning but shaking his head. “Your dad is really good. No one can ever beat him.”
“Not either of you guys, that’s for sure,” Mr. Jeter said, overhearing. “How ’bout it, old man? You quitting already?”
“Not a chance,” Derek shot back.
“Guess who I found out is on our team,” said Vijay. “Jeff Jacobson. And Jason and Isaiah, too. Practically our whole gang from the Hill!”
“Awesome,” said Derek, excited. The year before, most of his friends had been on other teams. “Gotta go take care of business now, Vij. See you at the field.”
“For sure. Go, Red Sox!”
“Ouch.” Derek winced.
Why did his team have to be the Red Sox? As a passionate Yankees fan, he always rooted against the real Red Sox. And he’d never been on a team called the Yankees yet.
This would be the second year in a row that Derek and Vijay were on the same team. Vijay wasn’t very good at sports, but Derek had worked with him on his baseball game, and he was definitely improving every year. And it was great that a bunch of their other friends were on the team.
“HEY!” Derek shouted as his dad stole the ball, taking advantage of Derek’s mind wandering.
“Gotta pay attention!” Mr. Jeter said, sinking a perfect shot from the foul line. Derek figured it would be an easy shot to duplicate. But the “time-out” had somehow thrown him off his rhythm. To his and everyone else’s surprise, he missed off the back rim.
“Point game,” said his dad, cocking his head to one side.
“That’s H-O-R-S for Derek,” Mrs. Jeter announced. “H-O-R for you, Jeter.”
“Jeter” was what she called her husband, and he called her “Dot,” short for Dorothy. They both called Derek “old man,” even though he wasn’t a man yet—and he certainly wasn’t old.
One more letter and his dad would win. Again. Derek gritted his teeth, determined not to go down without a fight.
They went at it for ten more minutes, both of them on fire, hitting shot after shot. Then, finally, Derek missed one. The ball went out of bounds, hitting the fence right next to Sharlee—but she didn’t even budge to get it and throw it back to them.
“Come on, Sharlee. Let’s have the ball,” Mr. Jeter called to her.
But Sharlee wasn’t listening. She was standing at the fence, staring across the street at two boys who were passing by. Derek noticed that one of the boys was looking back at her. He seemed older than Sharlee by a year or so, although he was almost Derek’s size.
Sharlee had a frown on her face, and that was strange, because she was almost always happy and bubbly. “Hey, now,” said Mr. Jeter. “What’s the matter, Sharlee? Are you not feeling well?”
“I’m fine,” Sharlee said. “FINE.” She slowly turned back around. “I’m thirsty. Is there anything to drink?”
“I brought some juice,” said Mrs. Jeter. “Here, come on and sit by me.”
Sharlee went over to her mom and sat down. Derek turned to his dad. “What’s up with her?” he asked.
“Beats me,” said Mr. Jeter. “I’ve never seen her lose interest in a ball game like that.”
“Me neither,” Derek agreed. He looked down the street to where the two boys were walking. They were sharing a joke, it seemed, both of them laughing and looking back in Derek’s direction.
“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Mrs. Jeter told Sharlee. “But I hope you know that talking about things can help make them better.”
“Come on, old man,” Mr. Jeter said to Derek. “Let’s finish this thing and see who’s boss around here.”
Derek knew his dad was saying they should give Sharlee some privacy with her mom. He also knew he had a chance to finally beat his dad at something!
That was before Mr. Jeter sank a thirty-footer, too long a shot for Derek to hit. His shot fell two feet short, and the game was suddenly over.
Now it was Derek’s turn to be sullen, but not for long. His dad came over to him and clapped him on the back. “Good game, old man. Your shot is getting there, it really is. Nice ballhandling, too. Very impressive.”
It was a sincere compliment, and it made Derek feel much better about losing to his dad yet again.
In the car on the way home, Sharlee still seemed out of sorts. Derek wondered what had turned her from her usual self into this silent, sulking little girl . . . .
He was determined to find out, but for now he had to eat and get going. His new team was waiting for him, and he didn’t want to be late!
His mom turned around in the front seat and said, “You know, Derek, I was looking at the Tigers’ schedule for this season, and I saw that the Yankees are coming to town in the beginning of June.”
It took him a second to realize she was talking about the major leagues, not Little League. “What? Mom, Dad, can we go? Can we, please?”
Derek loved nothing more than watching his beloved Yankees play, especially live. In the summers he often got to go to Yankee Stadium with his grandma, who lived in New Jersey and was the world’s biggest Yankees fan.
But it was rare that the Yankees came to Detroit, usually only once a year.
“Well, let’s see,” said his mom. “Have you been keeping up with your contract?”
“Totally!” Derek said.
“Are you sure?” his dad asked. “When was the last time you read it over?”
“Um . . .”
“Not lately, I know that,” Mr. Jeter said with a crooked grin. “Because I’ve got it in my drawer.”
“I know it by heart!” Derek insisted. “And you know I’ve been doing good at following it.”
“?‘Well,’ not ‘good,’?” his mom corrected him.
“?‘Well,’ I mean. So I think we should all sign a new contract, saying you agree to take me to the Yankees-Tigers game as a reward for keeping my old contract!”
His parents looked at each other and smiled. “Well, at least he’s not afraid to stick up for himself,” said Mrs. Jeter, and they all laughed—all except Sharlee.
“Okay, Derek, you’ve made your point,” said his dad. “Never mind any new contracts. If you keep to all the rules between now and June, we’ll take you to that game.”
“Woo-hoo!” Derek yelled, exultant. He could feel the thrill of the coming baseball season coursing through him. The major-league season had started weeks ago, but today was the start of his baseball season.
Derek Jeter has a strong, supportive family structure. Describe and discuss your family structure. How is it similar or different from Derek’s family makeup?
Derek’s parents establish a contract with him to ensure that he succeeds in school and accomplishes his goals. The contract lists several expectations and includes consequences for breaking the rules. Do you have written family expectations or obligations? If not, are they clearly understood? Explain what happens if you do not follow through or violate these rules.
Derek plays an action-packed game of H.O.R.S.E. with his dad on the basketball court that brings out his competitive nature. What activities do you do that inspire your competitive side?
Chapter 2 –Welcome to the Red Sox
Little League Baseball rules are player specific and more restrictive than the Big Leagues. Why do you think they have age and length-of-play limitations?
Playing with a new team or trying out for anything new is always exciting and can also be a little tense. Having a good friend to share the moment helps. How does Vijay, Derek’s close friend, help him through the team’s beginning practice drills?
Chapter 3 –The New Kid
Discuss what friendship means to you. Give some examples. Is it difficult to make friends with a new classmate?
Do you worry about what others will say if you want to be friends with someone who may be new or different from yourself? What do you fear about reaching out to a new friend?
Chapter 4 –If At First You Don’t Succeed . . .
Derek’s attempts to make friends with Dave were rejected at first. What does he do to assure Dave that he really wants to be friends? Have you ever been rejected or ridiculed? How did that make you feel?
Coach Kaufman organized a scrimmage to observe the strengths and weaknesses of his team. How does this type of practice establish camaraderie and team spirit?
Chapter 5 –The House on the Hill
What new sports game did Dave introduce to Derek? How similar is it to baseball? How is it different?
What did Derek learn about his new friend during the visit? What is the structure of Dave’s family and how does it compare to Derek’s?
Chapter 6 –Making Friends, Breaking Rules
Breaking the rules can cause serious consequences. When Derek agreed to ride home with Dave after school without telling anyone where he was going, he broke the rules. What kind of danger could he have faced? Why did his parents have that rule in place?
Discuss a time when you did not follow the rules. What were the results?
Chapter 7 –Play Ball!
Derek was disappointed with his own performance in the first few ball games of the season. What did he do to change or improve? How did he break his batting slump?
Discuss a situation where you tried and failed. How did you feel? What did you do to change or improve the situation?
Chapter 8 –Practice Makes Perfect?
Derek has to study hard to get good grades. How does his rivalry with Gary Parnell, the “smartest kid in fourth grade,” help him to keep his skills sharp?
What are your strong subjects? What subjects are more difficult? Which ones do you enjoy the most? Why?
Why is it important to improve your test scores? What study methods do you use?
Chapter 9 –The Swing Doctor
Practice does make perfect – especially in sports. Derek’s father takes time to offer batting tips to Derek and his two friends, Vijay and Dave. What happened when the boys applied what they were taught?
Chapter 10 –Game On!
Even though Derek goes through a batting slump, Coach Kaufman continues to use Derek to support the team in other ways. How does this affect his performance? What makes you try harder when you are faced with failure?
Vijay and Dave began to improve their performance after receiving coaching advice from Derek’s father. How did this make Derek feel?
Chapter 11 –Patience Pays Off
Sharlee, Derek’s sister, is being bullied at school by an older, more intimidating classmate. Derek’s parents claim that all bullies are cowards. Do you agree with this? Explain your thoughts.
What is your definition of a bully? What do you think causes such bad behavior?
Have you ever been a victim of bullying or known someone who was bullied? What were your reactions?
What will you try to do in the future to prevent bullying?
Chapter 12 –Push Comes to Shove
Sharlee has been suffering through an uncomfortable situation at school. Jimmy Vickers is picking on her, and she has lost some of her sparkling and upbeat personality. What would you do if you were being picked on every day? Would you tell someone? Who would that person be and why?
Derek became very angry when his sister confessed to him that a kid knocked her down, spit on her, and turned the other kids against her. How does Derek handle this situation? Discuss what you would do if she were your baby sister.
Chapter 13 –Breaking Through
Derek must apologize for his own “bullying” behavior. Why was it so hard for Derek to apologize? What were the results? Discuss a time when your behavior required an apology. Do you agree with the punishment that Derek was given?
One of the rules in Derek’s contract is to “Be a Role Model for Sharlee.” Does he live up to this expectation? How?
Chapter 14 –Streak on the Line
Derek learns a critical life lesson when the team’s winning streak is on the line: the game is not over until the last out. Even if it looks bad and you have to go into extra innings, it pays to have hope, work hard, and never give up. Why is this an important lesson?
Can you think of an occasion when you were rewarded for not giving up?
Chapter 15 –On the Edge
Throughout the entire school year, Derek continues to study hard and receives a 93 on his math final, but his taunting classmate Gary Parnell always seems to get a better grade. What happens to Parnell that stops his bragging on the spot? Why does Derek feel justified?
Why were test scores important to Derek?
Sharlee learns that even your enemies can change. How does her relationship with Jimmy Vickers change?
Chapter 16 –Winners Take All
At the end of the playoff game, Derek’s mom encouraged him to see the final game and season results in a different way. What did she say to make him feel better? What do you think about the support she gave?
Chapter 17 –FORE!
Dave and Derek recognized and appreciated the importance of a good coach and mentor. Do you have adults in your life that encourage your endeavors and offer you advice? Describe who they are and how they help you.
Ask readers to review Derek Jeter’s Ten Life Lessons. They are listed in the front of the book and on his website: http://mlb.mlb.com/players/jeter_derek/kids/handbook.jsp.
CHOOSE A LIFE GOAL
Instruct your students to select one life goal that they have made and ask them to share in writing what they are doing to reach it. Discuss any challenges that may occur to deter them from reaching their goal.
THERE IS NO “I” IN TEAM
Write a 200-word essay on “The Importance of Teamwork.”
JUST IMAGINE A STORY
Read out loud the passages in Hit & Miss regarding the play-by-play events in the championship game. Then ask the students to stand in a large group circle. Toss a softball or Nerf ball to one student in the class and have him or her tell their own play-by-play story of one inning of a baseball game. When the instructor calls “stop” after a brief period, the teller tosses the ball to another student, who picks up the play and continues the story. This ball toss continues until the inning is declared over with three outs.
AN ALTERNATIVE ENDING
The teacher reads aloud from Hit & Miss by Derek Jeter. Refer to pages 113 -133. A classroom activity is assigned to write a different reaction and result to the encounter with Sharlee’s bully. Divide the class into pairs and have them share with each other their own story ending. Allow the pairs to share or role-play their “new” ending in class, if time permits.
(Note: Remind them to consider changing the setting, the dialogue, the number of characters involved, or/and the response from the adults) Refer to National Core Arts Standards http://www.nationalartsstandards.org/ -- theatre standards.
Read Coyote by Gerald McDermott to the class; discuss vocabulary (ravens, coyote, mesa) and setting (desert). Ask students to write their own original folktale based on a similar incident using these or similar animal characters. Discuss how Coyote’s story fits the same pattern as the bullying incident(s) in Jeter’s Hit & Miss. Classroom discussion follows the reading assignment.
Objective: Based on Coyote by Gerald McDermott, a tale inspired by Coyote stories of the desert southwest, this project requires students to listen, respond, write, speak, think about cause and effect, predict outcomes – and to think about what happens to bullies!
What animal does Coyote see?
What does Coyote want from that animal?
What does Coyote threaten to do to the animal?
How does the animal trick Coyote into a) making him believe he’s getting what he wants, and b) getting even with him for being such a bully?
What happens to Coyote at the end of the story?
What happens to Sharlee and her “bully” at the end of Hit & Miss?
SHARING STORY SCENARIOS
The classroom teacher asks students to sit in a circle in the classroom with an empty chair in the center of the room. A game of musical chairs is introduced using the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. When the music begins, students will begin to walk slowly around the circle of chairs and grab a seat each time the music is stopped. (Be sure there is one less chair than students forcing one student to be left standing without a chair). This student will then sit in the middle “hot” seat. The teacher then pulls out a baseball glove (use a catcher’s mitt or a pitcher’s glove) that has several Story Scenarios inside. (See scenarios below). The student is asked to discuss what they would do if they were confronted with the selected situation. After they have shared their idea, the music begins again. Then another student is selected to sit in the seat and discuss a bullying scenario. Continue as time permits.
Bullying Scenario #1:
A school bully has just dissed your new outfit. What is your response?
Bullying Scenario #2:
You’ve just been told that a friend is telling lies about you. What’s the best way to handle the situation?
Bullying Scenario #3:
You’ve been asked to do something at school against your will or you will get beat up. What do you do?
Bullying Scenario #4:
Your classmates have stopped talking to you because the class bully told them to ignore you. How does this make you feel?
Bullying Scenario #5:
Your teacher asked you to apologize for doing something that you did not do. What will you tell the teacher? What will you tell your parents?
Bullying Scenario #6:
A big kid from a higher grade has been stealing your lunch and pushing you around. Who do you talk to?
Bullying Scenario #7:
Your little brother is crying because a younger classmate hurt his feelings. You feel like you need to “do something” to defend him. What is the right thing to do?
Bullying Scenario #8:
You are doing your best to participate in a school sport—in fact, you are very good. However, a teammate constantly puts down everything you do, which upsets you and causes you to question your ability. How do you cope with this abuse?
Bullying Scenario #9:
You see a classmate being bullied by a friend of yours. What do you do? Who do you talk to?
Bullying Scenario #10:
You’re asked to speak with a younger class about why they shouldn’t become a bully. What do you call out as negative consequences for you and others?
Guide written in 2015 by Chrystal Carr Jeter of Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library.
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.
Derek Jeter is a fourteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner who has 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.