Rooting for Rafael Rosales

What could a young Dominican baseball fan have in common with an American daughter of an executive of a large corporation?

Rafael’s story is told over time beginning with the first chapter “Rafael, Many Years Ago” and following his goal of making a major-league baseball team in the United States. He and many of his peers see this as a way out of poverty. In the early days, he rescues a girl’s chicken, a girl who lives in destitution greater than his own.

Maya’s story begins in the present day during Rafael’s first year in the minor leagues. Her activism to save the bees in the environment runs afoul of the pesticide manufactured by her father’s company. Her fondness for plants loved by bees like thistles and dandelions that her sister calls “weeds” triggers her explanation, “A weed is a plant you don’t want. I want these, so they aren’t weeds.” Her love of baseball and a post on her sister’s blog lead to a friendship with the girl named Bijou who owned the rescued chicken and a link to Rafael.

The difficulty of life in the Dominican Republic and cautionary practices as Rafael pursues his baseball dream contrast with the affluence and moral dilemma for Maya as she decides how far to take her passion when her father’s job is at stake. I found the move back and forth between the two characters easy enough, but was a bit disconcerted for a while by the time with Rafael’s taking place over years while Maya’s stayed in the present.

Ultimately, there is a secret both Rafael and Maya share that could wreak havoc in the lives of people they care about. Right and wrong are not as clear as they should be. This is a good middle grade read with a nice window into the world of aspiring baseball players common to the Dominican Republic.