Team Players (Home Team #4)

by Mike Lupica (Author)

Team Players (Home Team #4)
Reading Level: 6th — 7th Grade
Series: Home Team
Cassie must learn that you can't "fix" someone else after a girl with Aspergers joins her softball team in the fourth and final book of the Home Team series from New York Times bestselling author and sports-writing legend Mike Lupica.

Cassie Bennett is great at being in charge. She always knows what to do to lead her teams to victory, keep her many groups of friends together, or fix any problem that comes her way. So when Sarah Milligan, an autistic girl with unreal softball skills, joins Cassie's team, Cassie's sure she can help her fit in with the team.

But before long it's obvious that being around so many people is really hard for Sarah, and the more Cassie tries to reach out and involve her, the more Sarah pushes her away, sometimes literally. It doesn't help that Cassie's teammates aren't as interested in helping Sarah as they are in making sure they make it to the new softball All-Star Tournament that'll be televised just like the Little League World Series.

Soon no one seems to even want Sarah on the team anymore besides Cassie, and the harder Cassie tries to bring everyone together, the worse things seem to get. Cassie Bennett never backs down from a challenge, but can she realize that maybe the challenge isn't fixing a problem in someone else, but in herself? Or will her stubbornness lead her to lose more than just softball games?
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School Library Journal

Gr 5-8—It's the summer after middle school and Cassie Bennett is gearing up for the all-star softball season. Cassie is a strong all-around athlete, having made waves as a standout on the boys' basketball team. Now she's looking forward to leading her Walton Red Sox through another undefeated season and competing for a chance to play for a regional championship in Fenway Park. The biggest challenge comes from the rupture of her friend group with the arrival of a new player, Sarah Milligan, who has Asperger's Syndrome. While several of the girls reject Sarah because her disability makes them uncomfortable, Cassie takes her on as someone to "fix." Alongside the softball story is a complementary one about Cassie's friends, Jack, Teddy, and Gus, and the plight of their baseball team after the removal of their overbearing coach and the related tension with his high-strung son, Sam. Through an eventful summer both on and off the field, Cassie and the others learn much about themselves and what kind of commitment it takes to maintain both a friendship and a team, while Cassie gets an insightful lesson from Sarah's mom about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Lupica describes game play with appropriate detail that should please fans but avoids letting the social plot get lost in the weeds. Periodic explorations into the psychology of pitching will be intriguing even to readers not interested in the game. VERDICT A compelling read with important lessons, Lupica's latest is highly recommended for libraries serving middle graders.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"A base hit for readers interested in sports as well as neurodiversity." - Kirkus Reviews
Mike Lupica
Mike Lupica is the #1 bestselling author of many popular books for young readers, including Fantasy League, QB 1, Heat, Travel Team, Million-Dollar Throw, and The Underdogs. He has carved out a niche as the sporting world's finest storyteller. Mike lives in Connecticut with his wife and their four children. When not writing novels, Mike Lupica writes for New York's Daily News, appears weekly on ESPN's The Sports Reporters, and hosts The Mike Lupica Show on ESPN Radio. You can visit Mike Lupica at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date
April 20, 2018
Home Team
BISAC categories
JUV039060 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Friendship
JUV032000 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | General
Library of Congress categories
Interpersonal relations
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / Friendship
JUVENILE FICTION / Social Issues / General (s
Asperger's syndrome
JUVENILE FICTION / Sports & Recreation / Gene
Sports fiction
Softball teams
Softball players

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