The Only Game (Home Team #1)

by Mike Lupica (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade
Series: Home Team
Can a young baseball star maintain his love of the game after the loss of his brother? Find out in this start to the Home Team series about a small town with high hopes, from New York Times bestselling author and sportswriting legend Mike Lupica.

Jack Callahan is the star of his baseball team and sixth grade is supposed to be his year. Undefeated season. Records shattered. Little League World Series. The works. That is, until he up and quits.

Jack's best friend Gus can't understand how Jack could leave a game that means more to them than anything else. But Jack is done. It's a year of change. Jack's brother has passed away, and though his family and friends and the whole town of Walton thinks baseball is just the thing he needs to move on, Jack feels it's anything but.

In comes Cassie Bennett, star softball player, and the only person who seems to think Jack shouldn't play if he doesn't want to. As Jack and Cassie's friendship deepens, their circle expands to include Teddy, a guy who's been picked on because of his weight.

Time spent with these new friends unlocks something within Jack, and with their help and the support of his family and his old friends, Jack discovers sometimes it's more than just the love of the game that keeps us moving--and he might just be able to find his way back to The Only Game.

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School Library Journal

Gr 4-6—On the official opening day of baseball in his small town, Jack Callahan, superlative seventh grade shortstop and arguably the best pitcher in town, surprisingly quits at the end of an outstanding first practice. Jack and his best friend Gus had expected to be strong contenders in the Atlantic League with aspirations of playing in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. Believing that an earlier tragedy involving his older brother Brad was all his fault, Jack takes a break from the only game he ever loved. This hiatus is short-lived, and he soon finds himself back at the diamond coaching girls softball. Slowly, he makes it back to his own team. Loyalty, friendship, courage, and teamwork are key components in the novel. Jack and his teammates have a falling out after Jack's decision to quit the team before the season even starts. This leads to new friendships with Cassie, a strong female character, and Teddy, an overweight, friendly guy whom Jack protects from bullying. Various acts of courage are displayed by Cassie, Teddy, and Jack. Lupica lays the foundation for a great sports series where friendship carries the characters through tribulations. Middle-grade readers will easily identify with the four friends. Although the story is sports related, this is more than a baseball book and will appeal to a wide variety of readers. A must-buy.—Glynis Jean Wray, Ocean County Library, Toms River, NJ

Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Lupica (Game Changers) launches the Home Team series with a novel that meshes themes of baseball, friendship, and facing one's fears. Seventh-grader Jack Callahan is his team's star pitcher and shortstop, so everyone is shocked when he quits baseball during the lead-up to the Little League World Series. "My heart's not in it," he tells his disappointed parents, before spilling the real reason he's abandoning the team: "Baseball won't bring my brother back." Lupica thoughtfully explores Jack's belief that he could have saved his daredevil older brother, Brad, who died the previous year in a dirt-bike accident. Cassie, an ace softball pitcher, reaches out to Jack, offering no-nonsense counsel about his misplaced guilt while subtly encouraging his return to the diamond. Jack, in turn, helps a much-teased classmate by coaching him in self-confidence and baseball. Lupica again proves his aptitude for lacing lightning-speed sports action with credible insight into players' thoughts and emotions. This, along with Cassie's pivotal role, should give the novel a wide reach and appeal. Ages 8-12. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Feb.)

Copyright 2015 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"I like life and I love baseball. Mike Lupica has written a powerful book about both. The Only Game is a moving story about love, loss, guilt and the power of trust and friendship that heals."—Patricia MacLachlan, author of Newbery Award winner Sarah Plain and Tall.
Mike Lupica
Mike Lupica is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of several books for young readers. His NEW YORK DAILY NEWS column is syndicated nationally. Mr. Lupica lives in Connecticut with his wife and their four children. You can visit Mike Lupica at
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date
February 20, 2015
Home Team
Parents Choice Awards (Fall) (2008-Up)
Silver Medal Winner 2015 - 2015

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