The Secret at Haney Field

A Baseball Mystery

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Pub Date 02 Sep 2014 | Archive Date 03 Dec 2014
MB Publishing, LLC, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members' Titles


Twelve-year-old April O'Day's summer has gotten off to a flying start. As the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, her hometown's minor-league team, she's fetching bats and doling out great advice to players and coaches alike. In a word, she's becoming indispensable. But mysterious things are happening at Haney Field, which April and her best friend—and fellow baseball enthusiast—Darren Plummer are determined to uncover. As they quickly learn, this is no ordinary season. In fact, it's a whole new ballgame!

From the Back Cover:

October 2014:

Last summer was going to be a quiet one. Unlike most of my friends from school, I wasn’t packing up for camp, and I had no plans to travel to an exotic location, like Paris or Rome—or even Cape Cod. Life was going to be simple: eat, ride my bike, read (history, for school; mysteries, for fun), sleep, grow (hopefully), and watch baseball. But then, something extraordinary happened. I won first place in a contest sponsored by our local minor-league baseball team. And suddenly, things were looking up! While I didn’t know it then, my vacation was going to be an incredible adventure—full of mystery, history, and friendship. Believe me, I never imagined I would ever be involved in something so improbable and wonderful. But I was. And lucky me, I got to share it all with my best friend, Darren. It was a summer full of people and events that will stay with me forever. And I’ll never be the same.

~April O’Day

Twelve-year-old April O'Day's summer has gotten off to a flying start. As the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, her hometown's minor-league team, she's fetching bats and doling out great advice to...

A Note From the Publisher

Also available in the following formats for $4.99 - epub, 978-0-9913646-3-3, and Kindle, 978-0-9913646-4-0.

Also available in the following formats for $4.99 - epub, 978-0-9913646-3-3, and Kindle, 978-0-9913646-4-0.

Advance Praise

Kirkus Reviews

"Two young baseball buffs stumble onto a mysterious occurrence at a minor league baseball stadium in Clark’s (Center Point, 2013, etc.) novel.

Fans of baseball history will recall the Negro leagues, the alternative leagues in which African-Americans had to play in the shadows of the major leagues because of a ban on black players. Now, 12-year-old April O’Day, a hard-core baseball fan, is in seventh heaven when she lands a job as the local minor league team’s bat girl. Before long, April’s not only retrieving bats, but giving advice to the ballplayers on what size/weight bat to use, when to steal, and other counsel based on her knowledge and observations. One day she sees vague images—“shadow players”—playing on the field after the regular game ends. The team owner, Mr. Haney, sees them too and asks April and her best friend, Darren Plummer, to investigate. However, just as the two friends discover that these players are from the Negro leagues, Haney inexplicably forbids the kids from investigating further and fires them. Realizing something strange is afoot, the kids continue their efforts to uncover the truth. While baseball is a passion of his, Clark has his sights set on the deeper issue of racism in general. The book is a well-written Disney-like story—characters do the right thing, and everything is tied up in a neat little bow. The characters are well-drawn and likable, and Clark obviously knows baseball. The story moves quickly, without unnecessary subplots slowing it down, but it unfortunately lacks real historical perspective. Even just a few paragraphs on the tragedies of players like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Double-Duty Radcliffe or others—who were forced to display their prodigious talents in subpar circumstances simply because of skin color—may awaken a youngster’s understanding of racism’s inanity. Still, in a kid’s literature market overstuffed with sensitive vampires and magical realms, it’s refreshing to see a story that attempts to be something more.

A home run, though not a grand slam.

From Tonja Drecker on Goodreads
Review Aug 18, 2014
5 of 5 stars

I'm always a sucker for well-written children mysteries, and this one not only does an excellent job sending the sleuth through a maze of clues but weaves in an interesting piece of history as well.

The main character, April, is a young girl with spunk. She's not only interested in baseball, she knows it inside and out. It was fun to watch her help the players out with things even the coach didn't know. (Kids will love that!) Plus, she has a head on her shoulders. She's quick thinking (never arrogant) and notices things when others don't. The perfect little detective.

The scenes and settings are well-written and make one feel as if they're on the baseball diamond themselves. The dialogue is fun and realistic, making it clear that the author knows what they're writing about. Baseball lovers will feel at home with every twist and turn.

Not only is this a well-written, sport mystery, but the author manages to slip in a wonderful taste of history--and not one that most people are aware of. The reader is left with something to think about.

I can only recommend this to sport lovers, mystery sleuths and children who simply enjoy a good story.

I recieved a free copy of this in exchange for an honest review.

From April Hanks on Goodreads:

I've read one of this author's two other books (and loved it), and reading this book only makes me want to go out and buy the one I have yet to read.

April is an engaging, quick-witted, very likeable character who stumbles into what turns out to be an equally engaging mystery. This book is for 8- to 12-year-olds, and if I ever do get around to having a child, I'll be putting this in his/her bookshelf. It's also a refreshing departure from what is currently popular in children's or YA novels, in that our heroine's only 'special' talent is her wits — no real supernatural ability (to expand on this would involve a spoiler), no gifts from the gods — and this makes her even more likeable and relatable to children (and adults like myself).

What's also awesome about this book is that it's not only about perseverence (again, a popular theme), but also honor, racism, and friendship.

A quick, enjoyable read, this novel is highly recommended.

Children's Bookwatch: July 2014
James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief
Diane Donovan, Editor
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive, Oregon, WI 53575

It's summertime and twelve-year-old April O'Day is doing a terrific job as the new bat retriever for the Harpoons, a minor-league baseball team in her small town. She shines in her other roles as well — giving advice to players and coaches alike — but ghosts on the field are pulling her deeper and deeper into a decades-old mystery involving the Negro Leagues.

April is a great bat retriever, and her skills for sleuthing, as it turns out, are just as terrific. But a mystery as important as this one requires teamwork. That's where her best friend and fellow baseball geek, Darren Plummer, comes in. With his assistance, and with the help of the shadow ball that April finds after one of their home games that allows her to visit the games from decades ago, new friends will be made and past wrongs will be made right.

This is a baseball mystery (it's hard to forget: the entire story centers around the game),so naturally, the chapters are filled with enlightening details. A handy glossary introduces the story so that non-baseball fans can easily absorb the jargon used throughout. But even more important than the details and the jargon is the reason for the time-traveling ghost players' existence in the first place.

Told in first person by April, her experiences are an inviting read. The discoveries and the reflections of this feisty protagonist, who loves the sport and whose curiosity leads her to investigate the Negro Leagues, baseball history, and even issues of discrimination, are what makes this story so enjoyable: ". . . the world of baseball changed forever. It was April 15, 1947, and Jackie Robinson shattered the color barrier by taking the field that day with the Brooklyn Dodgers," he said. "We all figured it would just be a matter of time before the best of us made it in as well." He shook his head. "Some did, but too many didn't. Ten years after Jackie, only a dozen or so other players had joined him: Doby, Thompson, Banks... the other teams were slow to follow. It was a darn shame."

Middle school readers ages 8-12 (especially those with an affection for both baseball and mysteries) will find The Secret at Haney Field an engrossing, involving read. Nothing is predictable, everything is tinged with baseball lore, and middle school readers will be more than drawn in by the combination of alluring storyline and protagonists who are realistic and compelling.

Reviewed by Julia Hopkinson for Readers’ Favorite
Rating: 5 stars

The Secret at Haney Field by R.M. Clark is a fun mystery story for eight to twelve-year-olds (or older!) The story focuses on twelve-year-old baseball-mad April O’Day who wins a contest to be the bat retriever for her local minor-league baseball team — the Harpoons — for one exciting week during the summer holidays. April’s wealth of baseball knowledge and her keen eye, her tips and advice improve the players’ performances and she is asked to stay on all summer. One evening after the match, April thinks she sees ghostly figures moving over the darkened baseball field, but surely she’s imagined it? When Mr Haney, owner of the Harpoons, confides that he also sees the figures, April and best friend Darren Plummer start an investigation that reaches back 70 years to reveal a surprising and poignant explanation.

The Secret at Haney Field is a pleasure to read. April is a likeable and engaging heroine and Darren is good comic relief. The writing is clear and fluid, the dialogue smooth and realistic, and the baseball know-how is very interesting! As an uninitiated, UK-based reader, I found the glossary at the start of the book and the description and history of the sport throughout the story to be fascinating and educational. The mystery at the heart of the book is nicely written and the two young sleuths’ journey to the solution is both exciting and moving. R.M. Clark has created an entertaining but also meaningful book which leaves you with a smile on your face. I really enjoyed reading it and would recommend it to all mystery fans.

Reviewed by Bil Howard for Readers Favorite
Rating: 5 stars

The smell of fresh-cut grass, hot dogs and roasted peanuts is the same in 2014 as it was in the ball parks of the 1940s, and the love of the game is felt in both eras in The Secret at Haney Field. R.M. Clark’s intriguing mystery which has captured the attention of April O’Day, Darren Plummer and owner of the stadium and the Harpoons, crosses over between both eras in baseball history. Before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, there were two leagues; one for whites and one for Negroes. Having been selected as a bat retriever for the Harpoons, April stumbles upon a ghostly sight; there seem to be ghost players involved in a game on the field after dark. She later discovers that the Harpoon’s owner, Walter Haney, can see them too and invites her friend Darren to see if he can also see them. While watching the shadow players on the field one night, a shadow ball lands in the bleachers. When April picks up the ball, she is transported back into the 1940s and a bright, sunny day with two teams from the Negro League and tons of fans cheering them on. She later visits one of the shadow games from the dugout and meets one of the players, Oscar “Flash” Henderson, who holds the key to a deeper mystery involving Mister Haney.

As deeply moving as Field of Dreams, R.M. Clark has created a very memorable story that gives honor to those who played in the Negro league in that bygone age. The Secret at Haney Field captures your heart in a childlike way that recalls the simplicity of the game. The understanding of the game is portrayed in a twelve-year-old whose passion for it is beyond compare. As she and Darren peel back the different layers of the mystery, the reader is present in a very meaningful way. The intrigue, the game, the history and the righting of past wrongs are all felt on a deep level. Inspiring, intriguing and insightful, The Secret at Haney Field will place you in both eras of the game and deliver not only a wonderfully suspenseful mystery, but reveal a rich history as well.

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite
Rating: 5 stars

The Secret at Haney Field is an action/adventure sports mystery for children and preteens written by R.M. Clark. April O'Day is expecting a rather quiet summer as nearly all her friends are going to camp or on holiday. Her summer gets off to an exciting start, however, when she wins an essay contest and becomes the Harpoons' guest bat retriever. April quickly becomes a lot more than that. She's a baseball prodigy and has more practical stats and coaching knowledge than most professionals do. The players are initially amused by the 12-year-old kid who critiques their playing style and suggests the perfect bat for a struggling hitter, but they soon realize April knows her stuff. April also has a mystery to solve: there are spectral, shadowy images that streak along the playing field which only she and Mr. Haney can see.

R.M. Clark's baseball mystery, The Secret at Haney Field, will royally entertain baseball fans of all ages, and those readers who are not yet into baseball may find themselves thinking about going to a local game after finishing this book. This is one of those books that brings a smile to your face as you begin reading, and that smile just stays glued to your face as you follow April and Darren's adventures at Haney Field. This is such a fabulous read! There's baseball lore and an in-depth look at baseball history, and April is inspirational. Not content with the idea of playing softball as the girl-version of baseball, she channels her love of the game into an encyclopedic and intuitive knowledge of the game. After I finished reading The Secret at Haney Field, I hit the internet to find out why April and young girls who have baseball in their souls should have to settle for softball. The Secret at Haney Field gets you thinking about a lot of things, while you're also having a wonderful time watching April as she critiques and builds up players and solves a mystery all at the same time. This book is great fun and highly recommended.

NetGalley Review
Heather Fischer (Educator)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a great mystery that would intrigue sports lovers, history lovers, and even has some aspect of science fiction. This is a great companion title for books such as Teammates and We are the Ship. This would be a good fictional book for a social studies curriculum, has some historical references to the Negro Leagues, Jackie Robinson, and Korean War. I enjoy the character development, although I wish it would have included more depth to the characters. I will definitely be purchasing this book for my fourth grade classroom and encouraging some reluctant readers who may have an interest in baseball.

NetGalley Review
Sara Churchill (Librarian)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is a really interesting book, especially for sports fans. It has a blend of sports, mystery, and the supernatural. I think my intermediate schoolers will love the the mix of genres. Though we weren't expecting the supernatural part, and my younger son (a timid reader) was a little unnerved by it. I would make sure that students are aware there is a supernatural aspect to this book because you certainly can't tell it from book description. This will definitely go on my to-order list for next year!

Kirkus Reviews

"Two young baseball buffs stumble onto a mysterious occurrence at a minor league baseball stadium in Clark’s (Center Point, 2013, etc.) novel.

Fans of baseball history will recall the...

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ISBN 9780991364626
PRICE $9.95 (USD)

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