Alex Justin is a hotshot high school baseball player with an ego to match his skills. He knows he's destined to play in the pros, but he's secretly obsessed with what he calls the Moment, when all the crucial elements of the game come together to make the perfect play possible. In his novel Getting Blue (Delacorte Press, $16.95), Peter Gethers effectively weaves a troubled and complex life around one such moment—a two-out, bases-loaded, game-saving World Series catch—and reveals some hard truths about the lives of talented athletes after their skills diminish and the applause fades away.
As Alex moves from the minor leagues to the majors, he meets the players whose achievements and failures will mirror and haunt his life. Outfielder Willie Trotty, a natural talent whose potentially brilliant career is destroyed in an episode of senseless violence, introduces Alex to the idea of "getting blue"—the development of talent to its highest level. Alex works hard at his game, but his dreams are never fully realized.
For all his early promise and virtuous living (Alex doesn't womanize, drink or take drugs), he seems destined to fill a journeyman's role with each team he's traded to. Alex's love for his family keeps him going, but when he uncharacteristically betrays his family, his life begins to slide down a confusing, tragic spiral.
After Alex suffers a career-ending injury while making the play that saves the World Series for the Yankees, his life off the field begins to fall apart at the seams. Alex must come to terms with an unwanted divorce; a final, crippling blow from his embittered brother; the shocking death of his only son; and the sharp taste of faded glory. Alex finds salvation in his friends during these dark days, and if his footing isn't altogether sure, he at least takes those first, tentative steps in the right direction to get blue.
Though there are moments when the writing doesn't quite ring true in Getting Blue, particularly in some early scenes between Alex and his wife-to-be, the book builds to a believable effect. Alex's realization that one moment of greatness is something to live through, not for, is a persuasive message. Gethers delivers this story of a perfect catch and an imperfect life like a solid, well-controlled pitch.