21 Down in Vegas: Magic in the Madness
by Steve A. Hayes
Stratton Press

"The eyes are the window to the soul, and Tommy Leach was now witness to life's most intangible force."

Millionaire Cisco Wheeler has never wanted for anything. The same can't be said for the Las Vegas Vipers, the major league baseball team he's owned since 1996. Ten years later, the Vipers are lacking team spirit and wins. Prohibitive quantities of Wheeler's money will support the team for only so long since tickets aren't selling. Then one day, watching the televised College World Series with a team from a small Ohio town, Wheeler sees the Bentley State Eagles playing baseball as it should be played, with strong cohesion and a simple love of the game. Wheeler fires nearly the entire existing team and recruits the Eagles to replace them. The fresh players' skill and passion, rarities in professional baseball, catapult ticket sales into the black. But will heady fame ruin their personal relationships? And will a disgruntled former Viper's malicious scheme to sell team memorabilia through illegal channels tarnish their collective reputation?

As he describes every play in every inning of every game in the Vipers' 2006 baseball season, there is no doubt of Hayes' devotion to America's favorite pastime. The author also readily confronts the convoluted feelings that often visit the suddenly famous. Frequent instances of name-dropping add moments of humor, as when Donald Trump declares that the reconstituted Vipers will make pro baseball great again, or when singer Wayne Newton, having once procured free tickets in exchange for singing the national anthem, repeatedly offers to perform again for more tickets until Wheeler is forced to refuse. Also prominent is the theme of the father-son bond baseball can create, as a dying man makes a final journey to Nevada to watch his son play. This novel will likely attract baseball devotees and readers who take a cynical or lighthearted view of fame and self-absorption.

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