Big Leagues ($14.95, 274 pp., ISBN: 978-1-60381-870-4), by Jen Estes, is a mystery featuring a female sportswriter who doesn’t realize her exciting new high-profile job is fraught with danger. Big Leagues is the first book of a new series featuring sportswriter Cat McDaniel.
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“Jen Estes has hit it out of the park with her first mystery!”
—Shelley Glodowski, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review/MBR Bookwatch
“If you want to know what really goes on behind the scenes in baseball, and also be entertained by a wickedly funny, juicy mystery, Big Leagues is your ticket to the ballpark. Cat is the kind of character you’ll want to see a lot more of. She’s brilliant but flawed, awkward yet graceful, strong but endearingly vulnerable. I rooted for her, feared for her and in the end fell in love with her. As a sportswriter who covered the Yanks and Mets for 19 years, I can say without question Jen Estes covers all the bases in showing fans a world they never get to see. She throws high hard ones at players, flaks and front office big wigs—and it all rings true. I can’t wait to see what Jen Estes has on deck for us in the next book in this series. Big Leagues is a walk-off home run!”
— Nat Gottlieb, Reporter, HBO Sports
“Jen Estes hits a scorching home run with her debut novel, Big Leagues, and proves baseball isn’t the nation’s only pastime. So are corporate greed, blind ambition, conspiracy and murder. Readers will cheer plucky hero, Cat McDaniel, as she risks her career and her life, determined to maintain the integrity of the game she loves and unravel a web of mystery and deceit through the final pulse pounding pages.”
—Michael Murphy, Mystery/Suspense Novelist
Rookie sportswriter Catriona McDaniel is on deck in Sin City for the job of a lifetime with baseball’s hottest team. The Las Vegas Chips have the best record in baseball, snagging two trophies in their first three years. Two men are vying for the position of “boyfriend of summer.” Her new boss, Erich König, is a German wunderkind and the Desert’s most eligible bachelor. Then there’s her neighbor—a biology professor whose fetal pigs know more about baseball than he does. Not all the men admire Cat. As the team’s junior reporter, Dusty Carlyle was on-deck for her position. Now he’s desperate to get her out of the lineup. Save for the scheming coworker, Cat has everything she ever wanted … until a star outfielder’s heart stops. Suspecting that his death was no accident, she starts nosing around, becoming the newest player in an extreme game of hardball. Will Cat become the next member of the team to be taken out of the lineup?
Says Estes, “Why do I love baseball? The heartwarming stories, the behind-the-scenes gossip, and the journey from Opening Day to the trophy. The idea for this series came to me in the offseason. As usual, my Cubs’ season had ended sooner than the fans wanted and I was staring at my bookshelf, looking for something to fill my afternoons. I’m a mystery lover as much as a baseball fan, and it dawned on me that not many novels combine the two. So, instead of reading a book, I wrote one. As far as plotlines go, I didn’t have to look far for inspiration: every season the scandals come to us.”
Born and raised in Illinois, Jen Estes started her writing career as a baseball blogger in 2007 and expanded to freelance sports writing in 2009. She is an active member of the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), Springfield Poets & Writers and the National Writers Union (NWU). Big Leagues is Jen’s debut novel and the first in a three-book series featuring sassy sports writer Cat McDaniel. When she isn’t writing, Jen enjoys running, yoga, traveling and watching baseball with her husband and cat. You can find Jen on the net at www.jenestes.com and on Twitter @jenestesdotcom.
Big Leagues is available in Kindle ($4.95) and paperback editions on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon Japan, and at select Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram, Baker & Taylor or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Other electronic versions will be for sale on Smashwords, BN.com, Google Ebooks or at any of the major online ebook stores.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
She thumbed through the package Lynette had sent her. The guard in the booth opened his window and smiled, revealing a pair of stained dentures. “What can I do for you, little lady?”
“Uh, hi there. I’ve got a parking pass in here somewhere, just a sec.”
“Oh! You must be our new reporter. You certainly are a lot prettier.” His face fell. “Sure was awful what happened to the last one, a damn shame. You don’t even listen to the rumors, you hear me?”
“Oka— Wait, what rumors?”
He waved his hand nonchalantly. “People like to stir up trouble. Got nothing better to do than turn a tragedy into a scandal. Maybe it helps them cope, I don’t know. But you don’t mind them none, just do your job and I’m sure you’ll be fine here.”
“Oh uh, okay.”
His face lightened up. “Now I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. McDaniel something, wasn’t it?”
Cat returned his kind smile. “Uh-huh. I’m Catriona McDaniel. I just got into town, and I was kinda anxious to see my new office. Is that okay?”
The corners of his eyes crinkled again. “Of course, dearie. You can park anywhere in the lot. Do you know where you’re going?”
Cat blushed. “Not really.”
“Well, don’t fret none. That’s what I’m here for. Now what you’re gonna wanna do is go through those doors right there.” He pointed to a set of double steel doors. “Now those don’t open without a key code. You have to punch in your employee number before they’ll unlock. Did they give you your employee number yet?”
“Uh …” Cat fumbled through her pile of paperwork. “Ah, here we go.”
He nodded. “Okay, good. Punch that in the keypad; then you’ll hear the door unlock. Follow the tunnel on through ’til you get to a hallway. You’ll go past, oh gee, I believe it’s four doors. They’re labeled ‘groundskeeper,’ ‘maintenance’ and so on. I’m sure you know the drill.”
He stopped. She nodded confirmation, and he smiled.
“Then you’ll come to the hallway. There’s a set of elevators to the left, just before the clubhouse and player areas. Take the elevator up to the fourth floor. That’s where you’ll find your office.”
“Thank you so much, Mr., uh …”
“Oh, dearie, you can call me Winston.”
“Winston. Nice to meet you.”
He hit a button in his booth and the striped gate lifted. They exchanged a wave as she passed through.
The elevator doors opened with an echoing ding. Cat gingerly stepped into the fourth floor lobby. The lights were off and there wasn’t a single person in sight.
Okay, kinda creepy.
Her frazzled nerves welcomed the quiet, albeit ominous, calm of the vacant department. She strolled down the corridor and eyed the various cubicles and desks. Each space was stacked with papers and decorated with photos of loving spouses, adorable kids and happy pets. As she stepped into the back corner of the floor, her eyes were riveted to the nameplate on the mahogany door.
Catriona McDaniel, Senior Reporter.
A small smile formed on her lips, and she brought her fingers up to the door to caress the polished brass.
My own office? I’ve never even had my own cubicle before.
Truthfully, she’d written most of her Bulldogs articles at home in her pajamas with John Fogerty blaring in the background, but Cat wasn’t about to turn down a corner office. Her fingers squeezed the doorknob. Fumes of fresh paint emanated from the beige walls. She forgot about the chemical stink and dull shade of paint when she spotted the splendor on the right wall—a window with a view of the field. The possibilities that window presented flooded into her mind.
No more guessing if the sluggers have started batting practice, wondering if the team is sporting their alternate uniforms, questioning if the seats are filling up or debating if we’re looking at a rain delay.
She watched the grounds crew tending to an extensive irrigation system in the outfield.
I guess that last one probably won’t be an issue.
“Boy you don’t waste any time, do ya?”
Cat shot up three inches and spun around at the sound of the voice booming behind her. A tall man with thick glasses framing a set of glowering brown eyes stood in the doorway. He crossed his skinny arms and gaped at her. She squinted through the faint daylight in the office and attempted to place his familiar face.
“Dustin Carlyle. Junior reporter.” He laced the junior with thick contempt, as though Cat had just carved the word into the rusty blade of a dagger and shoved it between his shoulder blades. His snotty tone triggered memories of their first meeting.
She cleared her throat. “Y-yeah. I believe we’ve met before.”
He ignored her. “If you’re wondering why there’s no welcome wagon waiting for you, the reason would be because everyone’s at Brad Derhoff’s wake.”
Her mouth formed a silent “oh.” She should have known there weren’t many reasons for an entire office to be empty at four o’clock in the afternoon on a gameday. That the reason might be Brad’s wake hadn’t even occurred to her. Suddenly she felt very much like the vulture Dustin was implying she was. Cat knew nothing about the deceased reporter, other than the impressive credentials listed in the team’s media guide. She’d met Brad Derhoff only once at the beginning of the season and he’d treated her, along with the rest of the minor league staff, with the same condescension affected by every other visitor from the Las Vegas team. Cat had excused his superior attitude since, given his status with the team, he was indeed superior.
“He’s a real reporter,” she’d prattled to Tamela after Brad turned up his nose at their break room coffee pot and requested that she fetch him a caramel macchiato.
Tamela was unimpressed by anyone from the parent club, unless his signature appeared on her weekly paycheck. “So are you.”
No. I’m just taking a break from slinging hot dogs.
Back then, Cat couldn’t have fathomed that the ace reporter might have been dealing with his own inadequacies too; that was shockingly clear now. Her eyes registered their concern for the sneering coworker in her new office.
“Uh, I’m sorry for your loss. Were you and Brad close?”
Dustin raised an eyebrow. “Close? Well, let’s see, Derhoff and I have been a team since the franchise formed. Worked together every day, side by side. I saw him as my mentor, and he was grooming me to one day fill his shoes as senior reporter. Guess he overlooked a minor league reporter with a whopping eight months of tenure. You never know. Since apparently Erich König likes to promote from below—er, I mean, within—maybe they’ll ask me to be general manager instead.”
Cat clenched her jaw upon hearing his insinuation. She got the message. Dustin was the veteran pitcher and she was a rookie slugger crowding his plate.