The capital catch, p.1

The Capital Catch, page 1


The Capital Catch

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The Capital Catch

  Also by David A. Kelly


  #1 The Fenway Foul-Up

  #2 The Pinstripe Ghost

  #3 The L.A. Dodger

  #4 The Astro Outlaw

  #5 The All-Star Joker

  #6 The Wrigley Riddle

  #7 The San Francisco Splash

  #8 The Missing Marlin

  #9 The Philly Fake

  #10 The Rookie Blue Jay

  #11 The Tiger Troubles

  #12 The Rangers Rustlers

  SUPER SPECIAL #1 The World Series Curse


  #1 The Gold Medal Mess

  #2 The Soccer Surprise

  #3 The Football Fumble

  #4 The Basketball Blowout

  Babe Ruth and the Baseball Curse

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Text copyright © 2017 by David A. Kelly

  Cover art and interior illustrations copyright © 2017 by Mark Meyers

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

  Random House and the colophon are registered trademarks and A Stepping Stone Book and the colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC. Ballpark Mysteries® is a registered trademark of Upside Research, Inc.

  Visit us on the Web!

  Educators and librarians, for a variety of teaching tools, visit us at RHTeachers­

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

  Ebook ISBN 9780399551918 — Trade Paperback ISBN 9780399551895

  This book has been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System.

  Random House Children’s Books supports the First Amendment and celebrates the right to read.



  This book is dedicated to my best friend and college roommate, Waleed Abdalati, with whom I have explored many places over the years, including Washington, D.C.


  To Paul & Betty, thank you for all the support!


  “You can’t hit what you can’t see.”

  —Walter “The Big Train” Johnson,

  Hall of Fame pitcher for the Washington Senators, 1907–1927



  Also by David A. Kelly

  Title Page




  Chapter 1 A Surprise Catch

  Chapter 2 A Presidential Secret

  Chapter 3 No Problem Here

  Chapter 4 The Chase

  Chapter 5 A Big Loss

  Chapter 6 Caught!

  Chapter 7 A Surprising Discovery

  Chapter 8 An Interesting Store

  Chapter 9 A Capital Catch

  Chapter 10 A Presidential Surprise

  Dugout Notes Nationals Park

  “Who wants to meet the president of the United States?” the Secret Service agent asked.

  Mike Walsh and his cousin Kate Hopkins raised their hands and jumped up and down. They were standing outside the gates to the White House in Washington, D.C., waiting for a tour.

  “We do! We do!” Kate called out. Her brown ponytail bounced as she jumped.

  The Secret Service agent guarding the entrance smiled and shook her head. “Sorry,” she said. “I’m just seeing who’s paying attention. Unfortunately, you don’t get to meet the president on a White House tour. But you will see where he lives!”

  “Drat!” Mike said. He tossed a worn baseball from hand to hand. “That would have been so cool. Maybe the president would have signed my baseball!”

  “Maybe you can get an autograph from a player at tonight’s game,” Mrs. Hopkins said.

  Mike and Kate had come to Washington, D.C., from their home in Cooperstown, New York, the day before with Kate’s mother, Mrs. Hopkins. Kate’s mom was a sports reporter for American Sportz. She had brought them down to see two games between the Washington Nationals and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and to take a tour of the Nationals stadium. The first baseball game was that night, but they were spending the day sightseeing. They were starting with a tour of the White House.

  The Secret Service agent whistled loudly. “Okay, everyone line up,” she said. The tour group gathered against the black iron fence outside the White House. A different Secret Service agent checked bags and asked people their names.

  “Boy, I’m glad we’re not bringing D.C.’s baseball team with us on the tour,” Mike whispered to Kate as they approached the checkpoint.

  “Why?” Kate asked.

  “Because the Secret Service agents probably wouldn’t let them in!” Mike said. “D.C.’s baseball team has moved and changed its name so many times over the years that the Secret Service would be suspicious. The team started as the Washington Senators, but when they moved to Minnesota, they became the Minnesota Twins. There was a second Washington Senators team, but that one moved to Texas and became the Texas Rangers. After that, Washington, D.C., didn’t have a team for over thirty years! Then the Montreal Expos moved to D.C. in 2005 to become the Washington Nationals.”

  “Whew!” Kate said. “That’s a lot of different teams and names. Hopefully you can at least remember your name when we get to the checkpoint!”

  A few minutes later, Mike, Kate, Mrs. Hopkins, and the rest of the tour group were standing inside the White House. As they moved to the first room, Mike showed Kate the baseball he had snuck in. “Keep an eye out for the president,” he whispered. “If I spot him, I’m going to ask him to sign my ball!”

  Kate brushed him off. “You haven’t got a chance,” she said. “I’ll bet President Diaz is off traveling or meeting with Congress.”

  Mike shook his head. “I think he’s here,” he said.

  “Well, at least we’ll see his brother, Chip, at the game tonight,” Kate said. Chip Diaz was the president’s younger brother. He was the catcher for the Washington Nationals and was one of the fans’ favorite players.

  Mike tossed the ball into his other hand. “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said. “If I get Chip’s autograph, at least I’ll have the president’s last name on my ball!”

  The tour group walked down a long hallway. As they walked, Kate pointed to the paintings of past presidents on the walls. “Hey, don’t forget there are going to be lots of presidents at the Nationals’ baseball game,” she said. “Maybe one of them could sign your ball.”

  Mike’s eyes opened wide. “Good idea!” he said. “I forgot about the racing presidents!” During each Nationals home game, mascots dressed as presidents—such as Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson—raced through the ballpark. The mascots wore old-fashioned clothes and had huge foam heads. They looked really silly, and the fans loved them.

  The next stop on the tour was a big room with fancy curtains and lots of antiques. The walls and furniture were all bright red. “This is called the Red Room,” the tour guide said. “It’s been used as a music room, as a living room, for small dinner parties, and more.”

  Mike, Kate, and the rest of the tour group explored the room. Mike headed for a doorway that was blocked off with a red velvet rope.

  “I’m afraid that’s off-limits,” the tour guide said when she spotted Mike near the rope.

  Mike nodded and stepped away. He walked over to Kate and nudged her. “Hey, what if we stay behind and play catch in here?”
he asked. “Then we could say we’ve played baseball in the White House!”

  Kate shook her head. “You’re crazy! We’d get thrown out!” she said.

  A few minutes later, as the tour group continued on to the next room, Mike lingered behind. When the room was empty, he pretended to play a baseball game by himself. Mike wound up to pitch his ball. Instead of throwing it, though, he held it at eye level and ran from one side of the room to the other. Then he swung a pretend bat to make a hit. But as he twisted his wrists, the baseball slid out of his hands.

  Mike gasped. The ball bounced on the rug. It rolled under a red velvet rope that stretched across an open doorway, then disappeared.

  Mike froze.

  No alarms went off. Mike could hear the tour guide in the next room talking about a piece of furniture. He tiptoed forward to look for his ball.

  When he got to the doorway, he dropped down to his hands and knees to crawl under the red velvet rope.

  “HALT RIGHT NOW!” called a voice.

  A Secret Service agent stepped in front of Mike. “You can’t do that,” she said. “This room is off-limits!”

  Mike crawled backward and then stood. His cheeks blushed bright red and his freckles stood out. “Um, sorry,” he said. “I was just trying to get my baseball.”

  The agent waved Mike along. “You’ll have to catch up with your tour group,” she said.

  Mike tried to peek around the agent to look for his ball, but he couldn’t spot it. The agent took a step forward. “You need to leave now,” she said in a flat tone of voice.

  Mike’s shoulders slumped. He turned to go, walking slowly toward the tour guide’s voice in the next room. But before Mike had gone more than a few steps, there was a soft voice from behind him.

  “Excuse me,” said the voice. “Is this yours?”

  Mike turned around. His jaw dropped.

  The president of the United States was holding Mike’s baseball!

  President Diaz was standing in front of the security guard who had just shooed Mike away. The president had jet-black hair and big brown eyes. He held Mike’s baseball in his hand.

  Mike nodded. “Uh, yes, Mr. President, that’s mine,” he said.

  President Diaz tossed the baseball. Mike held up his hands and caught it easily.

  “Nice catch!” the president said. “You should play for the Washington Nationals!”

  Mike smiled. “I don’t think I’m old enough for that yet, sir,” he said. “But my cousin Kate and I are going to the Nationals game tonight! We’re going to try to get your brother’s autograph. But I’d really like to get yours! Would you sign my baseball?”

  “Sure,” the president said. “Do you have a pen?” He walked across the room to Mike.

  Mike nodded. He fumbled to get his pen out of his back pocket. The security guard took a few steps closer and watched Mike closely.

  President Diaz signed a big President Diaz on the ball’s sweet spot. He handed the ball back to Mike. Then he leaned over and asked, “Do you want to know a secret?”

  Mike nodded eagerly.

  “You have to promise not to tell,” the president said.

  Mike held up his left hand. “I promise!” he said. “My cousin Kate and I are detectives, so we’re really good at keeping secrets and solving mysteries.”

  The president’s right eyebrow went up a little bit. “Detectives?” he said. He thought for a moment. “That’s very interesting, because I know someone who could use a good detective.”

  “Really?” Mike asked. “Kate and I have solved a lot of baseball mysteries.”

  President Diaz tapped his foot a few times. “I need you to help my brother, Chip. Someone’s stealing his equipment, and it is interfering with his game. If he doesn’t start playing better, his coach may send him back to the minors,” the president said. “I think he’s having trouble because someone’s stolen his batting gloves, a hat, his travel bag, and a bunch of other stuff. Maybe you and Kate can stop by the Nationals’ clubhouse before the game to investigate. I’ll tell him you’re coming.”

  President Diaz pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. He wrote down a number and handed it to Mike. “Here’s a phone number where you can reach my secretary,” he said.

  Mike nodded. “Kate and I will do our best,” he said. He tucked the paper in his pocket. Then he looked at his baseball. “Hey,” he said. “Maybe I’ll also be able to get your brother’s signature on my ball right next to yours!”

  The president laughed. “That’s a good idea,” he said. “But I still have to tell you my secret.” He bent over and whispered something in Mike’s ear.

  Mike’s eyes grew wide. “Really?” he asked. The president nodded. “That’s cool! I’m going to make sure to get a picture of it!”

  President Diaz glanced at the security guard standing next to him. “Remember, you promised not to tell anyone!” he said. “It’s time for me to get back to work. And you need to get back to the tour.”

  The president waved goodbye and disappeared around the corner.


  Later that afternoon, Mike and Kate stepped up to the door of the Washington Nationals’ clubhouse. Mrs. Hopkins had taken them to the stadium early for the game. Kate’s mother went up to the pressroom to work. But she had gotten special all-access passes for Mike and Kate to explore Nationals Park. They were using them to go to the clubhouse to see President Diaz’s brother.

  Mike and Kate showed the security guard their passes. After he opened the door and waved them in, Kate asked where they could find Chip.

  “Right over there,” the guard said. He pointed to a locker on the other side of the room. “I don’t know where he is right now, but he should be back shortly.”

  The clubhouse was buzzing with activity. It was still a couple of hours before game time. The players were starting to get ready. Workers were bringing in equipment and supplies. An electrician, wearing a yellow safety hat, was standing on a ladder fixing one of the TVs. And a bald man in a dark blue suit and red tie stood in the far corner. He was reading a newspaper.

  “Look at this!” Mike said when they reached Chip’s locker. Chip’s catcher’s mask hung on the side of the locker. Mike slipped it off the hook and put it on. It was hard to see Mike’s face behind all the black bars. He turned to show Kate.

  “¡Estás loco!” Kate said. She was learning Spanish. She liked to use it whenever she could. “You’re crazy! Take that off. We’re supposed to be helping Chip, not playing with his stuff!”

  “Yeah, but we’re supposed to catch a thief, remember?” Mike said. “Get it? Catch a thief?”

  Kate groaned. “Yes, Mike,” she said. “But you’re going to catch some trouble if you don’t get that off now!” She pointed across the room. “There he is!”

  Chip Diaz was crossing the clubhouse floor with a man in a red polo shirt with a Nationals logo. Chip was wearing his Washington Nationals uniform. The men seemed to be in the middle of a deep conversation. And they were headed straight for Chip’s locker!

  Mike scrambled to get the catcher’s mask off, but the strap on the back got stuck.

  “Hurry up!” Kate whispered. “They’re almost here!”

  Mike tugged at the mask, but it wouldn’t come off.

  It was too late.

  Chip Diaz and his friend stopped right in front of them!

  “¡Hola!” Chip said. “Are you two the famous Kate and Mike that my brother told me about? Or is this a new catcher trying to take my spot?”

  “Sorry, I just wanted to try this on and it got stuck,” Mike said.

  Chip laughed. He leaned over and took the mask off Mike’s head. Mike let out a big sigh of relief. Chip hung the mask back up in his locker.

  “No problem. Sometimes it’s tough for me to get it off,” he said. “But now you can meet my old college friend, Andy. Andy, this is Mike and Kate. They’re friends of my brother.”

  Andy said hello and shook hands with Mike and Kate.

>   Chip clapped Andy on the back. “Andy’s one of our great tour guides here at Nationals Park.”

  “Cool! We’re taking a tour tomorrow morning,” Mike said.

  “There’s no one who knows history as well as Andy,” Chip said. “He’s the one to talk to if you want both baseball and history!”

  “Washington, D.C., is the best place in the world to learn about history,” Andy said. “When you think of it, it’s positively presidential.”

  Chip laughed. “Andy also works at the Lincoln Memorial, so if you have any tricky Abraham Lincoln questions, he’s the guy to ask,” he said.

  Mike took out his baseball. “Well then, you might like this,” he said. He handed the baseball to Andy.

  Andy’s eyes opened wide. He looked up at Mike and Kate. “Where did you get this? It’s got the president’s signature on it!” he said. “This is really rare!”

  Mike smiled. “I know,” he said. “I got it directly from the president.”

  “Do you want to sell it to me?” Andy asked. He took out a wad of bills and waved them in front of Mike. “I’ll pay top dollar for it!”

  Mike shook his head. “No thanks,” he said. Mike reached out for his baseball and took it back from Andy. Then he handed it to Chip.

  “Your brother signed my baseball this morning, when I was on the White House tour,” Mike said. “I was hoping you could sign it, too.”

  Chip nodded. “Sure. No problem,” he said.

  Mike handed him a pen. Chip signed the ball. Andy watched him eagerly. “Chip,” he said. “Can you get me a ball like that, with the president’s signature? I’d really like one.”

  “We’ll see, Andy,” Chip said. “I don’t have much time to ask my brother for signed balls. I have to stay focused on my game right now.”

  Andy nodded. “Okay. It would make a really great addition to my collection.” He checked the time. “Oops, I have to lead a stadium tour in a few minutes. Good luck tonight!” Andy waved and left the clubhouse.

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