Hobie Shank, a teenage orphan now living on the rails, returns to the Waltons where he spent a summer a few years back. Well-meaning but occasionally overbearing, he rubs John-Boy the wrong way, not helped by his popularity with the Walton girls, and with John-Boy’s girlfriend in particular. John Walton allows the boy to stay until his tryout as a pitcher for a professional baseball team.
After a rocky start, the tryout lands Hobie a contract, boosting his ego even more. When John suggests he return to his orphanage to visit his old friends, he begrudgingly accepts, and loathes every minute of it. Fate steps in when Hobie breaks his arms after falling from a tree; his contract is cancelled, and, after wallowing in self-pity, he comes to realize that his pipe-dream of pitching was his only way of escaping his past and achieving self-esteem. He gives in to participating in the baseball game the Waltons had planned to get him out of his depression, and accepts a job for athletic director at the orphanage.
Baseball, the biggest American sport of the 1930s, finally makes an appearance here, and it’s well-used in this charming fable of the line between dreams and reality – compromise. John-Boy, for a change, plays petulance well (that’s what you get when you make fun of his writing career) and Mary Ellen, again, gets a dreamy crush on another male visitor, prompting the best line of the episode, “When are you going to stop calling everything in pants handsome?” spoken by Grandma.