“Ball three!” The umpire yelled. Several claps erupted from the crowd- the away team’s fans. Wiping my brow while shifting my weight right to left, my eyes fell on the base runners on first and second.
One out. A runner already brought in on a bullshit bloop single to center, and I’m one pitch away from loading the bases.
I scanned the crowd- Charity isn’t sitting in her usual spot. Might be due to the baby showing and didn’t want to attract unnecessary attention. Don’t blame her. High school kids love to talk.
Marshal threw the sign down, I nodded. The wind-up. The pitch. “Striiiiiike one!” The batter never swung. Marshal called the same pitch. The wind-up. The pitch. Fouled deep into the left field stands which is only grass.
Despite there being one out the runners will be going- standard full count etiquette. Winding up out of the stretch the slider tailed low with the batter still getting enough on it to raise it over my head and into center field for a base hit. The runner from first was held at second while the lead runner managed to score.
The lead was dwindling quickly. My head was racing, focusing on everything but the game. Turning back to face the next batter I hadn’t known Marshal had trotted over to the mound until his hand patted a shoulder.
“Chase, man, you alright? You seem distracted.”
“Yea. I’m fine.”
Marshal flashed a look that told me he was anything but convinced. Nevertheless, he shook his head while saying “what do you think- straight fastballs on this guy?”
“Yea. He fell for them last time. He’s struggling, too.”
Hopefully that doesn’t backfire, I thought as Marshal trotted back behind the plate and then squatted down.
He flashed the sign- I took it. Strike one called. Same pitch, different location. Ball one. Curveball low and in. Strike two. Another curve- fouled away. Fastball, high and away. Strike three. Two outs with the top of the order back up.
One of the first things dad taught me about pitching was to never begin an at-bat with a curveball or any breaking pitch really. I broke the rule against this guy and it began a short rally. Marshal flashed a slider- a breaking pitch- and I took it. The wind-up. The pitch. Foul tipped into Marshal’s glove. Lucky break; the swing was one determined to find the fences. Fastball, middle and in. Ball one.
My pitch count climbed to sixty on that pitch and it’s only the fifth inning. Either way this is my last inning.
Slider, low and in. The wind-up. The pitch. The bat connected with the ball sending it high and deep, with Todd and Kendrick after it. Kendrick beat him to it with a stretching leap onto the grass causing him to tumble with the ball in his glove’s webbing. He rolled and then stood up in a fluid motion holding the glove in the air signifying he had caught it. The umpire accepted; inning over.
Relief washed over me as I trotted back into the dugout high fiving my teammates. Coach Tilden patted me on the shoulder and said, “how do you feel Davenport?”
“I feel good, sir. Good enough to pitch another few.” He could tell I was lying but another rule dad taught me was to bait the coach on. They liked knowing their players wanted to grind it out for them, even if he was getting washed out.
“Good son, but why don’t you go hit the showers. Call it a night.”
I shook my head. We shook hands. The team patted me on the back as I made my way inside to shower and change.
Vibration in my pocket. Stopping at the corner I pulled the phone out and read it. “Dude, you good? Ya seemed out of it out there.” Todd said.
“Yea. I kinda wasn’t all there, mentally I mean. Lot of stuff on my mind.”
Light changed, I began walking up the block. The next corner I felt my phone vibrate again. “You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” Todd said. The light hadn’t changed but no cars were in sight so I crossed, making my way to the train station. Retrieving the phone I responded, “when I sort things out I’ll fill you in. Can’t talk- heading underground.”
Now above ground I checked my phone; Todd had not responded. Placing the phone back into my pocket I rang the buzzer for Charity’s apartment to which she let me in a minute later and was waiting for me in front of the elevator on her floor.
We kissed. “How was your game bubbie?” Her face flushed and sweaty. Her stomach had grown more from the last time I came over. She was still skinny everywhere else however.
“We won. I got the W, but didn’t deserve it. Pitched horribly.” I took her hand while we walked to her apartment.
“Even on your bad days you’re still an ace.” She said, closing the door behind me.
“You should have seen how bad my pitches were. I’m surprised I didn’t get hammered.”
“You must be exaggerating.”
“Why would I- oh, hey Belinda.”
Charity’s closest friend sat on one end of the couch reading something on her phone but got up upon my recognition of her.
“Hi Chase.” Belinda keyed a button on the side of the phone while standing up, then placing it in her back pocket. “Well since he’s here I’ll be heading home now.”
“You don’t ha- was I interrupting something?”
“Not at all. I just came to keep Charity company. So long.”
Before I could blink Belinda grabbed her things, gave Charity a hug, and was out the door.
“Is everything alright?” I said, taking a seat on the arm of the couch.
“Yea. She just came by to keep me company. I went to the doctor’s office earlier.”
“Is the baby okay?” I said, not realizing I had sprung to my feet until Charity’s hand was on my cheek.
“The baby is fine. This was a routine checkup. I asked Belinda to come with me.”
I crossed my eyebrows. “Why didn’t you want me to go?”
“Because I knew you’d be starting and didn’t want you missing it.”
“To hell with that- I’d miss all my starts for the baby if I had to.”
“Chase don’t be silly.”
“I’m being silly?”
I sat back on the couch arm, perplexed. Crossing my arms I said, “elaborate.”
“Don’t make a big deal about this. It was one appointment. There will be many until the baby is born.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Charity. Don’t shut me out. This is a team effort. I refuse to not be there, even if you think it isn’t necessary.”
“I can’t allow you to miss starts. You need to get a scholarship so you can get out of here and go to the majors.”
My eyes widened. “What?!”
“Don’t you wanna play pro ball?”
“I mean, the thought had crossed my mind. But-”
“Then it’s settled.” She said, walking over and planting a kiss on the tip of my nose. She then began making her way towards the back of the apartment where her room is.
I followed her.
In the middle of the room, arms folded at the chest, I said “we’re not through discussing this.”
“What more needs to be said?”
“Where’s this sudden interest in my going to the majors coming from?”
“I don’t know- Belinda, myself, and a couple other girls think it makes the most sense since I know you’ll make it.”
“Whoa whoa whoa. Wait a second. You talk to people about me?”
“Nothing bad Chase, just-”
“I haven’t told a soul about what’s been going on and it’s been eating me alive. Yet here you are gossiping to the world about my life.”
“I would hardly call it gossiping, but-”
“How many people know?”
“That I’m pregnant? Kinda hard to hide it at this point.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t talked to Todd about this.”
“Why does that surprise you? You know what those people are like. Them knowing about my past without a word from me would not surprise me in the least.”
“C’mon Chase they’re a bunch of silver spoon brown nosers. I hardly think they’d care enough to dig into your life.”
“Not from where I’m standing. So, who knows?”
“A few. Couple girls from class, and Belinda of course. Few people don’t even socialize with me anymore. Like this one guy in my Design class. I think he liked me but, I don’t know, I guess the baby scared him away.”
“Good. Bastard shouldn’t be trying to put the moves on my girl.”
Did I just say that out loud? I never display jealousy. What’s gotten into me? I snapped back to reality as I watched Charity laugh.
“The hell is so funny?”
She walked over and kissed me, wrapping her arms around my neck. “You’re the sexiest boy in the world, bubbie.”
“This is not the time to bait me, Charity. Who do you think you are trying to decide my future?”
“Take a chill pill Jasmine.”
“How can you be so calm and jokey?”
“How can you be so emotional?”
“Did it ever occur to you that, I don’t know, maybe I might not wanna play pro ball? That I might not even have an idea on what I want to do with the rest of my life? I mean, look what I came from. Doesn’t that scare you- even a little bit?”
Charity tightened her grip around my neck, holding me closer. “I worry about lots of things now. Things I didn’t even think about a few months ago. But I know one thing- I love you, Chase. I believe in you. You’ll do the right thing no matter what. Know why? Because of where you came from.”
Laying my head on her shoulder, I broke down and didn’t stop for a long time.
“Even with the money mom and dad are willing to give us I still find myself restless some nights scared that we’ll never be able to provide for our baby.”
“We’ll come up with a solution together, and play it by ear when the situation calls for it.”
“I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
At that, Charity lost it. I then joined in moments later until passing out in her arms laying on her bed.