Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 chapter 3
chapter 4 chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11
Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Take me home!

One of the Guys: A Novel

Chapter 14

I had never seen so many reporters in my life. They were lined up four deep, from the dugout up the third base line, and on the other side along the fence to home plate. Garry and I were temporarily blinded by the barrage of flash bulbs. Even Mel Joseph, with his twenty years in the majors, stood gaped mouthed when he came out of the tunnel and out on the field.

Elmo, however, displayed his usual flair for the dramatic.. He pranced, preened and posed for the throng of reporters. “Hey Babies! What's happening? Want my good side or my great side?” He preened for a nest of photographers.

“Git yer fat ass outta the way. I'm tryin’ to get a picture of the broad!” Shouted a man who would never get a civil interview from me again.

Bugsy slung an arm around me and whispered,” It’s okay, kid, we’re with you on this one.” Larry slung his arm around my other shoulder and I wrapped my arms around each of them. We smiled for a few pictures.

“We got us a real historical person here, and I'm proud to be playing today,” Bugsy said into one of the microphones held out by someone behind a wall of cameras.

“Historical or hysterical,” I asked.

“A little of both” laughed Larry. This was the show, and I guess we had to give them a show. I felt –not like I was under a microscope or in a fishbowl, those are clichés made by people who’ve never experienced a thousand cameras in their face or the heat of the spotlight on their mostly unwilling back. I felt exposed and naked, but not naked, like I was hiding, but not hiding. I felt like I was so very tiny, and everyone else was so large and they were all over me, staring at me, holding magnifying glasses over me, like I was a particularly fascinating bug on a sidewalk and they were going to narrow the beam of the sunlight and the spotlight down to the point where I would be cooked alive and they wouldn’t stop, only stare in rapt fascination, the way a child stares at the bug as it writes and dies. I guess it’s why it’s called the show; they wanted me to put on a show. I guess we gave them a little show.

One man asked if he could get a head shot of me for the scoreboard, and I obliged. I had to stand against a blue background while he fiddled with the knobs and dials on the camera. “Okay! Just a minute!” He said as he switched lenses and twisted more knobs. Sarge waved over to me, and some reporters called. “Okay, just a few more seconds,” he said as he fiddled with his flash. I saw Sarge waving impatiently. “Now . . . no.” My patience was wearing thin, and as I was about to tell Sarge I would be a few minutes, he snapped my picture.

Bugsy chuckled as I walked past. “He does that to everyone. That's so they can put the worst picture ever taken of a player up on the jumbo screen.”

“I always wondered why everyone looked so dorky in those pictures. Now it’s my turn”

A few photographers wanted me to do a few other poses, so I pretended to throw a couple of pitches. I answered a few questions to reports now a little less hostile than the day before. The questions seemed quite harmless, my game strategy—none; how I mentally prepare—by drawing on my inner reserves of strength or something, to this day I can’t recall saying that; if I thought I would win—I hope so or something equally lame. I continued for about fifteen minutes until I heard a commotion over on the visitor’s side. I looked over my shoulder. I waved Paul over. I thought it best if I took care of him immediately and get it over with. He came trotting over, Suzy appeared from somewhere, with CJ hustling quickly behind her.

We waited while more reporters ran over, some tripping over their wires. When they settled into place, Paul spoke. “I assume you have all heard the rumours that have been circulating. Last night Annie and I discussed our future, and whether that included marriage, but we mutually decided to put our plans on hold for a now, while Annie pursues her dream of becoming a major league pitcher. I can't ask Annie to give up her dream just for me.”

“So you just turned him down cold?”

I shook my head and stared directly into one of the cameras; whether it was the correct one, I had no way of knowing. “No, it's like he said, we reached a mutual agreement.”

“So you're not gonna get married?”

“That's what we just said,” replied Paul with a sigh. Why do reporters do that? You tell them something, and then they ask you a question that the only response is what you just said. Do they have trouble understanding plain English?

“So what is in your future then?”

My turn to sigh. “Like we said: baseball! Someday I’m going to play here full time all the time and I can’t do that if I’m distracted by anything…and that includes romantic relationships.”

“So baseball is more important than marriage? Is that a good message to send to your fans?”

"I doubt any MALE player has ever been asked that so I’m not responding.” I didn’t need to get angry like this, not before such a big and important game.

“Hey, it was OUR decision!” Paul cut in -his voice rising in pitch. “We arrived at it together, and I wholeheartedly agree, baseball is more important at this point and it sends out a positive message to all our fans and that message is don’t sacrifice your dreams for anything!”

The reporters went silent for a moment and we could all hear Sarge calling me. Suzy and C.J. moved most of the horde of reporters along. Suzy answered the questions of the more persistent ones.

When I got to Sarge he handed me a clipboard with the names of all the Tigers, and notes on their hitting styles, along with the charts of the past two games.

“Got some quick homework for you. Take a look at this, you'll get an idea of what you're up against. Should of given it to you yesterday, but things have been a freaking nut house this weekend. Although from what I hear, you already know how to get to the Tigers biggest hitter.”

“Yeah, I just bat my eyelashes and blow a little kiss and he melts like butter.”

“Can I quote you on that?” Called a man in a sports network jacket, standing at the top of the dugout stairs.

“Sure, but check with Paul first.”

“I'm not going to ask Paul that! He'll kill me!”

“Well, you have your answer.”

George and Sarge laughed. George introduced him. “Annie, this is Andy, the radio play by play guy, I’m sure you heard him in the clubhouse radio. He’s one of the good ones. He knows the code, he’s one of the guys.” I shook his hand. He had brown hair speckled with white, tanned skin, brown eyes and leathery hands. “Nice to meet you.”

“Yeah, I’ve been talking about you so much this year and it’s nice to know there’s a real person behind the stats and stories.”

“You have? What have you been saying?”

“Just about your record in the Birds. I played with Garry years ago; I hear you gave him fifty fits when you joined. My daughter adores you and has pictures of you in her room. Well I gotta go…preproduction meetings” He turned to leave. “See ya later, maybe for a post game interview.”

Yeah, maybe, I thought, my head spinning, posters of me in her room? Huh? The man who caught me yesterday trotted up to me. Sarge introduced him. “Annie, this is Tim Reynolds, he's your catcher for the game. He's one of the best.”

We shook hands and did the pleased to meet you routine. “How you feeling today?” he asked.

“Good and loose,” I answered. “It’s been a zoo here today and I seem to have a circus following me. I’m a bit nervous, but I think I can handle it.”

“I saw your boyfriend, he looks more nervous than you.” He smiled. “He’s bugging that new kid about you.”

“You mean Dean Dahmer?"

"Yeah, we've been calling him Dahmer the Bomber on account of those hits he got in his first game.”

We all laughed. “He must love that,” said George. “Remember he was pitching in Winter Gardens Florida?”

“Yes, I remember,” said Sarge. “What happened?”

George smirked. “His batting average was seven-seven-five, and so was his ERA.”

The two announcers who were covering the game for TV came up to our group. “Can I use that line?” Asked the one in the blond toupee, the cheap quality of its polyester matched only by his navy blue jacket, emblazoned with a network logo on the chest pocket.

“Sure,” answered Sarge. He put his hand on my back and held his hand out to the two men. “Jimmy, Donny, I'd like you to meet Annie Weston, the lady of the day.”

Once again I did the pleased to meet you routine. They took me to a small blank screen and lights set near by the dugout and turned the lights on me. The man with the graying moustache sat across from me and a camera was held three feet from my face. A girl crouched on the ground, holding up a microphone. The blond toupee stood beside me. “We’re here with Annie Weston, starting pitcher for today. We should see a good game today folks. I saw you at a game in Hamilton, when you were giving hell to Morrison. I was impressed. The one where you were called in with the bases loaded, and knocked down all three of your ducks in a row.”

“Yes, that was the first time I had ever been called into a situation like that.”

“One of the pitches you threw was almost a hundred miles an hour. Do you plan on doing that today?”

I laughed. “If I did, then everyone would see that I'm for real and not just a cheap publicity stunt. I feel nervous and loose, and I felt nervous and loose in that game. I can't make any promises, though.”

“Do you have a plan or strategy going into today's game?”

"Yeah. Throw a lot of strikes and hope they can't hit."

That seemed to tickle their fancy, because everyone laughed. “There's a rumour going around that you turned down a marriage proposal from Morrison. Is this true?”

You bastards don't miss a thing, do you? I thought to myself. “We had a serious discussion about the future and we decided that it would be best if I focused on my goal, and that's becoming a major league pitcher. I can't be a baseball wife and a baseball player. The first will have to wait because I may only get one chance at the other.”

“Thank you for your honesty,” he said. The lights snapped off and the microphone taken away. As I stood to leave the girl gave me an envelope. I opened it when I sat on the dugout bench. I pulled out five crisp ten dollar bills.

Dick Ross chuckled. “Fastest fifty you ever made?”

“Yeah,” I responded. “And I didn't have to take my clothes off.”

He laughed and went off to pass the story along. Tim and I went through the line up together. He was a real pro. He told me not to memorize anything, just to trust him because he used to be a Tiger and knew all the players well. He told me we could adjust to each hitter as we went along, as they adjusted to me. When we finished I could see the stands filling with people, and the names and faces of the starting pitchers displayed on the video screen and the scoreboard. My name was in lights; Annie Weston: 0-0. My face didn’t look too bad, in spite of the horrible photographer. My face was five stories high. I felt five stories high. I stared for a while. A bunch of my fans from Burlington unfurled a banner. Tim put his hand on my back. "Time to get in game shirts and warm up that arm!"

"Good idea,” said Sarge. "I'll dismiss the members of the press. See you in fifteen minutes kid."

George walked back to the locker room with me. He had his arm around my shoulder. "Well kid, this is where I find out if I've done my job. Just stay loose, and don't get too nervous. I'll be up there throwin’ every pitch right along with you."

I slung my arm around him. "Thanks George. I'm trying to think of this as just another game, but it isn't. There's so much riding on it." We were back at my cubbyhole as the remainder of the players came in to change into game clothes. Garry came up and stood beside George. "It's like my whole life has come down to this moment. Back when I was nine I told my Dad and Sid that some day I was going to pitch here and I was going to win."

Garry put his hands on my shoulders. "Annie. You have played one season in single A. No matter what happens today, it means nothing. It takes at least three years for a pitcher to be good enough just to pitch from the bullpen at this level. They're not being fair to you, and I've told them that. No matter what happens, you will be good enough to play here, maybe not today, but someday in the future. Someday, you will have a fine career up here, so don't focus your whole life on this one game. I'm not going to insult your intelligence and say it's just a game; we both know it's not. We both know what’s riding on this; you’ve been one hell of a roller coaster ride since May and this is the final corkscrew. And you’ve taken me on one hell of a roller coaster, too. This game is important, but remember; there’s more than just this game, there will be games next year, and the year after, if this is was you truly want."

I nodded to the carpet on the locker room floor. A carpeted locker room! Such luxury! "This is what I've wanted more than anything else. My family could fall into a crack in the earth, and I wouldn't care, Paul could keel over tomorrow, and it would mean nothing to me, take away my baseball, and my life would be over, there would be nothing left for me."

Others gathered around us. Their eyes were all large and bright, maybe they knew what I was going through. “I would like to say this is just another game,” said Bob, loud enough for everyone to hear. “But I know what's riding on this for you, Annie and for all of us. We are making history today, whether we want to not –that’s irrelevant. We all know what’s going on and what’s at stake here. We are all in this together, and Annie’s success or failure is not hers alone, but all of ours to share. We are all equal in this, and we have to face it like a team. A pitcher doesn’t win by herself. Again, we all know what’s at stake here and all the hidden and not so hidden agendas of those outside the clubhouse. You wouldn't believe some of the things I've had said to me today. And Garry tells me this has been going on since May for you the guys in the Birds! You know what you have to do, Annie, so do it. And remember, we're all behind you; catching the fouls, scooping up the line drives and shagging the flies. We are all on your side. Right Elmo?"

"Yeah, we’re gonna see history, we’re gonna make history—but most importantly we're gonna go out there and win," said Elmo. "We know what it takes to win. Get the ball to us, and we'll take care of things for you. Right Guys?"

There was a shout of right from everyone, and Bob told us to get dressed. I changed quickly and went out with Sarge and Tim to warm up, while the others stayed inside.

I warmed up outside the dugout, not inside. Inside felt too claustrophobic. Sammy started me off with some stretches, and I did a few of my own. I threw slowly to Tim, who knew all the right things to say to ease my nerves. The grounds crew removed the batting cages, and the pregame trumpeted from the speakers. By the time the PA announcer started the opening ceremonies, I was throwing hard. The crowd was roaring.

"Ready to tango?" asked Sarge.

"Nah," I answered, "I'd rather play ball. We can tango after the game."

A bat boy brought my jacket when I came walking toward the bench. My name was announced. The crowd roared a deafening roar, one that would have made Niagara Falls envious. I waved, and they roared louder. The place seemed beyond full, with people standing everywhere. In one section, I saw a bunch of girls wearing their hair the same as I did on the TV interview and on my date with Paul. One girl also wore a dress that looked like the one I wore on the interview. I felt my mind warping at the sight…they dressed like me? A group of kids from a Scarborough high school sung the anthem; apparently it was Scarborough day at the ballpark. Who knew? I ran on the field with the rest of the team, and the crowd roared once again.

As I threw my final warm ups to Tim, I remembered what a high school teacher had told me about crowds. He said that crowds often became a single organism or entity. He said they became imbued with a group psyche, and there were no individuals, only the single thing known as the crowd. I thought that was very true. There were over fifty thousand people there, but I didn't see their faces, they had no individuality. Some were so far away that it was impossible to even think of them as real. They looked as if they were splatters of paint on a canvas, whites and blues, reds and yellows, and those horrible green T-shirts that were the fad that year. It was like an artist couldn't take the time to finish the painting, and he just left the splatters.

The only people who I saw as individuals were Jake and Ellen, who sat behind third base. Fortunately, they weren't in my line of vision while I pitched. I would only look at them when I walked back to the dug out. I was happy; they would have been a distraction. I had more than enough distractions already.

The first batter sauntered up to the plate and I began my famous major league tradition, one that I carried on up to the day I left the game. The tradition that cost me perfect games, twice. I'm talking about the tradition where I walk the first batter in four pitches. Up to that point, I hadn't acknowledged how nervous I truly was. Now, as the next batter took his place, I had to deal with my jangled and frazzled nerves. The weekend had been overwhelming, and that was without being called on to pitch. This was almost too much. I wasn't ready, Garry was right. But, be that as it was, I had to cope with my nerves, I was here, I was pitching, the whole world was watching me, and I couldn't fall apart.

The batter was a compact person, in other words short and fat. He held the bat in a way that left no strike zone. Okay, I thought, I can't find the strike zone anyway. Tim pointed to the centre of his glove and held it down low. I wound up and threw, and the batter swung low, fouling it off his foot; making him yell, "Aw, shit!" and limp around for a few seconds. Once again Tim wanted the ball low, but this time there was no swing. I felt like saying aw shit. The count was one and one. Tim set up low and away this time, and again he didn't swing. Two and one. I could see Tim breathe out a heavy sigh. He called for a fastball, this time high, head high. I threw, and the dude ducked. A drawn out OOOOOO came from the crowd. The Tigers bench sat up, suddenly taking notice. The Home plate umpire lifted his mask and glared at me. He put it back in place as the batter got back into position.

"Hey bitch," called the batter. I said nothing. "Bitch! I'm talking to you." He swung his bat around his head as he returned into position. "Dirk Grant was my buddy. We was best buds"

My world suddenly heaved out from under me. I didn't want to hear this.

He held up his bat, over his head, like he was about to club something to death. "Dirk was my buddy and you fucked him around. We all agreed to fuck you around. We all agreed. Even your fucking boyfriend agreed."

My head spun and I felt like throwing up. My next two pitches were out of control. The batter walked to first slowly, shouting more obscenities. Paul was standing on the top stair of his dugout, his mouth drawn into a tight straight line. He seemed more like a stranger than the man who asked me to marry him. “I should have hit you in the fucking head!” I shouted. Tim ran up to me, leading me back to the mound.

"Was that the guy who-- who-- assaulted you?"

I nodded weakly. I heard John Gregory's name called. "I've pitched to him before."

"How'd you do?"

"Six hits," I responded. "I hit him six times."

He trotted back to the plate chuckling under his breath. He pulled his mask back into place and crouched into position. I threw my best sinking ball, and he couldn't hold back; he never could, not even back then. He swung with every ounce he had, and got nothing but air. That made a few people cheer. Tim called for another, and he grounded the ball to second. No one covered second, so the fielder set up to throw to first for the for the fielders choice. He briefly bobbled the ball, and Gregory slid under the tag. That loaded the bases. I wanted to find a nice little hole and crawl into it.

Paul's name was announced, and the crowd went a little crazy. Instead of his face and statistics, the Scoreboard ran a picture of Paul and I standing in front of the limo, from last night. The scoreboard behind home plate then flashed that Paul was 0 15 against me. I could hear calls of easy out, from my bench and the crowd.

I immediately fell behind three and oh. My big shot at the show was turning into a disaster. I couldn't stay focused, and I was starting to panic. I tried to put thoughts of Dirk the jerk, of the crowds, of Paul, of everything, out of my mind. My hands were shaking so bad that I almost dropped the ball when Tim tossed it back to the mound. Bob came running up to the mound, with the Sarge following close behind. I began pacing around the mound like a caged animal. Bob put his hands on my shoulder to stop me. Tim put his hand on my back. Dean stood close, but didn’t come up to the mound. Paul turned his attention to the dugout.

"Take a deep breath and calm down," said Sarge.

I took a deep breath and hoped it didn't sound like a sob. My eyes burned and stung. Bob gave my shoulder a squeeze.

"Good. Keep breathing deeply and throw like you did yesterday in the bullpen. Hard fast, aim for the middle, let the ball's natural movement carry it. Pitch on your terms, not theirs. If they're not going to swing, then they'll have to pay. Don't get cute. You're hard enough to hit without getting fine and fancy." Sarge looked at Tim as he said that.

Bob took his hands off my shoulder. "Ignore the crowds and the cameras. And ignore the trash talk. The only people are you, your catcher, and the batter. The only ones who matter are the one with the blue shirts, and we're all on your side."

The umpire sauntered up to the mound. "Kin ah get in on the hug fest kiddies?"

I snickered, "Sure, but I'd rather play baseball."

"So would I. Break it up." He walked back to the plate, stuck his butt towards me, and brushed off the plate. Big leagues, little leagues, bush leagues; all umpires had big butts. That was something I could relate to. That made me smile.

"Good,” Sarge sounded relieved. "Now you're relaxing. Go get them."

"I know you can do it." Bob walked away.

"Okay, hard fast lotsa movement. I think the guys would like to see that screwball." Tim patted my butt before he trotted back.

Dean, who remained silent whispered in my ear, “Strike him out for me, okay?” I looked at him and he had his little kid in trouble grin, and I felt some of that attitude pass into me. We were both little kids about to get into a whole heap of trouble. Dean gave me a quick kiss on the cheek, which brought up a prolonged “OOOOOO” from The Crowd.

Paul returned to the plate and he looked at me with large sympathetic eyes. He was feeling sorry for me. That made me mad. The big macho creep! How dare he feel sorry for me! I didn't need his sympathy. I didn't need him to save me, like he did at Ziggy's bar. The sight of him feeling so sorry for me made me pissed off, so pissed off I threw the ball as hard as I ever threw. I didn't hear the crowd’s reaction, but Paul's mouth opened and closed like a beached guppy. That was the turning point and I let out the breath I didn't know I was holding. Tim held out his glove and braced himself. I threw hard again. Paul smashed his bat against the ball, and it grounded to Dean at third. Dean stepped on the bag, threw it to second, who gunned it home, and Tim nailed the leadoff man. I threw myself out the way of the ball, and when I picked myself up I realized what happened. We got a triple play. I got my head butted and butt patted. Dean instigated a communal shoulder slugging.

"Thanks guys," I shouted as we sat on the bench. "I owe my ass to you guys."

"Oh good," crowed Dean “I've been waiting four months for a piece of your ass."

Elmo snorted Gatorade out his nose. "Man, I hope you guys are just joking."

I patted his arm. "Don't worry; we always kid around like this. It's a guy thing you know."

He shook his head. Bob waved me over, and patted my shoulder. “Good show. You pulled yourself out of a big hole."

"I couldn't have done it without the guys. A pitcher can't win the game by herself." I was excited, and bounced a ball in my hands.

"Think you can go seven?"

"Sure. Boy, I sure got pissed when I saw Paul looking so sorry for me. I should be sorry for him; he still hasn't got a hit off me. Man, from now on all the Tigers are gonna be six feet tall with long hair and forty pounds overweight."

Bob and Sarge laughed. "Whatever works for you. One more thing, what did Higgins say to you? You looked like you were going to faint."

"He just brought up a name from the past. A name I'd like to forget."

“He mentioned Dirk the Jerk, and Annie’s still a little rattled by what happened.” Larry sat beside us. "It's okay, we all know, and keeping it inside isn’t doing you any favors.”

“You’re right Larry. It’s was Dirk the Jerk, my first minor league victim. His name still rattles my cage.”

“I can see that,” nodded Bob, his face drawn into a series of straight lines.

It was time to get back to work. "Let's have some fun," shouted Mel.

"Yeah, let's whip some pussies,” Elmo slapped his hand over his mouth. "No offence, Annie."

I just smiled as he trotted out to centre field. The first batter got a hit off a slider that hung high. He started dancing at first. Mel reached up flipped the runner's cap on the ground. I flipped the ball back while he reached to pick it up. Unfortunately he kept his foot on the bag.

The next batter was the ugliest man I had ever seen. This man didn't deserve to be playing in the show. Anybody that ugly didn't deserve to live. I leaned down to see Tim's signals. I looked back and the jerk on first was on the carpet. "Cheeky jerk," I shouted and drilled it back to first again. He made it under the tag. My first pitch was a called strike. Next pitch was fouled into the crowd. I looked at Tim, and he signaled to go to first. I did, and he was back in plenty of time. I threw a sinking ball, and it wasn't swung on. The count was one and two. I tossed back to first a couple times, to get the runner jumpy. Tim ran through a whole bunch of signals, and then canceled them. I nodded, and placed the ball in my glove. He signaled to go to first, and we nailed him. I then got the batter on a perfect screwball.

I held up the two out sign. "Second down, one to go," I shouted.

"You playing football, honey?" called the next batter.

"Sure thing, sweet buns, I yelled as I slid one under the arc of his swishing bat.

"Bet a li'l girlie like you don't know what football is," he leered while swinging under a high one.

"Sure I do, football has tackles and huddles."

He knocked the dirt from his shoes. "How'd you like to get into a huddle with me?"

Tim called for a fastball. This was the show, so I put on a show. I flipped the ball behind my back, getting the seams in the right place. I stared the batter in the eye. I got into position, with my foot braced on the rubber. I focused on Tim's glove. I wound up and threw, and the ball was in the glove before the batter was half way through his swing.

"Sorry, you just struck out twice on one pitch."

I ducked into the dugout washroom, and sat on the bench for a drink. Our guys scored two runs, and it was again my turn. The Tigers had settled down, and so had I. I gave up a hit, a walk, a double play and a fly ball. Paul was the fly ball. I returned to the bench.

Dick Ross sat beside me. He bounced a ball between his hands. "When we heard that you were playing with the Birds, we damn near died. Some guys said it was all a cheap stunt."

"I've always been painfully aware of that."

He nodded. "Yeah, well, some of the guys said if you got called up this year then they might not play in protest. I think you know who started that one."

"I can guess."

He smirked. "I wasn't sure myself. I think your okay now, you know. Like, I wouldn't have believed it myself, that you were for real, but if you weren't for real then you couldn't have gotten out of that hole."

"I've never been involved in a triple play, before. I wanted to throw fast, but Tim kept calling for my slow stuff."

"Well, with the bases loaded and nobody out, you don't want to give up long flies, because then you've got a couple runs and only one out. Keeping it slow and low and on the ground means you got maybe one or two outs, and one can be at the plate. Also you can get into deep shit if you over throw. These guys don’t swing unless it’s on their terms, so you gotta outthink them. You'll learn most of that as you go along."

"I've got two years to make it up here for real."

"This isn't for real?"

I shrugged. "No, this is just a grandstand play. I know why I'm here. Even if I'm here for the wrong reasons, I'm going to win on my terms, not theirs."

We sat in silence for a while. There was a row on the field. Dean slid into Paul, spikes belly button high, and the two started yelling over whether he was out or safe.

"What the hell is that idiot kid doing?" exclaimed Elmo, who had scored, as he returned to the bench. "Nobody goes into first like that. And what's got into the shithead?"

I hopped up and slugged Elmo's shoulder. "I think it has to do with a really good looking pitcher that they both like."

“Huh," he snorted. "Rossie, you gotta stop flirting with the guys!"

Dean trotted to the bench after he was ruled out. I ran up and gave him a high five. "I hope you and Paul aren't planning anything tonight. I don't think he'll be up to it!"

We laughed at Dean's line. Do penis jokes ever get tiresome? never, at least in my books! It was time for me to return to the field. Now that I was more relaxed, Tim called for more fastballs. I was hitting all the corners, and got mostly strike outs and fly outs. I felt good, my nerves were gone. I hadn't even been aware of the crowd, except as I came off the field at the ends of innings. I got into another jam in the sixth, and gave up a couple runs. I didn't want to give up too many, we only scored five ourselves. When I returned to the bench Bob called me over.

How you doing, kid?"

"Good. I haven't thrown a hundred yet, so my fan club's going to be disappointed."

"No, but you’ve bee consistently around ninety four. We were expecting fireworks between you and Morrison; so far there's been nothing."

"That's because that's not Paul. That's just another Tiger. I know it's Paul, but it doesn't seem like the man I knew in Burlington. Burlington is a million miles from her

. Artificial grass, artificial dirt, artificial sky, even the people, they're so many and so far away: they don't seem real."

He tossed me a ball. "That's real. Focus on that. That never changes. Whether it's in Burlington, Florida, or Yankee stadium, that never changes. It's a game, but it's not a game, not out here. And it's not a metaphor for life, that comparison is stupid and simplistic."

"Then what is this? What are we doing?"

"Surviving. Struggling. Dreaming. And ultimately you win or you lose. You either win, or lose, and the game fades into memory."

"This isn't a metaphor for life, this is life."

"When you're down here, yes. And the people up there,” he gestured; taking in the crowds, the cameras, and everything. "Ninety nine percent of them don't see it, not even the reporters who are paid to understand it, not the stuffed suits in the offices, unless they played themselves, some of the fans see it, sometimes. But they can't see it all, they can't understand unless they've been through it. That's why you've been accepted, you've been through it, you see, you understand. We see it in your eyes." He pointed right at me. "You know."

"I know how much it hurts to win. A victory is winning over everything that has come before, from my Mom and Dad's constant fighting, to bubble gum lunches on the road, to my own self doubts."

"And that's when you know it's time to stop, when all you can't rise above all the things trying to hold you down."

A long lazy fly ball drifted to far right field. It looked like the Tiger was right under it. That would be the second out, and Mel could score on it.

After Mel returned to the bench, Bob finished his talk with me. "I'm going to start Bugsy warming up, in case you need him. Did anybody special make it today?"

I took him to the top stair and pointed out Jake and Ellen. Ellen was impossible to miss, wearing red and purple silk. They both waved frantically when they saw me.

"So you keep them warmed up in life's bullpen?"

"I smiled. Yeah, I guess I do. They've saved a few of my games for me."

He laughed and patted me on the butt as I grabbed my glove and returned to the field. With all that deep philosophical talk about life, love, and forkballs, I was rudely returned to reality. John Gregory, the first batter up, hit a lovely little looper that nobody could catch, and ran it to second. I could feel myself running out of steam. My fist pitch to the next batter was supposed to be a slider, but it didn't slide and it sort of got stuck; fortunately, he fouled into the seats. Whatever I did, I couldn't throw that one again. So I threw one that was even worse, and he hit it right on the nose, right behind Larry, who was now in the outfield, and the ball bounced into the Tiger's Bullpen. A run scored. I managed to get the next batter to fly out, and the runner advanced. The next batter sat on two borderline pitches, and I was behind in the count, two and oh. I threw a fastball that didn't have a lot on it, and it hung, and the batter hit it hard on the dirt in front of the plate. I grabbed it, faked a throw to first, then faked a throw to third. Everybody held fast. I wasn’t close to panic this time, I tried to think.

Now with runners on the corners the strategy changed. As third base coach, Garry relayed signals to the infield. Tim looked to Bob, who went through his own set of signs. The infield drew in, and the outfield came in shallow, plugging up any holes. Tim and I met halfway between the plate and the mound, so he could tell me to let them handle any fielding, unless the ball came right at me.

I returned to the mound while twisting the ball to get a good grip on it. This wasn't the time for wild pitches. The next batter had dropped the sand paper and looked out to first base. The home plate umpire was yanking off his mask and Tim hopped out of his crouch. Garry ran onto the field, pointing and shouting. I turned and looked.

Somebody had jumped onto the field and ran towards me. I realized who it was, and warm terror washed over me, turning my legs to water, to stone that wouldn't move. Someone screamed, it might have been me. Dirk the jerk ran, screaming, this was the day, I destroyed his life now he would destroy mine. My voice died in my throat when he pulled a knife from his jacket. Paul and John Gregory sprinted slowly from the top stair. Dirk ran so fast and everyone else moved so slowly. Dirk's arm snapped up, and arced downward in a silver flash.

Things blurred. I heard yelling and screaming and bodies thumping. All I saw was white polyester and an embroidered letter "Y." I smelled pungent sweat and Garry's after shave.

The grip around me loosened, and I looked up into Garry’s face. Behind me was a common kitchen knife, its blade edged in red. Beyond that, a pile of Jays and Tigers held down my assailant. Paul had a firm grip on Dirk's hair, burying his face in the red clay on the mound. By first base, blood oozed from John Gregory's hand, under the thumb. Sammy and the Tiger's trainer attended to his wound.

Bob ran out to me. Garry let go of my hands, and I grabbed his hands again when I realized mine were shaking like November leaves.

"Oh, Oh, Oh," I stammered, my voice shaking like my hands. "He almost got me. He he he,” I sobbed into Garry's shoulder.

"It's over now, kid. Look, here come the cops."

The police and security people were taking the places of the Jays and Tigers. Paul didn't get off Dirk until he was firmly hand cuffed. They hauled Dirk to his knees, and an officer trotted towards me with Paul close behind.

"Do you recognize this man?" The cop pointed to Dirk.

"Yes, his name is Dirk Grant. He tried to beat me up in a bar in Burlington. He threatened me as the police took him away."

"Threatened you how?" He wrote my responses in his notebook.

"He said he was going to find me and get me. He used obscenities for emphasis." Paul stood beside me and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.

"I was there,” Paul said. "When he returned to the clubhouse in Hamilton to clear out his locker –it was all he talked about. He wanted her to pay for destroying his career."

Dirk glared at me, his eyes burning. I had never seen such pure hate in a person's eyes. "It's her fault!" He screamed. “She forced me out! Then she got her buddies after me. I'd be playing now if it wasn't for her."

"Bullshit!" I roared. "You fucked up! Not me!"

He wrestled away from the cops, and tried to jump on me. I decided that enough was enough. I couldn't hide behind a man all my life. So I kicked him in the balls, real hard. His face froze and his voice wilted and withered to a whining whisper. The cops had no trouble regaining a firm grip on his neck. A gasping cheer came from the crowd behind first base.

"Take him out of here," shouted the officer. He scratched his head and heaved out a long, loud sigh. He motioned for Bob to come over. "Do you know if there were any threats received against any of your players, specifically Miss Weston?"

Bob shook his head. "The only threat received today was a paternity suit against one of the men. But that woman calls once a month with a new paternity suit. No crack pots that were out of the ordinary."

He stopped and stared. "Just ordinary crack pots?!"

Bob laughed. "Oh yes, officer. Just the ordinary weirdness that surrounds any ball club."

He snapped his notebook shut. "We'll get the field cleared so you can finish your little game. We'll need formal statements."

"You can get them after the game, in the clubhouse. We'll set up a place in the player's lounge. It's off limits to the press."

The officer nodded and returned to the others, who hauled Dirk off the field by the scruff of the neck. Paul held my face against his chest as the police and Dirk exited. Dirk ranted and raved, his baritone replaced by a soprano, and I heard nothing, only Paul's voice in my ear. "It's okay Annie, he's gone. Everything will be fine."

I pulled away from Paul to collect my things. The ball was between home and the mound, and my glove had somehow ended up on third base. I stared at the ball, white leather and red thread, so simple, so complex. That's real; focus on that.

"I have to finish this inning." I said out loud.

Bob turned and stared. "I got Bugsy warming up. It's okay, Annie, nobody will say anything, or think less of you."

"No Bob," I shook my head, "I have to finish this inning. If I leave now I might never get the nerve to come back."

"She's right," spoke up Garry, silencing any protests. "It's like falling off a bicycle."

Bob nodded absently, and went to the crew chief, who was on the telephone in the Tiger's dugout. The two managers and four umpires conferred for several minutes. Garry stood beside me, arms crossed, staring wordlessly at me. The crew chief looked over at me, and I nodded. He shrugged.

The home plate umpire returned to his place and smartly snapped his mask back onto his face. "Awwwright kiddies," he yelled in his loudest voice. "Git back where you belong!"

As the crew chief returned to second base he said to me, "Take as long as you need to get back, if you can't do it just say so and then someone else can come out."

The base runners returned to the corners, and my fielders took their places. Elmo gave me a pat on the butt, and Dean rubbed my head as he returned my cap. Garry, Bob and the Sarge surrounded the mound as I threw to Tim. A strange noise came from the crowd. As I threw the fifth warm up, the sound turned to a roaring cheer, most of the people were on their feet. I shut them out. I knew if I could make the next two outs there would be no more questions, no more criticism. I would prove once and for all that I had the toughness; I had the fight in me to become a major league ball player. I knew I would prove myself to all those reporters at the press conference, all those people writing columns and letters, all those commissioners, all those Tom Bradleys; I was going to kick some ass, like George said. They would all get it in the balls, just like Dirk the jerk. All I felt was anger, pure and simple. I had been through hell, and somebody would have to pay. That somebody would be these Tigers.

When my nerves were as calm as the circumstances would allow, they announced the first batter. It was the ugly man who said Dirk was his buddy. He was so nervous I could see him shake. I glared at him, grappling with the rage that burned inside.

"Don't hit me too hard, okay?"

Tim didn't bother with a sign; he knew what I was going to do. I wound up and aimed right for his head. He jumped back, and the umpire yelled, "Strike!" Nobody argued. The crowd nervously cheered.

He got back into place, and I focused on Tim's glove. I wound up and threw as hard as I could. He hit the ball straight up, cracking his bat. Tim caught the ball on the top stair of the dugout.

Paul came up to bat for John Gregory, who was now sporting a large bandage. Paul's eyes were deeply socketed and red rimmed. I guess maybe he did love me. I guess maybe it didn't matter any longer. I leaned towards home, and looked back to Dean. He held up his thumb, then pointed it downwards. He grinned like the kid he was. I grinned back.

I focused on Tim. He held out his glove, and I wound up and threw. Only not as hard as I could, I threw the slow curve, and Paul was a mile in front.

I giggled in spite of myself. I pointed and laughed. "Nyah nyah, I got you." That made him smile. He looked worse than I felt. Did I love him? Well, love him or not, he wasn't getting to first base.

Tim called for the slider, and it was outside with no swing. "Nyah nyah, got you back," Paul called.

I got back into position, and so did Paul. Tim called for a fastball. I wound up and threw, Paul hit it sharply and it bounced into the glove of the shortstop, who threw to first for the out.

Then it was over. My ears roared, and I looked up to see my Mom in her seat right behind home plate. She must have been there through the entire game, only I didn't see her until then. She was clapping and crying and cheering; she finally came to one stupid game and cheered for me and didn't critsize me. For the first time in my life, I saw her as human. And I think for the first time, she saw me as a woman, not a little girl. That was all I could take. The dugout seemed a mile away, and when I tried to walk, I collapsed. I fell to my knees, crying. All my emotions were exposed, all the adrenaline was gone. I was empty. I buried my face in my hands and cried. A hand was placed on my back.

"Annie. . ."

I looked up. "Elmo?"

He helped me to my feet. "Come on, kid; we’ll help you." I couldn't stop sobbing. Elmo held one arm, and Larry was on the other. When I got to the dugout Sammy took me down to his room. I numbly took off my shirt and he massaged some kind of icy stuff into my arm and shoulder and wrapped it up. He asked if anything hurt, and I asked if he meant inside or outside. He gave my hand a squeeze. I put my game jersey on again and returned to the dugout.

I tried to remain out of the view of the cameras. Dean ran to me when he saw me and we hugged. I clutched him tightly, and he stroked my hair. I didn't want to move. It didn't matter if I loved Paul or not. I couldn't marry him, not now, not yet, not when I had my whole life ahead. A life that seemed a little bit newer than it had that morning. We sat on the top stair, just below the dugout door.

"Oh, wow," Dean finally said. "Are you gonna be alright?"

"I think so. He almost killed me! I thought I was going to die." That started the water works once again.

"Calm down, it's all over now." He led me back into the dugout, and we sat at the end of the bench. "Take a look at the score."

We had a five run lead, and Bugsy was trotting to the mound. He took his customary bow and doffed his cap to the crowd. A chorus of squeals came from many of the teenaged girls in the audience. All that mattered to me was the five run lead. It meant I got the win. I had made my childhood dream come true.

Of course you all remember how the game ended. Bugsy pitched two perfect innings to hold the win, and I got trotted around the field on the shoulders of my team mates, like I had pitched the winning game of the World Series. And the picture of Paul and I embracing in front of the dugout was on almost every newspaper in the country, right beside the picture of John Gregory slapping the knife from Dirk the jerk and saving my life. The picture of Paul and I ended up in the hall of Fame, only with Paul's things for some unfathomable reason.

When we returned to the locker room, C.J. had it sealed off from the press. She and Suzy sat beside me. "Feel like facing the marauding horde?"

"No. But I must, I know. I've got to think of my public image."

"Annie!" exclaimed Suzy. "Your image means nothing at a time like this. If you want to find a nice hole to crawl into I understand. When I realized what happened I started screaming, and I couldn't stop. I could have never kept going the way you did. If you want me to handle the media mob, it's the least I can do. Not because you're my client, but because you're my friend."

"No no no," interrupted C.J. "I'm paid to be the team spokesperson; I'll read your statement."

C.J. and Suzy helped me put together a somewhat coherent press statement that expressed not one of my felings or emotions. C.J. seemed to know what they would ask and she knew what answers would make them happy. Suzy sniffled and rubbed her eyes.

Robbie came up to us. He put his arm around his wife and lightly slugged my shoulder. "You either kick ass or you get your ass kicked."

"Yeah." I grabbed his hand and held it. "And I kicked his ass!"

"Actually, it was the other side," C.J. said without looking up. She read my statement back to me and I signed it to make it official. As she opened the doors to the press, I retreated to the trainer's room, which has always been off limits to reporters.

The other players came in and out, all offered their condolences and congratulations. What happened with Dirk became less important as I sat there, and the win, my first major league win increased in importance. I may have been up there for the wrong reasons, but I finished for all the right reasons. I knew that I would return here, and it would be for more than just one game.

More important, I finally felt at peace with my past. Everything I had gone through in my life, from childhood to teenage angst, made me stronger. I don't believe in destiny, but I believe I got out of life what I put in. Ellen was right, it wasn't always easy to take the roads less traveled, to follow the heart and the dreams, but I felt at peace because I did. Winning was nice, but on that day, even losing would have meant winning, in a strange way. I would be a winner because I tried. I think not trying would have haunted me all my life.

Maybe Mom had a dream she was afraid to try. Maybe when her time came to choose, she took the safe route, and the not trying part haunted her. Or maybe she did follow her dreams, and she knew the price that had to be paid. Were we so different, or not? It didn't matter any longer, because I had a whole new life ahead.

Elmo interrupted my reverie when he laid on the table beside me. Sammy iced down his throwing arm and his knee, while a masseur rubbed his back. The burly guard with the rotwieller tattoo talked on muttering tones on a cellular phone.

"Man, Sammy, you are the best! Ain't he the best, Kid?"

"He's right up there," I answered.

"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been there, kid. When I said we would see history I had no idea! Man you put on a show!"

"It's called the show, I put on a show. I'll tell you something. . ."

He leaned over toward me, and cupped his hand to his ear. "What's the word?"

“Somebody should have told Dirk the Jerk this is the show. I think that knife he had was for real."

Elmo rolled on his back and laughed. "Y'know, we heard all about you and your problems right from the day you started with the Birds. I mean, you burped and we heard about it! I wasn't sure, you know. But now I know. And nobody can say nothing, and I'll be right there backing you up. We're square, you know?"

I assumed that was some type of slang for good buddies, not for hopelessly out of fashion. Learning how to decipher his coded monologues took a long time. It was like a whole new language. But I learned it. "Yeah, we're square," I answered. He grabbed my hand in an odd handshake, and then left for the showers, entourage in tow. I absently wondered if the masseur or the muscle head soaped him up.

Bob came in with Paul. He sat beside me on a stool, and held my hand. Bob left after telling Paul he had ten minutes.

"Let me guess," I said. "You're normally not allowed in enemy territory."

He rubbed his neck. "They had to ask permission of the league president, like he's got nothing better to do." His expression changed. "Holding up?"

"Sure, banks jewellery stores, mini marts."

He smiled. "You haven't lost that weird sense of humour."

"Oh, how is the walrus? I saw him bleeding, and then I saw him bandaged. Everything went so fast, and it was all, as Ellen says, a confuzzled mess."

"John's fine. The cut was on the fleshy part under his thumb. Nothing was damaged. He says he's gotten worse cuts while shaving."

"Once again I owe my life to the blue eyed hunk and the walrus moustache. Say thanks to John."

"I will. The cops came in and took Higgins away. He got Dirk the tickets for today's game. They said it made him an accessory. Those two were always tight, you know?" I nodded. "The rest of us knew nothing, you have to believe me."

"I believe you." I squeezed his hand.

"Oh, I saw your family. They're out in the corridor with the press sucking up to them. Your Dad was in the spotlight, answering to the press. A woman wearing a corset outside her dress was with him."

"That would be Ellen. How was Dad holding up?"

“Good. He looked proud –very proud. There was another man, bald and tall, who looked just as proud."

I chuckled. "That would be Sid Mossman. He taught me how to throw like a man when I was eight or nine years old. He and Jake are responsible for introducing me to the glamorous world of baseball."

Paul laughed. "Oh, there's a teenage girl with a thin man who has a scraggly goatee she called him Jake she looks just like you."

"That would be Beth. The youngest of the brood."

"Some reporter asked if she was gonna grow up just like you and she stuck her finger down her throat and pretended to barf."

I laughed. "I'm sure she's convinced I did all this just to embarrass her in front of all her friends." He gave me a long hug. "You'd better go now. Don't want to get you in trouble."

He leaned over the table and kissed me. Sammy returned and checked my arm over. C.J. leaned in to tell me the reporters were cleared out. I showered while Bugsy and Larry stood guard, and dressed under my robe in front of my locker. I sat on my chair, combing the tangles and snarls out of my hair when my Dad came in again. He had a security pass dangling around his neck.

"How's my girl?"

"Fine," I said as I rubbed the water from my hair. "I'm really fine. How's everybody else?"

"Good. Mom's waiting outside for me. I sent the rest off for supper. It got them away from the reporters. I was told you were okay and hiding from the press. Ellen and Jake are taking care of the reporters for the family. She's the most poised in front of crowds. Mom was grateful that she didn't have to face any of their questions."

"They can be overwhelming at the best of times."

He smiled warmly. "We realized that back in mid-June when the first bunch camped out on our front yard!


“Yup! Started the beginning of June. There’s almost always a van with a satellite thing on top in front of the house or a photographer snapping pictures or people sticking microphones and tape recorders in our faces when we get home from grocery shopping.” He smiled. “In the stands they got Sid cornered. He played right up to them, telling stories how he could tell right from the beginning that you were destined for greatness."

I laughed. "All he wanted in the beginning was his greenhouse intact!"

"Oh, don't spoil his fifteen minutes. We were all proud of you today. That Garry is a good man. He went up into the seats and brought us down here. He stayed with us while we talked to the reporters. I also met your Tiger. Are you really going to marry that Paul guy? He’s a little old and a little…I don’t know."

"That Paul guy" was Dad's subtle way of saying he didn’t think it was a good idea. "No Dad. We talked, and decided against it. I still want to come back here some day, for more than one grandstand play."

He nodded. "I should go now. Mom wants to go home after supper; it's been a long day and I thimk she wants to avoid anymore reporters. I don't know how you do it. Most of the others are heading home, except for Kenny, Jake and Ellen. I hear they've got some party planned for you. but the rest of us...we're all exhausted and going home. Do you still want me to help you move back home from Burlington tomorrow?"

"I have the feeling I’m going to busy for a few days, so let’s change it to Wednesday. The dust should be settled by then. I don't have to have everything gone till the fifteenth, but the sooner I'm out of there the better. Summer's over." He stood to leave, when I had a brilliant idea. "Oh Dad?"

He turned when he reached the door. "What is it?"

"Could you ask Mom to come in for a few minutes?"

Elmo dropped his bottle of water, and Larry went into a coughing fit. Dad was less dramatic, but I could read his shock from his eyes. "Sure. Do you want me in here also?"

"Nope. I have to take care of this myself." Dad gave me a long look and called Mom.

Mom stood two feet inside, a foot to the right of the door. Bugsy came out of the trainer's room wearing nothing but underwear and a smile. She actually laughed!

"I suppose I should have expected that. Is he the guy your sister was screaming over?"

"Yup! Now you can tell her you saw him in his jockeys."

"I'm afraid this will shatter all her adolescent illusions."

Bugsy's mouth snapped open and shut in surprise. "Shit! Now I know where you got that sick sense of humour." He sulked off to the showers.

I tossed the bank book to my Mom. "Take a look at that."

She turned it over in her hands. "Is it a bank book?"

I nodded. "Open it."

She opened it and gasped. "There's ten million dollars in here."

"Mine. All mine. And that's for four and a half month's work."

She stared at me. I felt a large grin spread on my face. She cleared her throat. "What are you doing with your earnings? A bank isn't the best place for that amount of money."

I shrugged. "I dunno. I should have paid more attention to that financial crap when I was younger."

She smiled. "And I should have paid more attention to that baseball crap when I was younger." She turned serious. "Is it too late?"

I shook my head. "For many things, yes. But we can never go back, we can only go forward. It's never too late to start something new.”

She nodded. "I think I understand. For the first time in my, in our lives, I understand. We really are different."

"No Mom, you're wrong. We both know what we want and we won't let anything or anyone stop us. We’re both pig-headedly ambitious. Maybe that's been the problem all along. Maybe we’re not so different after all." She closed the book and handed it back to me. "No, you hold onto it. I need someone who knows what they're doing to look after it. I want some of it around after my arm turns to a marshmallow."

"I think I know. . .a balance of short term returns and long term growth. . ."

"Whatever. The shower has stopped. You better go or you'll see more of Bugsy that you want."

She turned to the door. "Okay. Not that there's that much to see." She looked back when she was almost out. "Thank you, Annie."

When she was out I sighed deeply and buried my face in a towel. I felt a hand on my back and I turned to see Dean.

"Dean, Dean, what do I do about Dean?"

"Am I really that awful?" He sat behind me and rested his head on the middle of my back.

"Worse than awful” I grabbed his hand and he gave it a squeeze.

"I've been watching everything. You did a good job."

I turned to face him. He changed into street clothes, a shirt, dress pants and a cartoon character tie. “Yeah, and I did all by myself. I didn't need anybody to take care of me. I think my Mom finally realizes that I've grown up. And for the first time I saw her as human."

“I knew you could do it yourself. Everyone has been saying how much I grew up…well you did twice as much growing up…from a sheltered little girl to a major league pitcher.” He rubbed my head and mussed up my hair. "So what's the real story? Why aren't you going off into the sunset with Morrison?"

"I've got my future to think about. And I've go this awful problem."

"Am I really awful?"

"Worse than awful. Here’s the real truth, Dean; and not the truth that I gave to the press. I can’t marry Paul, not with you being such an awful problem." Dean and I hugged tightly. “I can’t marry Paul while filling up with feelings over someone else. That was the real reason, and I realized that when you came up to bat as couple days ago. I felt that tingle, the one that Ty’s wife described. And it wasn’t over Paul, it was you. You and I are developing something special, and I want to find out what exactly that something is.”

“I think I understand. We got so much in common, and not like hobbies and movies and stuff like that, but deeper things. We’ve been through so much together. And I want to go through more together with you. Minor leagues and major leagues, as friends or as more than friends. If that’s what you want.”

“I think that’s exactly what I want. We aren’t on any timetables or anything like that. We can be anything we want.”

“That would be cool. Now I know what that means…about friendship that grows –like my dad is always saying.”

“Do you remember your first words to me?”

Yeah! I said wow, you really are a babe! And I meant it. I’ve never thought of you as one of the guys, not for one second, you’ve always been that gorgeous babe.” We sat wrapped in each other for a few more minutes. Garry walked past and chuckled. Dean let go. "C'mon, us guys thought we should take you out and celebrate. Like Elmo said, it's not every day we get to see history. I asked your favourite brothers. There's also gonna be more than a few contrite Tigers. Including Paul.”

I grabbed my jacket, and Dean got his, and we went off into the Toronto night. I felt tired and exhilarated, and I lasted though the all-night long party and the endless press conferences the next day. That was the most important year of my life, where I proved that a woman could play baseball, to the fans, to the media, to the world and, most importantly, to myself. I always was my harshest critic.