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!

Chapter 4

I would like to relate all the wild and crazy things that happened during our four games at home. There, I'm finished. We practised and played and played and practised, from morning until night, the only breaks coming at meal time and sleep time. I pitched one start and once out of the bullpen. I spent my time off at my apartment.

My apartment was very small, the two rooms would have fit into my bedroom back home, with space to spare. The first room was a small kitchen furnished with a rusty table and three wobbly chairs. The other room was a living/bed room, furnished with a sofa-bed, two chairs (one uglier than the other), two end tables, and the most repulsive pair of lamps in the universe. The furniture came with the place. Most of the team stayed in the same building, and we would get together if we were lonely or homesick.

I brought a few things from home to make the place liveable and a bit more like home. I draped one of my grandmother's quilts over the sofa, which dramatically improved its appearance. I brought a few knick-knacks for the tables and pictures for the walls. One was a picture of Lake Superior I made when I was eight during a family camping trip. I glued coloured stones on a piece of wood for the trees and the sky, and blue glass became the water. Mom was so pleased with my work she had it framed and hung it in the living room. We spent three weeks on the shore of Lake Superior, and it was the best vacation, ever. Dad and Jake taught me how to swim and I'll never forget how cold the water was, like ice, even though the air was over eighty degrees. I also brought some pictures of my family and former teams.

I came from a large family, starting with the requisite mother and father. My siblings, from oldest to youngest were John Jacob (Jake), Gary, David, Mark, my twin brother Kenny, Jesse, and Beth.

As early as I can remember we called Jake “Jake the snake.” I don’t know why, there might have been a cartoon character or something similar with that name. He married a wonderful woman named Ellen; she became my best friend in spite of the age difference.

Gary owned and operated a successful garage downtown Kitchener. He married a woman named Karen, also a licensed mechanic. She could tell the make and model of the trucks on the highway just by sound. She could also tell us what was wrong with our car by listening to the motor.

Dave left home at seventeen; I didn’t see much of him after he left. He lives in Guelph, not far from the university.

Mark was mom’s favourite. He worked as an accountant for a large accounting firm in Cambridge. He belongs to a curling club and plays in a semi pro curling league. I think that means that instead of paying him real money he gets paid in gift certificates, power tools and large quantities of sausages from the meat packers who sponsored the league.

Kenny was in his fifth year of university and still undecided on his major. He vacillated between general arts and general business. He also played baseball. We played on the same teams while we grew up. We shared a lot of interests and all through our childhood and adolescence we were inseparable. I don’t think it was one of those spooky twin connections, I think we just liked each other.

Jesse was the family clown. If a joke could be made of a situation; he would make it. If the situation was inappropriate for humour and levity; it didn’t stop him. He drove our mother crazy.

My sister, Beth was the youngest and didn’t have much of a personality, yet. She often seemed like a clone of my mother.

Of all the people in my family I missed Jake and my Dad the most. When I was a teen and my troubles with Mom started, they would always be on my side. She absolutely forbade me from trying out for baseball in high school, so Dad and Jake had to sneak me out of the house. They told Mom they were taking me to the mall to cheer me up. Jake is the one who first put a baseball in my hand and told me to throw it. Over the years many people say it was his biggest mistake, while other say it was his greatest masterpiece. There's probably somebody somewhere arguing that point right now.

When I was little we lived in a large house in the country. Mom and Dad rented it from my uncle, who was a farmer. Uncle Bill built a new house for his family in another corner of the lot and the old house was perfect for two people starting out and raising a bunch of kids. One summer the boys went baseball crazy and because I was the only girl they often left me out. I constantly bugged them to let me play. One day I must have pestered them enough because Jake said:

"Look, creep, we'll let you play as long as you keep your mouth shut and stop whining. Here," he put the ball in my hand and hauled me by the neck to the middle of the diamond scratched in the grass. He let go. "Now throw this so we can hit it." He took the bat and stood at home plate, which was a bundle of newspapers. Gary stood at third, Mark at first, Dave at second, and Kenny and Jesse in the outfield because they were the youngest. Nobody played catcher because they saw themselves as future all-star sluggers, and all-star sluggers never strike out; or so they told me.

I didn't throw very well that first day. They couldn't hit the ball, so they got mad and sent me away. The next day Jake took the time to show me how to throw so they could hit. I had to stand very close to home plate because my arm wasn't very strong, but as the summer went on I got better, and I could throw from the centre and the ball made it to home plate. I was six that year, Dad took a picture of us playing, and I looked at it as I remembered.

We lived there three more years, and we played baseball all summer. I also played in school, and in grade three our team went all the way to the county finals. We played three pitch, I threw to my team, and we won fifteen to thirteen. I won a little trophy and got a little "Best Pitcher" ribbon.

Next year we moved to a small town a few miles outside the city. Mom could drive to her business, which was thriving, and we could be closer to other kids. Beside our house was a park and in this park was a ball diamond. We were in heaven. We played all day, every day. I threw to my brothers and they hit a lot of home runs. And that was the problem. The man who owned the house backing on centre field had a large greenhouse in his yard. One day Kenny hit a massive homer over the fence and smashed one of the large glass panels. The man came out of the greenhouse, marched onto the field and called us together.

"I realize that I was an idiot for putting in a green house that faces a ball park—but I did—and one of you smashed a window and will have to pay for it." He looked us over, trying to appear stern. "Was it you?" He pointed to Jake.

"No, I play third base."

"Was it you?" He pointed to me.

"I don't hit, I'm the pitcher."

He stopped pointing. "Oh, so you play American League rules."

I told him I had no idea what he meant.

He explained. "In the American League the pitchers don't have to hit, but in the National League they do."

"Oh, then I'm a `merican league pitcher cause I don't hit but at school I'm a nashnul league pitcher cause I have to hit."

He smiled. "One thing both American and National league pitchers do is throw the ball so the hitters can't hit it."

"Really?" I couldn't believe my ten-year-old ears.

"It's true! Let me show you!" He told us about real baseball; how it was played, who played and when he used to play professionally years ago. It wasn't long before he was coaching us. He taught me to throw so my brothers couldn't hit the ball. I thought it made the game a lot more fun. At the end of the afternoon he introduced himself as Sid Mossman, and we introduced ourselves. Kenny confessed to breaking the window. Sid walked us back to Dad, who watched the scene from the kitchen window.

"Howdy, Sid,” said Dad.

"Hi Mark," said Sid. "Got quite a team here."

"Yup, keeps them from fighting." Dad held Beth, the baby, in his lap. "I saw what Kenny did."

"So what do you suggest we do with him?" Sid seemed to be smiling awfully big for a guy who just lost a window.

"Need a slave? I got a couple extra kids to spare." We kids were horrified, but Dad and Sid seemed to think this was extremely funny. "Seriously, Kenny can help you with lawn-mowing and gardening until the window is paid off."

"Sounds good to me," Sid nodded. "One more thing, I want the team to be on the field at four in the afternoon, right after school, so we can finish our baseball lesson."

Kenny helped Sid all summer; the window was over a hundred dollars. We would play all afternoon, and most of the other kids in town, and some of their parents, joined along in the fun. We never divided ourselves into teams; it was all just for fun.

At the end of the summer Sid and Dad took all my brothers and me to a real game in the Skydome. We sat way up, across from the Blue Jays dug-out, and we could see right in. I couldn't take my eyes off the pitchers; they threw so hard and so fast. Sid told me that some of them could throw over a hundred miles an hour. I told him that I would like to be able to do that some day. The game lasted twelve innings and four and a half hours; but to me it felt like twelve minutes, it went so fast. The bright lights, the bright green carpet, the music played on the P.A. system between innings—it all seemed so magical. Before that I merely liked baseball, from that moment on, I loved baseball. I loved it in a way that I didn't understand back then. I wanted to be there, to stand in the middle of the Skydome and throw like they did. Back then, as a child, when everything, even magic is possible I saw no reason that could keep me from some day pitching for the Blue Jays. On the drive home I told Dad that some day I was going to play just like they did in the Skydome, and then I fell asleep.

The next year, when I was eleven, Sid and Dad organized a league, just like in the bigger towns. We were divided into teams and got caps and shirts with numbers on them. My number was thirty-one, Sid's old number. They made up little trophies for each player on the winning team, and it had a kid with a bat on it. That was when my Mother made her opinion of baseball known.

Dad was in the kitchen with me, adjusting my cap and asking me to show him my best pitch when Mom came home from work.

"What is that?" She asked sternly.

"A ball cap," replied Dad, not looking up.

"Is that a good idea? She might get hurt."

"Yeah, a ball cap might dent her head," Dad smirked.

Mom shot Dad one of those looks. "I thought we went through all this; it will take time away from her school work. You know her grades are only average. I think you and your buddy have her all obsessed with this baseball thing. She should be spending more time with girls her own age."

"It's a co-ed league so she will be with girls her own age. Now that the boys are in high school they have other interests. There were so many kids interested last year. Sid and the other Dads thought it would be a good idea. You know, learn about rules, winning and losing, fair play, the quest for excellence that kind of thing. She can learn about investment portfolios when she's older." He looked up at Mom. "Now let her play." He sounded very angry.

Mom looked as angry as Dad. "We will talk later,” She said to him as she walked out of the room. He glared after her.

Dad gave me a big hug and braided my hair. "Don't worry; I'll make sure you play every game. You might even win the trophy. You really like baseball, don't you, sweetie?"

"I don't just like baseball, Daddy. I love it. I want to play all the time."

"You can't play in the winter."

"Yeah, but Sid's making videos of the games on television. He says I can have them in the winter so's I can see more of how the men play. He wants me to play in high school, like Jake and Gary."

He smiled at me. "We'll see, okay? Now let's find Kenny and go."

The team I was on won. I still have the little trophy back home in my trophy case, along with my ribbon and trophy from grade three. Neither of them are lonely.

True to his word, Sid gave me a stack of videos. There were twenty Tiger games and twenty Blue Jays games. I watched them so many times I almost had them memorized. In school I wrote a story about baseball and got an A+. The local newspaper published the story in a column devoted to literary works by school children. Mom was tolerant; she assumed I had a crush on one of the players and I would get over it. She talked to a psychologist who told her that girls go through phases and I would probably forget about baseball by the summer.

I became a fan of the Tigers. Yes, that's right. The Tigers. The crush on a player came years later, didn't it? I had shirts, hats, pencils, pencil cases, all kinds of thing with the Tigers' logo on them.

The years between eleven and fifteen passed, slowly while I lived them, too fast while remembering them in a tiny apartment in Burlington. I could hear children outside my window, laughing and playing. It was the first week of June, in that heartbeat between spring and summer in Southern Ontario, the time when everything is green.

As I grew older Sid became a good friend of the family. He was a high school teacher, and the coach for the boy's baseball and girl's softball teams. Long ago he played in the Cleveland and San Diego organizations. The highest he ever went was one month in triple A. He was twenty-five, tired and home-sick most of the time, and he decided to return to school and quit baseball.

Fifteen was when I learned how to fight. By that time I had become such a regular at the local parks that everybody, including most of the teachers, expected me to be part of the team when I was old enough. All the guys in school would joke with the kids from the other schools about the school's secret weapon. They called me their ace in the hole. Some of the more vulgar guys called me the ace with a hole, but the less said about that the better. I didn't date any of the guys, I had no shape, I looked like a Popsicle stick with blonde hair. But boy, I could pitch, and the guys liked that a lot better than if I would put out for them. I tried out for softball in April. I had no trouble learning to throw underhand, and became the team's only pitcher. Mom didn't have trouble with softball; it was a girl's sport, and therefore suitable for me to play.

The trial for the baseball team was on a muddy Saturday in early May. Jake and Dad spirited me to the schoolyard, and my brothers met us there. Jake gave me his glove to use, it was a real expensive one, and I borrowed Kenny's shoes. Only one other person tried out for a pitcher's job. He became the closer and I was the starter.

Dad was so thrilled he trooped us all into the van and took us home to celebrate. We picked up some pizza and pop at the mall and went home to eat. Mom was in the kitchen sipping tea when we came in.

"What is going on here?" she asked angrily when she saw me covered in dirt. "I thought you were going to the mall."

"We did," grinned Jake. "See, we picked up pizza when we finished shopping. Annie's into that new look! The—um—mud look."

Mom looked over the top of her glasses. "Don't lie to me. You took her to the ball trial. I reluctantly agreed to softball hoping it would dissuade you from pursuing this baseball nonsense. But you lied and now you stand there in head to toe mud and tell me you went to the mall?!?!" I had never seen Mom look so angry.

"I took Annie," Dad said, his voice flat and expressionless. "She tried for the starting pitchers position and she made it. You should be proud of her. I." he emphasized the word I, "I am going to take her to every game, baseball and softball. And from now on I'm displaying all Annie's trophies and medals and ribbons in the living room."

Mom was horrified. The living room was her domain, where she held her socials and cocktail parties and teas. The room had been professionally decorated. The music books on the piano had to be the same colour as the drapes and the magazines fanned out on the coffee table had to co-ordinate with the sofa. We kids hated the living room.

"We'll compromise. The ribbons and things can go in the family room. Annie, you can play softball but not baseball. It is BOY'S baseball, and you're not a boy. I want you to have girl friends, join some groups at school . . . think of your life ahead. It's time to think of your future."

"I want to play baseball." I was feeling the kind of rage only felt by teenagers with parents who are unfair. "If I don't play I'll be letting everybody down. They're counting on me, Mom. You wouldn't let down any of those people and companies that give you all their money. I'm not going to let down all the people who are counting on me."

"Yes, dear,” I hated when she called me dear. It meant she thought I was full of crap. "All the people who want you to play—that’s why I'm saying no. You've been pushed into this baseball thing by your brothers, your Dad, Mossman, he's just living out his fantasies trough you kids. I don't trust him with our daughter, Mark. You should explore other avenues until you really know what you want. I'm only thinking of you, dear."

"No you're not! You're just thinking about yourself!" I was enraged. "You want me out because it don't look good at your teas and social groups. Mrs. Smith can talk about her daughter who gets straight A's and belongs to every club in school and Mrs. Steen can brag about her daughter who's in Europe on a scholarship and that Kellar bitch who won the student of the year award and all I do is embarrass you because all I do is throw a baseball and that doesn't cut it in your bunch." I was screaming at this point. "I'll never wear lace dresses and marry a lawyer and head the fund raising committees that you want me to do."

Mom took a deep breath before speaking. "Annie, those are very nice girls. A lot of the girls in the church group are very nice. They ask me why you don't come any more, they miss you."

"Yeah, they miss not having a black sheep they can look down at and sniff at when I don't know what they're talking about. All they talk about is clothes and boys and T.V. and and shit like that!"

"Annie! Swearing is not permitted in this house!"

"Shit! Shit! Shit!" I screamed at her. "I'm gonna play and I'm gonna win and I'm gonna shove it down everybody's throat. And if you don't like that then fuck you!" I stormed off to my room, dropping mud and dirt in the living room.

The sun was fading from the sky, and I was sitting in the twilight gloom of my two room closet gripping a photograph, white-knuckled with rage. After so many years, the hurt hadn't faded.

Jake brought some pizza and pop to my room. He sat with his arm around my shoulder and told me that Mom had got him into medical school and he wasn't going. He told me that he always wanted to yell at Mom like I did, he never had the nerve.

We sat and ate our pizza in silence. After a while Dad came up to see how I was doing. "Mom's cooled off a bit, how about you?"

"I'm never going to cool off Dad. I've had to put up with trying to live up to her expectations and falling short all my life. I'll never be what she wants, so I'm not even going to try." I leaned my head against Dad's chest.

"I admire your honesty. I wish your Mom was honest like that." He hugged me in the way that only a father can hug. He smelled like pizza, beer, Old Spice, but mostly he smelled like Dad.

"Why doesn't Mom love me? Am I really so bad?" My anger had dissolved into tears.

"No, no, baby, you're not bad," Dad soothed. "I hope you're not insulted, but you are a lot like your mother. Both of you know what you want and neither of you will let anything stop you." He lifted my chin so I was looking right in his eyes. They were a deep, rich brown. "I want you to do one thing for me, Annie." He beeped my nose.

"I'm not apologizing to Mom."

"That's not what I want. I want you to set your own goals and meet them and be proud of yourself. If you can be proud of yourself then Mom will come around. Don't be so hard on yourself; be proud of your accomplishments." He brought me a handful of Kleenexes. "You're a wonderful girl, Annie. I love you with all my heart and this hurts me as much as it hurts you." He gave me a big kiss on the cheek. "MMMMM...a sand kiss,” He brushed off my cheek and kissed again. His moustache tickled my cheek. "Now let's go somewhere, just the two of us."

"What about me?" We had forgotten about Jake, who was still sitting beside me. "Mom harasses me, too. She hates my new girlfriend."

Dad agreed to take Jake. We went to a movie and then for more pizza. Pizza was Dad's cure for everything.

A knock at my door broke my reverie. I went to answer the door. It was Suzy and Robbie. "Annie!" Suzy sounded surprised. "Why are you crying?"

I hadn't realized I was crying, but there I was, standing in the doorway, my face wet with tears. "Oh come in guys, I was just looking at some pictures from home."

"And you're lonely and homesick?" Robbie put his arm around my shoulder.

"No—I’m angry and hurt and after all these years I haven't got over it." I invited then inside. "My family is coming to the game, tomorrow, except for my Mom, who refused. I've never been able to do anything to make her happy."

"Your Dad is coming, isn't he?" Suzy sat on the sofa beside me; Robbie sat on one of the ugly chairs.

"Yes, as is Jake and his wife, Kenny, Mark, Beth, all the clan. My high school coach, too. That's him in the picture there." I pointed to a picture Robbie was holding.

"The one in the pig tails, is that you?" He asked.

"Yes. I was twelve, at a little league tournament when that was taken. That's Dad. It was taken at the Ontario Junior Men's Championship game, when I was eighteen. Here's a picture of the team. Can you guess which one I am?"

Robbie looked carefully at the picture, squinting and turning it upside down. He pointed to a space between three boys. "UUUUMMM That one there?"

"No, silly, right there. I wasn't hiding the fact I was a girl, but I wasn't flaunting it, either."

"Oh," he nodded. "Suzy has something to ask you."

Suzy straightened up and sat forward. "Wimpey got in touch with me. He has another deal for you if you're interested. The sportswear people come tomorrow, remember?" I nodded. "Good. One of the pictures is going to the sports card people. Also, Wimpmiester and I have arranged a segment on `Canada This Morning'. The money is minimal, but you'll get national exposure. Sound good?"

"Yes! I would love to be on T.V.!" My mood was quickly brightening.

"You, Robbie, and one other will be part of a series entitled `Jays of Tomorrow'. They will come and film you on the field and then you will also do a studio appearance. They will provide transportation to and from the studio, along with one night accommodation in Toronto. You'll get up at 5:30, taping at 6:30 for broadcast at 8:15."

"I thought that show was live."

"That is live in T.V. Land," she laughed.

"Remember, I'm an innocent in all this."

"Don't worry," Robbie teased. "We'll be sure they're gentle."

Suddenly Paul's words, your first time should be special, popped into my head and I started to giggle. Suzy wrote up the deal on a paper she pulled from her enormous brief case. They stayed for an hour and a half to socialize. I made popcorn and we watched the Cubs slaughter the Mets. Robbie was right, Suzy knew a lot about baseball. When they left I thanked them for making me feel better.

"Oh, think nothing of it," said Suzy. "We're your friends and that's what friends are for."

I gave each of them a hug. When they were gone I unfolded my bed, snuggled in and called Jake.

"Hi, Annie! How's life in the big leagues?"

"Ask someone in the big league. Is everyone still coming tomorrow?"

"Yup! Uncle Fred is down from Calgary, he's going to be there, also. He gave Kenny his birthday present and he's got one for you! Ellen's been reading a baseball rule book so she can understand what's going on."

"I should have one of those for myself. I never realized there were so many rules to the game."

"So will we see you pitch in the game?"

"It's not my start, but I might pitch out of the bullpen. I met a man."

"What? Only one?"

I laughed. "Okay, so I met a lot of men, one of whom I dated."

"Good for you! What was his name?"

"Paul Morrison."

Jake was silent for a moment. "THE Paul Morrison of the Tigers?"

"Yes. He's on re-hab assignment in single A. He asked me out after a game and I said yes. We hit it off really well. I spent the night with him, twice."

Jake laughed really hard, "Good for you! Getting away from Mom and Dad is going to do you a world of good." He calmed his laughing down. "What's your record?"

"4-1, four saves, 2.75 earned run average, second lowest on the team. I have to bat and that's a real drag. I have three runs batted in and no home runs. No batting average, either. I hit a lot of ground-outs."

"That's nice. Sid Mossman is coming. Mom is ready to go through the roof."

"Why is she the way she is with us kids?"

"She's scared and insecure."

"What? Superwoman? So how come she hangs it on us Kids?"

"Because we're available and Dad doesn't put up with that crap anymore."

I looked at my clock. The time was 11:36. "Well Jake, I gotta get me some shut eye. We're going to be on the bus all night tomorrow and I haven't mastered the art of sleeping while sitting."

"Okay baby sister, see you tomorrow."

I said good-bye and slept like a rock.

That morning was fielding practice for pitchers, and we started at eight. We did different drills and exercises and learned what to do in different defensive situations. We practised for three hours, until we could feel our brains turning to mush. The batting cage came up around ten thirty, and I drew the short straw, so I had to throw batting practice until the photographer arrived.

Suzy and Wimpey arrived at eleven, accompanied by many different people. There were people from the sportswear company, people for the photographer, and people from the Blue Jays. There were also many people who needed no introduction, as I wasn't introduced to them. The first thing I had to do is change into the clothes they brought. I wore the home uniform of the Jays, with blinding white pants, brilliant white shirt, and luminous blue and white satin jacket. I went back on the field.

"OOOO-WEEEE!!" crowed George as I came out of the tunnel. "You make one sharp lookin Jay."

Suzy unbraided my hair. "Wear it loose, Annie; we want everyone to know you're a girl."

A woman came up and opened a case filled with make-up. She pulled out gobs of it, blush, mascara, eyeliner, eyeshadow, lipstick, and started paining my face. Another woman pulled out a curling iron and worked on my hair. Twenty minutes later I was sitting in the dugout, my hair a mass of spirals, my eyes rimmed in blue and purple, and my cheeks flushed with pink powder.

"Yeah, I always pitch in a game looking like this," I said when they held up a mirror for my approval.

Over at the bullpen bench the nameless horde buzzed around setting up lights, screens, and tripods. Others held up gauges and meters and moved the things the first group set up. The first group then returned and did one final adjustment. When everything was satisfactory to both groups a person of dubious sexuality asked if I was ready. When Suzy said yes, he/she told someone who told someone else who ran to a limousine in the parking lot and opened the door.

From the limo emerged a man. Not just an ordinary man, but an outstanding man. He stood seven feet tall, which was imposing in itself, and he wore a long, flowing, multi coloured silk garment with a matching head piece. (The word HAT would not do it justice.) From his neck hung a hundred chains, pendants, and strands of beads, like the beads they give out at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. His hair brushed his knees, and when he took off his sunglasses his eyes were blacker than the night sky the second before a stroke of lightning. He peered deeply into my eyes, I was powerless and I couldn't look away. He spoke after several seconds of silence.

"Sit down, golden one; we will make magic, just the two of us. Listen to everything I say and I will make you the most beautiful woman ever to play the game." He sat me on the bench, moved me around, cascaded my hair over my shoulder and snapped some pictures. He posed me again, this time standing, and snapped some more.

"Now we can try something else," he said to me. Turning to his assistants he spoke to them in the language of photographese. They jumped up and moved things around. The two groups metered and gauged everything like before. While this was going on the hair and make-up ladies applied fresh coats of powder and spray. All my team-mates were standing in the dug-out, observing the strange ritual.

"Now sit right here, on the grass, stretch out and look at the sky." He moved my head and took my cap off. "Is this your first time?" He asked while fiddling with my hair.

"Yes," I answered.

"I thought so. You're doing very well for your first time."

I giggled. "A week ago a man said I did very good for my first time. The circumstances were considerably different."

He stopped and a big grin spread across his face. "Oh, girl! You're a wild one. I like you." He took the lens off his camera and twisted on a larger one. He ran his hands through my hair until it was falling over my face. He brushed it out of my eyes and started snapping again.

"So, my child, you had your first time with a man?" His voice went deep, sexy, hypnotic.

"Yes I did."

"Was he good to you? Did he treat you right?"

"Yes he did." I let myself fall into his voice; I couldn't have stopped myself if I tried.

"Did he have strong hands?"


"Were they warm? Did they touch you in the right places?"

"Yes, he was a beautiful man. I've never met anyone like him before." He continued to take pictures all the while we engaged in this bizarre conversation.

He switched to an even larger lens. He touched my face. "Now close your eyes. Think of how he made you feel. Did he give you an orgasm?"

"Yes he did. It was good, although I have nothing to compare it with." I could hear nothing except the clicking of the shutter.

He touched my face again. "Open your eyes and think of your orgasm; remember what it felt like." His hands on my face were very warm. "Good, let yourself feel it right here, right now, with me."

His hands moved away from my face and I thought of Paul; his eyes, his hands, his mouth. I could hear the camera clicking many times.

"Good," he purred. "Look at me, now." I did and he was smiling.

"Wow! That was great! I'm actually breathing hard!" I tried to return my heart rate to normal. "You're good!"

"No, child." He leaned over and kissed me on the mouth. "YOU are the one who is good." He capped his lens and called to his entourage. "We're finished now."

“Did you get some good pictures?" Asked Suzy.

He went to Suzy and kissed her on the cheek. "I came for a snapshot of a pitcher and I leave with a portrait of a goddess." He patted his camera.

"Oh, I bet you say that to all the girl pitchers,” I laughed nervously, not really sure why I was so nervous.

He took my hand and kissed it. "Farewell, child. Farewell." He and his entourage returned to the parked limos and drove away. The Blue Jay people wanted their uniform returned so I retreated to the locker room and changed out of it. When I returned to the field they decided to let me keep the jacket. Another bunch of limousines pulled up and the Jays people said their good-byes. Suzy promised to call me when the pictures were ready, and exited with the sportswear people.

I was alone on the field. The Wildcats came out for their warm-ups so I returned once again to the locker room. I changed out of my practice clothes and slipped into an over-size t-shirt that I hoped covered everything. I had started reading a Star-Trek novel when Security called me to the club house door. Jake, Sid, Dad and my uncle Fred came in when I said it was okay.

"OOOOOOOHHHH," purred Sid, "This brings back memories."

My uncle plopped a big cowboy hat on my head. "I brought you a present. Congratulations on making your dream come true."

I gave everyone a big hug. Dad held me for a few moments. "Oh baby, just look at you!" He stood back from me holding my hands.

"No, don't look," I joked. The only thing I was wearing, other than the t-shirt were white socks and bright blue stirrup socks.

"You look like a real player between practice and the game." Sid laughed.

"You look like you belong here," said Dad.

"Thanks Dad, let's sit down and talk." Jake brought me up to date on family gossip and Uncle Fred told me about what was happening in his life. Fred lived not far from Calgary, Alberta and raised cattle on a huge ranch. Ty, our Cowboy wanna be, gaped at Fred. George wandered by, stared at Sid for a moment, shook his head and wandered on. He stopped, looked again, and shook his head again. I tapped Sid on the shoulder and pointed to George.



"Sid Mossman!"

"George Burgess!"

"Sid! What the hell are you doin here?"

"George! I never expected to find you here."

"I'm coaching. What happened to you?"

"I gave up years ago. I became a high school teacher and coach."

"No shit? So what brings you to the Blue Birds?"

"I came to see a kid I coached in school. I wanted to see how the kid was doing."

"Really?" George sat beside Sid. "So who is this kid?" Sid pointed to me. George whistled. "Wow. Our li'l Annie?"

"I take it you two know each other?" I looked at both of them.

"George was an instructor with the Padres when I played for them." Sid thunked George on the back.

"C'mon Sid. I got some work to finish. Come to my office and we can catch up there." George and Sid exited, leaving me with my family. Garry came in after fifteen minutes and chased everyone out. I got into my game clothes and trotted out to my place in the bullpen. I looked in the seats for my group, and found them behind home plate. I was shocked to see my mother. I wondered what she was doing up there.

George talked Garry into letting me pitch in the sixth and seventh inning for my family. I tried to convince myself that I wasn't nervous, but my hands still shook. I wanted to impress my family, show them that I was a real professional. A little part of me was convinced I would screw up.

I walked the first batter in four pitches. Pete came up to me. "Nervous?" He placed his arm around my shoulder.

"My mother is up there."

"I thought she hated baseball."

"She does. I don't know why she's here, I'm sure it's bad news."

"Well, calm down, forget about her and stay focused. You're throwing well, just start throwing for strikes, okay?"

"Okay! I'll try and stay focused. Think this jerk is a threat to steal?"

"Yes. Let's try and pick him off right away!" He slapped his mask back into place and walked back to the plate, giving me a few seconds to collect myself. He got back into position and signalled a throw to first. The guy got back just in time. Pete wanted a fastball for a strike. I did as told and Pete called for the same again. The umpire thought it was a shade high; one ball and one strike. I went back to first and the runner made it back under the tag. I threw back two more times, just to make the runner nervous. Pete called for another fastball, which the batter fouled into his dug-out, waking several of his team-mates. I drilled one back to first and the runner looked late to me, but the umpire was sleeping and ruled him safe. Pete signalled for a fastball and duck down.

The batter fanned and Pete's throw was perfect, for once. The runner took off on the pitch and slid hands first into second. The tag was right on his hands, a split second before they touched the base. It was a perfect strike out, throw out double play.

"Good throw, Pete,” I pointed and called to him. "You saved my ass."

"Your ass is in good hands." He did a mock bow in my direction.

The next batter wore a double zero on his shirt. The poor sap looked like a double zero. He stood at the plate, knees apart, toes together, hands choking up on the bat with a foot between them. He looked like one of those poor jerks in a training film, the one where you have to find ten things wrong with the batter. Pete called for a sinker. It sunk, but it wasn't swung on. It appeared that he was incapable of swinging. Pete called for a screwball. It came out perfect. It spiralled twice, and dipped under the bat as the jerk swung. Pete called for the fork, which I shook off, the fastball, which I shook off; then the curve which I agreed to. The batter swung under it and lifted it straight to the clouds. Larry, on third, caught it when it decided to return to earth.

I looked to my bunch, most of them were bananas. Mom was frozen.

Next inning went well. I gave up one hit and had a chance to show off all my pitches. I also got to throw out a guy at first when he hacked a forkball back in my direction. I didn't get a win, or even a save, but it was a good, solid outing. When the game was over I met Dad and Jake outside of the locker room and told them to say goodbye to everyone for me. I had to pack for the bus, which I could hear rumbling outside.

I jumped into the shower and jumped out, dressed in nice jeans and my beaded and ruffled shirt. I started throwing my things into my bag. There wasn't any fooling or clowning around; we had thirty minutes before the bus left. I was so wrapped up in my packing that I didn't see my mother when she entered the locker room.

"So THIS is where you spend all your time," she said loudly to announce her presence. She stood at the door with her arms crossed and her navy calf-skin pumps tapping on the faded tiles. Kyle came out from the toilet in his underwear. "Put your pants on, young man, there are ladies present!" She pointed to me.

"What? Our Annie, a lady? Sure!" He sat on the floor and started going through his clothes. He sniffed each item, placing those that offended in a laundry bag and those that didn't in his equipment bag.

"Oh. Hi Mom." I said weakly. "Enjoy the game?"

Mom stood silently for a moment. Her arms uncrossed; her hands moved to her hips and rested as fists against the smooth navy wool of her jacket. She started pacing, two inch heels clicking, the lining of the matching tailored skirt rustling softly in the deafening silence of the locker room. "I think this foolishness has gone on long enough. This is no place for a girl like you. Is this what you want to do for the rest of your life?" She stopped pacing in front of the hall to Garry's office. I could hear Garry coming out. She continued. "Is this going to be your life? Sleeping on buses and living in a MAN’S locker room?"

Garry came up behind her. "Excuse me, Madam, have we met? I'm Garry Dennison, Field manager of The Blue Birds. And you?" He held out his hand to her. She looked at it like it was covered in maggots.

"My mother,” I said dully, not believing any of this was happening. Garry looked at me quizzically, and I tried to communicate with my eyes that I didn't want her around.

"Bus goes in twenty minutes,” he said, pointing at his watch. He turned to leave, and changed his mind. He stood at the hall door, thoughtfully stroking his chin.

"You heard the man. I have to finish."

"I'm not finished," she said angrily. "Pack your things and I'm taking you home."

"NO!" I shouted. Everybody was staring at us. "I'm staying here with my team. I belong with my team-mates."

"Your team-mates?" She sneered. "What kind of men parade around in their underwear in front of a lady? I certainly hope you don't parade around in front of them. How do you know you can trust any of them? You could be asking for trouble. You know you can't trust boys when they're his age." She turned and pointed to Dean. I had never seen him look so hurt.

"How dare you humiliate me in front of my friends!" I shouted at her. Garry came back up to us. "I can live my own life now. I'm twenty-one. That means I'm all grown up."

"Excuse me, madam,” Garry cut in. His voice was firm, deep, and loud. He only used that voice when he was very angry. "I must ask you to leave. You're upsetting my players. You're upsetting MY pitcher."

"I'm not leaving without MY daughter." She didn't even look at Garry. "Now get your things and come!" She stood between me and the door.

"No mother, you leave!" I was too angry and upset for tears.

Garry put his hand on her arm. "You are not allowed to harass my players or my STAR pitcher. Leave now. I will call security if required. This is your final warning."

"Annie!" Her voice was razor sharp. "Come now!"

I grabbed my bag and pushed my way past her. I threw my bag into the luggage compartment and found a seat in the back. Five minutes later Dad and Jake entered the bus.

"You okay, sis?" Jake squeezed my hand.

"Your coach said there was an ugly scene." Dad looked grim.

"She insulted me, my team-mates my friends." I wiped at my eyes. They were still dry. Garry came in and sat in front of us.

"I warned her," said Dad. "But she managed to sneak away from us. She told us she was going to the ladies room. I should have known." He gave me a big Dad kiss. His moustache tickled my cheek. "I love you, honey, and I'm behind you two hundred percent. Keep going after your dream."

"I'm behind you four hundred percent," said Jake slugging my shoulder. "You got a lot of fans back home. We're all pulling for you."

"You both need math lessons," I laughed. "Now get going or you'll both end up in Spruce Valley, Ohio."

"You'll be okay?" Dad asked.

"I'll be fine."

Dad looked at Garry, who nodded. "We'll get going then. I'm going to give Mom a good lecture. Let her see what it feels like on the receiving end for a change."

They left me, and the rest of the team straggled in. I went to sit beside Dean to apologize for what my mother said about him. However, when I sat beside him my voice turned to dust and all the tears I had been holding in came out. The doors of the bus closed and it rumbled into the night. Dean held me while I cried everything out, and Pete sat across from me with his hand on my back. That night Pete and Dean and I became friends for life.

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!

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copyright 2004 Linda Leis Soeder