Garry Dennison managed the minor league baseball team, The Burlington Blue Birds for five years and hated this week more as each year passed. There would have been no need for it this year, but when Cavelli blew out his shoulder and Hendricks decided football offered more money than baseball, and the kids in Rookie League didn't know which end of the bat was up, management called a Mini Camp. The scouts brought in promising prospects from schoolyards and barnyards everywhere and gave them three days to strut their stuff. Garry had met half of the twenty invitees, so far nobody was outstanding. Most dreamed they were future Hall of Famers, most were in for a rude awakening.
He scanned the field for the head scout, Wallace "Wimpey" Farian, (nicknamed for his legendary appetite) and found him in the dugout eating and talking. Robbie Robbins, the catcher, was with the Wimp, as was a hopeful. This hopeful stood all of five foot ten with straw blond hair pulled back into a pony tail and a perfectly smooth face. A string bean topped with corn silk, he thought. The kid wore the uniform of the Ontario Provincial League. The kid must have something going for him, mused Garry.
George Burgess, pitching coach, ambled up behind Garry. “Whattay'all think?” he drawled in his lazy Missouri accent.
“I think we-all should wait until these guys reach puberty.” He pointed to the string bean. “That one hasn't started shaving yet.”
George smirked, and Garry got the impression he knew something and wasn't telling. George handed Garry the scouting report on the kid: A.J. Weston. Garry scanned it and handed it back. “I know the stats look good,” said Garry, “but I want to see for myself how the kid does… how he looks on the mound.”
“How does HE look?” George guffawed and slugged Garry in the arm. “Wait'll y'all see how HE looks.”
Garry, George, and Wimpey stood along the first base line while the kid took his warm up pitches. Something bothered Garry; something in the way he moved appeared to Garry's eyes--- weird. George and Wimpey exchanged knowing glances. He couldn't put his finger on what bothered him.
The kid threw a good looking sinker, a sizzling fastball that needed a lot of work, a side arm submarine pitch that might have been a forkball, and a dazzlingly perfect screwball. He knew of two other pitchers who threw screwballs and their personalities matched their pitches.
“Now,” said Wimpey around a mouthful of cupcakes, “Watch this: Robbie, call Pete over and you grab a bat.”
Garry smiled. Robbie was hitting .450 and ate smooth faced string bean kid pitchers for lunch. Someday Robbie would be playing in the big leagues, where he belonged.
First the kid threw a fastball. Robbie expected it, but couldn't catch up, and he ate fastballs for dinner. George called over for another fastball. Robbie narrowed his eyes and gripped the bat. He still couldn't catch up. George trotted over to the kid, whispered in his ear, and returned. The kid wound up and threw. Robbie's swung way in front of the curve ball.
Garry made the kid face four more batters and three went down swinging, while the fourth popped up into the infield. The kid also threw a slider and changed the speeds of his pitches. “Does he have a knuckle ball in that little bag of tricks?”
Wimpey shook his head. “That's probably the only thing that isn't in there.”
George grinned from ear to ear. “Ain't that just the greatest thing you've ever seen? I love the screwball! And that fast ball? Hooo weee! We got us a genuine diamond in the rough. Wattay'all say, boys?”
Garry wasn't as enthusiastic. The kid had potential, no denying that, but something still gnawed at him. Something wasn't right. “I don't know—“ he said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“You don't know!” cried George in disbelief. “Why, the ole Wimpster has a contract all warmed up. The people who run the show want this one. Soooo…”
“Soooooo -“ Wimpey looked Garry straight in the eye, a crooked grin on his face.
“Okay, okay,” he surrendered. “I know good when I see it. I'm not blind. Hey, kid, c'mon over here.” He waved and the kid walked over. He held out his hand and began introducing himself when he realized what made this kid so different, and his voice froze in his throat. There wasn't anything wrong with the kid; in fact, the kid wasn't a kid at all. The kid was a woman. A woman who was quite possibly the most promising pitcher he had seen in all his years of working in the minor leagues. So that's what all the smirking and grinning was about, he thought.
“Wha wha wha wha when when when” he spluttered, trying to control his shock. “How long have you been a girl pitching like that?” He finally spat out, realizing instantly that he looked and sounded like an idiot.
She dug her toe into the dirt, spat a sunflower seed shell on the ground and looked him straight in the eye. “I've been female since conception, so I had no control over that. The pitching? I've been pitching since I was six and I've worked hard to get to this point. I've been playing against men exclusively since high school. You saw my stats. I think I'm good enough. Don't think of me as a woman, think of me the same way you think of all the other guys at this try out.”
“I can't,” said Garry, looking at the grass and trying not to grin.
“Why?” Her eyes flashed. "Because women don't belong in baseball?"
“Ummmmm - noooo,” he drawled while stroking his chin, still examining the grass. He looked up and into her eyes. “I can't because you're so much better than the other guys at this try-out.”
She smiled. “So do I stay the weekend or do I hang up my spikes?”
Wimpey grabbed her around the shoulder. “Weekend, hell! Stay the week! Stay a month! Stay the whole summer! The front office has some papers for you to read and sign. Take a week to look them over. Have a lawyer read them, if you want. If you have any problems we can talk. We want you, right, Garry?” He winked over at Garry.
“Right! And since I can't call you kid anymore, what do I call you?”
“My full name is Anne Jessica Weston. Everybody calls me Annie.”
“Well, Annie," said Garry, holding out his hand. "Welcome to the Burlington Blue Birds!”
|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!|