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SUMMARY: Two boys growing up together in an idyllic beachfront community share a passion for baseball. One excels at the game and plays it with reckless abandon; the other, less talented, studies the game and those who play it, hoping someday to share what he learns with others. Best friends since childhood, the two have seen how baseball can bring them closer together. Now, having just graduated from high school, it’s about to show them a crueler side of the game. Baseball is about to separate them even though neither wants that to happen. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.
WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs portrayed or mentioned in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.
NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams, clubs, or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.
NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. This chapter is told from Ethan’s perspective. More importantly, today is Memorial Day. Honor those who died in the service of their country. Challenge those who keep sending them off to fight and die in absurd wars.
Back at the house I stripped off of my uniform and tossed it aside. Knowing Hunter was waiting, I showered quickly.
It had been a good game, the kind I liked; close, hard fought, and decided at the very end. Games like that kept you engaged; and if you were lucky enough to win, the effect was always electric. I was happy I had played, happier still we had won. I wouldn’t be around by the time the playoffs began, but the guys had worked hard and I knew making the playoffs meant a lot to them.
Emerging from the shower, I dried myself off quickly and changed into shorts and a t-shirt. Hunter was talking to my mother when I finally joined them downstairs.
“I’ll be back in a little while, Mom,” I said, hugging her. “Hunter and I are going to get some pizza up the street.”
With that the two of us headed off for the boardwalk. It was still warm but not humid and by that time the streets were beginning to clear of all the tourists.
“Man, was I wrong,” Hunter said.
“About what?” I asked.
“Wrong about sitting out the game,” he continued. “You had a terrific game, Ethan. If there were scouts there, you did yourself a big favor tonight.”
“It’s funny you say that,” I replied. “Avery Jennings said there were three or four scouts present he knew of for sure and he thought the same thing as you; that I helped myself out. He said Baltimore might have to rethink where they drafted me tomorrow knowing there were so many scouts present from some of the other teams.”
“But who knows? I sure don’t. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow though.”
By then we had reached Louie’s. I ordered a salad while Hunter went for the pizza. While we were eating, a steady stream of people from town stopped by and wished me good luck the next day.
“You know this is huge, don’t you?” Hunter said at one point. “This whole freaking town is totally invested in you, dude. It’s like they succeed if you succeed.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But I sure hope people don’t get too invested. Like I’ve told you a million times, I may not get drafted at all; and even if I do, that doesn’t guarantee anything.”
“Forget it, Ethan,” he responded. “You’re going to be drafted. I heard Mr. Jennings telling your mother last week you would get drafted in the first ten rounds where the money is big; and then you’re going all the way to the top, dude.”
“And then what happens, Hunter?” I asked. “Let’s say I do make it to the big leagues. Will we still be friends by the time I do? Will we still do the same things together we’ve done all our lives? Go swimming? Share something to eat like this? I mean, tomorrow everything changes for us and I don’t want it to. But what I want doesn’t really seem to count for very much in all of this.”
“We’ll still be friends, Ethan,” he replied. “We’ll always be friends. But you’re going to make lots of new friends on your way to the top. That’s just the way it works in life.”
“I suppose,” I said. “But I sure wish life wasn’t happening so fast for the two of us; and none of those new friends I make will ever change how I feel about you. That’s one thing I don’t want ever to change.”
“I don’t either,” he replied. “And nothing is going to change. Maybe we won’t be living near each other, but we can still talk on the phone and text one another and we’ll see each other when the season is over and I’m home from college. Nothing is going to change, buddy.”
“I already told you I probably won’t have a cell phone, Hunter,” I said. “I’ve told you a million times how little they pay minor league players. They don’t even pay enough for me to get my own place.”
“I’ll probably end up living with some family I don’t even know that’s willing to host me rent-free; some couple named Homer and Maude who are, like, 96 years old, but run an online house of prostitution out of their place and just want me around to provide cover for their nefarious sex ring and to service their female clients.”
By now Hunter was laughing like he always did when I made up one of those bizarre stories. I liked seeing him laugh. He looked so cute when he did.
“A cell phone; forget about it, dude,” I continued. “I won’t be able to afford something like that.”
“You’re going to get a bazillion dollars just for signing with the Baltimore Blues or whatever team drafts you tomorrow, Ethan,” he responded. “That should be enough to buy a freaking cell phone.”
“Yeah, and I’ve told you a million times that signing bonus is for my Mom, Hunter, not for me. And even if I could afford the phone, there’s no way I could handle the monthly charges on a minor league salary. So you can forget about that.”
“Stop it, will you, Ethan?” he pleaded, turning serious all of a sudden.
“You’re bumming me out just thinking about all of this.”
“I know,” I said, sighing. “I haven’t been able to think about anything else for weeks now. It’s been tough watching draft day creep closer and closer. Sorry; I guess misery loves company, but I apologize if I bummed you out. That’s the last thing I want to do. In any event, it’s getting late. I guess I should be getting home.”
So there you had it in a nutshell. Neither of us wanted anything to change. But it was finally sinking in that everything was about to change and there was nothing either of us could do about it.
“Do you want me to walk you home?” he asked.
“That would be nice,” I said.
“Is that what you used to do when you were dating Mary Ellen?” I added, unable to resist jerking his chain just a little. “Am I your date tonight, Hunter? Do I get a kiss like Mary Ellen if you do?”
As much as I hoped he would say yes, he wasn’t buying any of it and fired back as good as he got.
“We could do that if you want, Ethan,” he replied. “We could ring the doorbell and let your mother watch us do it. I’m sure that would make her happy.”
“Okay, you win,” I responded, knowing I was beaten.
“You’re going to be here tomorrow, right?” I asked. “I need you here to keep me from going insane.”
“Of course,” he responded. “What time do they start the draft again?”
“Um, well, I think Mr. Jennings said noon; or maybe that’s the second day of the draft. Maybe he said 1 p.m. I can’t really recall. Just come by reasonably early.”
“From what I gather, our place is going to be a zoo tomorrow what with everyone inviting themselves over. The plan is to bus everyone down to the high school from our house before the draft begins so they’ll be able to follow it live on a big screen TV. That way my Mom, Mr. Jennings, and you and me will have some privacy when the call finally comes from whatever team drafts me; assuming one does. Once we know, we’ll drive down to the high school and talk to everyone about the whole thing.”
“Are you sure you want me there for the actual draft?” he said. “I don’t have to be, you know. It’s a special moment and I’ll understand if you want to share it alone with your Mom.”
“Special moments are meant to be shared with special people, Hunter,” I said. “And I want you there. I’ve told you that a million times. There’s no one more special than you.”
“Okay, I’ll come by sometime before noon,” he replied.
Oh, hell, why even bother going home, Hunter? I said to myself as he sauntered off.
Why don’t you just come up and sleep with me tonight?
Both of us will have a really good time if you do.
I wanted to say it. I had wanted to say it a million times. But just like a million times before, I didn’t say it. Instead, I turned and walked into the house alone. Mom was waiting for me and we went over our schedule for the next day still again. Then I raced up the stairs, stripped off my clothes, and climbed into bed.
Mr. Bare Ass, my teddy bear, was waiting there patiently for me just like he had ever since I was fourteen and that boy had tossed him to me. Just thinking about it, I remember laughing. My mother had asked me what his name was at some point; and not wanting to tell her the name I had given him, I told her his name was Mr. Burris.
She didn’t have a clue who Mr. Burris was and neither did I. I told her he was some cartoon character on television. It was lame, but the best I could do at the time.
By now I was tense and knew I was going to need some relief to fall asleep. Closing my eyes, I reached down and started stroking real gently. Summoning Hunter back to the room, at least in my imagination, the two of us picked up where we had left off earlier that day.
“Oh, Jesus, yes,” Hunter exclaimed, certain now the effort he was expending was finally about to be rewarded.
“I can feel it building inside me, dude; feel it starting to climb.”
“Uh, oh god; oh, Jesus; here it comes, Ethan.”
“Oh fuck, yes, fuck, give it to me,” I remember screaming.
“Cream me, Hunter.”
“Uh, uhhhh . . . oh, Jesus . . . FUCK!”
I could feel him exploding inside me repeatedly, only this time was different. I could still feel the warmth and that was familiar enough. But this time the warmth was accompanied by a feeling of wetness I had never experienced before. Hunter had barebacked me.
Later I would remember thinking it was only pretend. I would never do something like that in real life given the risk, but it was only pretend and I tried to block that out of my mind and soak in the pleasure I was experiencing.
Determined now to drain every last drop out of Hunter, I squeezed my ass as hard as I could.
“Oh, Jesus, Ethan,” he whispered as he collapsed on to me. “Whatever you just did was incredible, just so incredible.”
It made me smile to hear him say that. I allowed him to rest on me for a couple of minutes, then shifted my hips ever so slightly.
He recognized the signal and pulled out reluctantly. He would have preferred to stay longer, but he knew I needed the eye contact. We rolled on to our sides like we always did when it was over and just stared at each other.
“I love fucking you so much, Ethan,” he finally whispered.
“Do you love it as much as fucking Mary Ellen’s pussy?” I asked, deciding to jerk his chain just a little.
“Oh hell, don’t even go there, Ethan,” he responded, defensively. “That was four years ago for crying out loud and there’s no comparison. Your ass is so much better than that skanky pussy of hers, so much tighter, so much sweeter, so much more fun to be inside of. You know I haven’t fucked anyone except you since that first time we did it together.”
Then he reached over and started jerking me off while he kissed me. I was primed by then and it only took a few moments before I exploded all over myself, making a mess.
Cleaning myself off, I embraced him. Then the two of us fell asleep, hugging each other.
I woke up clinging to Mr. Bare Ass tightly the following morning. I don’t know why, but I decided not to get up. I just stayed in bed, staring at the ceiling. It was something I never did and I guess it surprised my Mom because she called to me from downstairs a couple of times.
I ignored her; and then when I heard her climbing the stairs, I rolled over face down and pretended to be asleep. She knocked on the door and then entered.
“You don’t fool me one little bit, Ethan,” she said. “I know you’re not asleep. You can stay in bed a little later if you’re tired, but this is you big day and people will be arriving soon enough. They’ll want to see you and talk to you and say hello. So I’ll give you another fifteen or twenty minutes before I call on my magical powers and summon Captain Tickle Monster to get you out of bed, just like I used to do when you were little.”
With that she leaned over and ran one of her fingers up and down the side of my body.
“Mom, stop,” I shouted, giggling and squirming as I tried to escape her touch. “STOP!”
I rolled over on to my back and looked up at her.
“I’m not some five-year old, you know,” I said, smiling. “I’m practically an adult.”
“Are you?” she responded. “All the adults I know get up first thing in the morning and go off to their jobs. And your job today is to meet and greet folks as they come by and be nice to them. Like I said, this is your big day.”
“What’s so big about it, Mom?” I asked, turning serious. “I mean, so what if I do get drafted today? All that means is that I’m going to have to go off to some small town far away from you and everyone I care about to play the same stupid game I’ve been playing my whole life. What’s so great about that?”
She stared at me momentarily and then sat down on the edge of the bed.
“I hear you,” she said, trying to reassure me. “I’m going to miss having my little boy around, too; my not so little boy, I guess I should say. But that’s what growing up is all about, Ethan.”
“You know, when you were a little boy, your favorite story was Peter Pan. You would beg me to read that to you all the time. And one night you even asked me how you could go about becoming one of the Lost Boys so you could spend the rest of your life with Peter?”
“I didn’t have the heart to tell you the truth back then so I just said I would answer your question someday when you were a little bigger and ready to leave home.”
“You’re bigger now, Ethan; and while Peter Pan may not be real, there are lots of lost boys in the world. They’re all the boys just like you who grow up and move away from home. They’re not really lost themselves, but they’re lost to their moms.”
“But they get to explore a real world with all its wonders, not a pretend world like Peter Pan lived in. It can be hard at first, but everything works out for the best just like in the fairy tales; and I’m sure they’ll work out that way for you too, my soon to be lost boy.”
Then she leaned down and kissed me.
“I love you so much, Ethan, and I always will. But what’s so great about today is you’ll be taking the first step on a very long journey; and while it might seem a little scary right now, it won’t be long before you decide you really do like all the new adventures the journey brings. So enough of this talking; you have another ten or fifteen minutes and then you need to get up.”
“Yeah,” I responded.
With that she stood up and started to walk to the door.
“Mom,” I said.
She turned around and looked over at me.
“I love you, Mom.”
I could see her begin to choke up and for a moment I thought she would lose it. But somehow she composed herself and looked over at me.
“And I love you too, my little lost boy.”
I closed my eyes again and let my mind drift off, this time back to the evening we had shared with Avery Jennings almost fifteen months earlier. We had already talked to several agents before him. But he was the first to explain the whole thing in a way I could understand; and unlike the other dudes, he didn’t try to make the decision for me. I was glad I had chosen him as my adviser.
“Thanks for giving me the opportunity to speak to you and your Mom this evening, Ethan. I’m not going to spend much time talking about what I can do for you as an agent because there are a lot of other agents who can do exactly the same thing. In fact, I’ll be happy to give you the names of some if you decide you want to talk to somebody else; and I’ve left a folder with lots of information about me and my firm that you and your Mom can look at later.”
“Keep in mind I’m not here as an agent tonight trying to get you to sign a contract. You don’t want to sign a contract with me or anyone else before the draft. If you do, you’ll lose your eligibility to play college ball and you definitely want to keep that option open because it’s one of the few pieces of leverage you’ll have when you sit down to negotiate with whatever major league team drafts you.”
“Teams know high school seniors like you can turn them down if you don’t like the offer they make. You can go on to college and then enter the draft again in the future. They don’t want you to do that for a couple of reasons, one being they’ll have wasted a draft choice if you turn them down and go off to school.”
“Another reason they want you to sign straight out of high school is they like having young arms and legs in their system. As a general rule, there are fewer health issues when they’re dealing with younger players.”
“But, like I said, you’ll lose that leverage with teams if you sign with an agent because then you’re no longer considered an amateur. You’re considered a professional and professionals can’t play college ball.”
“So I’m here this evening to advise you informally and to answer any questions you and your Mom have. My advice is free; and even if you sign a contract to play minor league ball and become a client of mine down the road, there’s nothing in it for me financially. The rules don’t allow agents like me to get paid while you’re playing in the minor leagues. We only get paid if you make it to the major leagues and we negotiate a contract for you.”
“But we don’t always get paid even then because you’re free to switch agents at any time. I’m not encouraging that. It’s not the right thing to do. But the truth is a lot of guys who finally make it to the major leagues decide they want to be represented by one of the better known firms or agents, people like Scott Munson or firms like LFX. So they simply drop the agent who’s spent years working for them for free and sign with someone else.”
“Like I said, I hope you won’t do that if you eventually become a client of mine; and not because I think I’m a better agent than Scott. He’s an excellent agent and does a great job for his clients. But his firm has a lot more major league clients than mine and doesn’t have nearly as much time to work with younger players like you.”
“In any event, enough said about that; the point is you should know you’re always free to sign with someone else if you don’t think I am doing a good job for you.”
“I’m here as an unpaid adviser for now, not an agent, and the decision you’ll face when you graduate is whether to declare for the draft; and then, if you do and you’re drafted, whether to sign a contract to play minor league ball straight out of high school or go to college.”
“As for whether to declare for the draft, I’m not going to try to persuade you one way or the other. Playing baseball professionally for a living is something only you can decide. If you don’t enjoy playing, then you shouldn’t bother declaring for the draft and playing minor league ball.”
“Frankly, the pay is terrible, the working conditions difficult, and the chances you’ll ever make it to the major leagues slim. So you really need to enjoy playing because there won’t be much payoff unless you make it to the majors and most young men like you don’t.”
“If you do, you’ll be richly rewarded. Even the minimum salary for a major league ballplayer is extraordinarily high. If you save your money and invest it wisely through a good financial adviser, you’ll be set for life. But, again, I want to emphasize that most young men don’t make it so don’t count on that.”
“Another reason why some people declare for the draft rather than going to college is the signing bonus teams pay. Those bonuses can be quite high as well, millions of dollars for a first round draft pick. But most players don’t get signed in the first round and don’t get that kind of signing bonus.”
“The signing bonus for a lot of those drafted is $1000 and an airplane ticket to whatever city the team decides to assign you to. You don’t get a choice about that. You go where they tell you.”
“Now I understand from your Coach that you’ve expressed an interest in going on to college and I have no problem with that. The truth is that most of those I talk to would be better served by going to college and getting their degree than by playing minor league ball. But it’s also true that most of those who go on to college and then sign a minor league contract will do so before they graduate from college. In other words, they won’t get their degree.”
“They’ll be a lot closer to getting a degree than someone who signs out of high school, but keep in mind that some teams will offer you a college scholarship package as part of their contract offer if you do sign straight out of high school.”
“The standard offer is for $50,000 or $100,000 toward your college education. It’s a nice package, but the truth is that most young men who sign out of high school will never go back to college once their playing days are over. The teams know that; and knowing they may never have to pay out any of that money, it makes it easier for them to offer it in the first place.”
“Now ordinarily I’m happy when I see a young man like you go on to college rather than signing out of high school. Like I said, I think it’s the smart choice for many. But this year there’s another factor you need to take into account in making the decision. Lately there’s been a lot of talk about changing the rules that apply to the draft. Most of the changes being talked about are designed to reduce the amount of money the teams pay out as part of the draft, at least that’s my opinion of the whole thing.”
“But since we don’t know for sure what the new rules will be, there may be more of an incentive to sign now under the old rules than under whatever new rules may be adopted. I can’t say that for sure because I don’t know what the new rules will be. But I do know what the existing rules are and I think you would do well under those rules if you signed out of high school.”
“I scout a lot of players, Ethan, and you’re one of the very best potentially available in the draft next year. Now I realize you may think I’m just flattering you, but the first rule I imposed on myself when I went into this business was never to lie to any of the young men I talk to. That goes back to my days scouting for Boston and it’s the only way I can live with myself.”
“I believe you would be drafted in the first ten rounds if you declare for the draft and that’s the truth. But it’s only my opinion, Ethan, and I’m not the one that’s doing the drafting for any of those major league teams. I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am in your case. And just so you know, the bonuses currently paid to players drafted in the first ten rounds are excellent.”
“Get selected in the first round and you’re talking seven figures, more than one million dollars and sometimes a lot more. But even someone selected in the tenth round is going to get a lot of money, $100,000 or more. But don’t try to take what I’ve told you tonight to the bank. A lot could happen between now and next June. God forbid, you could be injured and that would affect where you’re drafted as well.”
“So, at the end of the day I don’t think the money should be the only factor you take into account in making your decision. I think you’ll do well financially even if you decide to go college and the rules change in the next couple of years. Yes, the major league teams are trying to reduce costs wherever they can. But they also know that talent costs money and you have a lot of talent, Ethan.”
“In any event, I’m sorry I’ve been so long winded, but Coach Lodge told me you and your Mom were still pretty confused about the whole thing and I wanted to spell it out as clearly as I could. I’m sure you’ll have lots of questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.”
I remember being impressed with the guy. He had made the whole thing a lot clearer than the other dudes we interviewed; and I liked how he had laid it out fairly and squarely, the pros and the cons, without trying to make the decision for me.
My Mom had lots of questions. Because I was still a minor, she wanted to know where I would be living, whether I would have health insurance if I got injured playing ball and a lot of other things as well. Mr. Jennings answered all of her questions as best he could.
Yes, I would have access to health insurance. No, I wouldn’t be able to afford my own place given how poorly minor league players were paid. I would probably end living with a host family rent-free or renting a small place with three or four other players in the same situation as me.
There were other questions, of course, lots of them; and the dude just sat there patiently for hours answering them knowing he wasn’t going to be paid for it and might not be the adviser we finally selected.
Later, just before he left, I walked him out to his car so I could raise something I didn’t want to discuss in front of my mother.
“I have one other question, Mr. Jennings. If I heard you right, all of that signing bonus money would be mine. Is that right?”
“You are,” he replied. “You would have to pay taxes on it, of course; so a $100,000 signing bonus after taxes might only end up amounting to $75,000, for example. But, yes, that $75,000 would be yours and yours alone.”
“And I could do anything I wanted with it?” I asked.
“Sure,” he responded, “keeping in mind you would still be a minor and the money would be in some kind of trust until you turn eighteen. But, yes, once you turned eighteen, you could do whatever you wanted with it. Do you have your eye on a new car or something like that, Ethan?”
“No,” I replied. “I don’t really need a car. But I was thinking I would like to give the money to my Mom. I mean, the thing is, she’s raised me all these years by herself. My Dad died before I was even born; and, well, my Mom works really hard, but she doesn’t make a lot of money and she doesn’t really have any kind of plan that would let her retire any time soon. I’m thinking that bonus could be her retirement plan.”
He just stood there staring at me for a couple of moments without saying anything, then cleared his throat and spoke up.
“That’s, um, well, that’s very generous of you, Ethan. I’ve never had a client who suggested something like that. You do need to keep in mind that the bonus might be the only real payoff you’ll ever get out of playing minor league ball. Like I told you, minor leaguers don’t get paid much. Most never make it to the major leagues and the big money that brings.”
“You could wake up one day and be thirty years old and find yourself released or no longer interested in playing ball. You didn’t go to college and you still have a lot of years left to live. That signing bonus, wisely invested, could help. That’s why I have a financial planner on my staff to help my clients figure out things like that.”
“But yes, if you want to help your Mom retire, we can help you do that as well. We could use some or all of the bonus to buy an annuity for your Mom that would pay her a monthly income in retirement. It’s a little complicated and we don’t have to discuss that right now. You haven’t even made your decision yet. But we can talk about all of these things once you’re drafted and decide what it is you want to do.”
“Look, Ethan, I’m just like the rest of the agents. If you sign a contract down the road, I’ll want to keep your business so you can hit me up for a free steak dinner when I drop by to see you and I’ll send along some free equipment every now and then when I can. But for me a big part of what I like about this job is helping young men like you realize your dreams; not just your baseball dreams, but all the rest of your dreams as well.”
“Thanks, Mr. Jennings,” I responded. “We’ll let you know what we decide soon.”
Mom and I talked about everything we had heard late into the evening. Both of us agreed Mr. Jennings had made the most impressive presentation of any of those we interviewed. We were still going to look at the materials he left, but both of us were pretty certain he would be our choice as my adviser.
As for the bigger decision, my Mom made the case for going to college and it still held a lot of appeal for me. It was what Hunter and I had talked about off and on for years and the thought of abandoning that dream was tough to swallow. But just looking at my Mom talking to me, I already knew what my decision would be, at least assuming everything went down the way Mr. Jennings had explained.
I wanted that signing bonus for her and that made the decision easier. I decided to declare for the draft that very evening. And then I had spent the next fifteen months worrying because I knew what it meant. It meant I wouldn’t be going to college with Hunter. Scarier still, it meant moving away from Rehoboth Beach and I wondered if that would mean the end of our friendship.
Why I had been thinking about all of this once again that morning I don’t know. Maybe I was trying to distract myself from having to get up. But when Mom finally called up again, I climbed out of bed and showered. I decided to skip breakfast that morning and it wasn’t long after that before people began showing up at our house.
Now, looking around, it seemed as if every square inch of our home was occupied by someone and all of them seemed to want a piece of me that morning. They were coming up and slapping me on the back, wishing me luck, congratulating me on what was about to happen, telling me how much I deserved it.
It was funny.
Growing up, I had never dreamed about playing professional baseball like some of my friends. I played because it was fun and I was good at it and I liked the way it challenged me. But mostly I played just because I liked spending time with my friends, especially Hunter. But now here we were.
It was the June morning when major league baseball teams held their annual draft. Even now I wasn’t sure I wanted to play professional ball. It seemed like I had been dreaming forever about going away to college with Hunter and the two of us being roommates. I loved Hunter. I had known that for a long time now; and because he meant so much to me, the thought of being separated from him was hard to deal with.
And yet he had been among those pushing me the hardest to enter the draft. He kept telling me what a terrific ball player I was and how I could go all the way to the top and wouldn’t it be great to play major league ball someday? As much as I had reconciled myself to the dream so many had chased over the years, it was Hunter as much as anyone who had instilled it in me in the first place.
I never liked disappointing Hunter. There was only one time I had done it and I had done it because I was jealous. I wanted him to be with me, not Mary Ellen, so I wouldn’t invite her to the movies like he wanted me to.
The point is Hunter was always there one way or another and he wanted this so much for me. That was a big factor. He was that important to me.
I guess the money problems had weighed on me too. I didn’t know how I would pay for college exactly. My mother kept saying not to worry about it, that if that’s what I wanted to do we would find the money somehow. But I was less certain about that.
I knew my Mom didn’t have very much money so it would be hard on her. If I signed out of high school, maybe there would be that scholarship package once my playing career was over. That would make my Mom happy; but I wouldn’t be going to college with Hunter at that point, of course, so I had mixed feelings about the whole thing.
It was just so hard being seventeen and having to think about all of this stuff. All of the guys I played with over the years were telling me to go for it and I could understand why. If I was drafted, it was like they were drafted as well. If I made it all the way to the top, they could tell their wives and kids how they knew someone who played professional baseball and, hey, did I ever tell you about the time he and I . . . .
The whole thing had been the talk of the town for weeks. I would be walking down the street and people would stop me and ask whether I was going to be a baseball star? You tried to be nice to them. It was like your success was the town’s success and I didn’t mind that either. I loved growing up in Rehoboth Beach. But there were times when the whole thing weighed on me and this was one of those times I guess.
Everywhere I looked, the house was jam packed with people. It was unbelievable. There had never been that many people in our house before; and looking out the window provided no reassurance. It seemed like the entire town was milling around our front yard.
Right about then Mom wandered by and I pulled her aside.
“Who are all these people and where did they come from, Mom?” I asked. “I mean, it’s only 11 o’clock. Don’t these people know the draft doesn’t even start for another hour or two? Don’t they know it’s not like I’m going to be selected in the first round? Heck, I may not be selected today; or tomorrow for that matter either. How embarrassing will that be if I don’t get selected at all, Mom?”
My Mom just looked at me and smiled.
“Mr. Jennings says you’re going to be selected today in one of the first ten rounds. And all of the rest of these people are here because they’re rooting for you to be selected. It’s a big day for everyone.”
“I know,” I said. “But this place is a zoo. I mean, look out the window Mom. For every person in here, there’s got to be another one outside trying to get inside. Who invited all these people?”
“You invited a lot of them, Ethan, and I invited a few. I guess some invited themselves, but you should be grateful they care about you so much. It isn’t that big a problem so let’s be nice to them.”
“I’ll try,” I sighed. “But I’m definitely getting claustrophobic. I need to get out of here for a while. I’m going to slip out the back and go for a walk on the boardwalk. When Mr. Jennings decides I need to come back, you can send Hunter to get me. Tell him I’ll be at my favorite spot. He knows where that is.”
“Okay, Ethan,” she said. “I understand how intimidating all of this must be for you. It’s a little intimidating for me to be honest. But I’ll do the entertaining. You just go off and have a good time. I’ll send Hunter along when he gets here.”
I made my way toward the back door, but it was hard. Every step of the way someone would stop me and want to talk and I understood they were happy for me and I did my best to accommodate them. But I wanted to get out of that place.
Finally, I managed to open the door and slip out to the back yard; more people milling around, more conversations. And then finally I scooted through the bushes into Mrs. Johnson’s yard as I had been doing all my life and at last I was free. I walked north quickly, turned east, and finally there I was at the boardwalk.
Turning south, I walked to my favorite spot all the way down at the other end, within sight of Poodle Beach.