Chapter 32

a home run ... just like the story itself :-)

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Summer Boys, Summer Dreams: Chapter 32

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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 is something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. December 16: I hope everyone has read this post over at the blog; if not, this would be a good time to do so.

SUMMER BOYS, SUMMER DREAMS

Part III – Fall

Chapter 32

One of the lessons I had learned from Coach Lodge over the years was never to count on things going exactly the way you planned. I was reminded of that the following evening when Kevin arrived early and took me aside before practice. He was nervous, as if he expected me to yell at him for some reason.

“I hope you won’t be mad at me, Coach, but well, um, the thing is, my Dad, um . . . my Dad doesn’t want me to switch positions. He doesn’t want me to play second base. He says that’ll just end up confusing me; that I’m best suited for shortstop and that’s where I need to play.”

“I mean, I tried to persuade him, Coach; honestly, I did. I told him how you wanted to play everyone and how that meant some of us had to play more than one position. But he just wouldn’t listen. The only position he wants me to play is shortstop.”

“I see,” I replied. “Well, thanks for letting me know that, Kevin. I guess you should get out there and get to work at shortstop then while I try to figure out a Plan B.”

It was disappointing. Kevin was a good enough shortstop, but nothing special. And yet he had the potential to be an excellent second baseman. He would need to spend time working on a variety of things, including his footwork, but the position suited his talents much better.

Try as hard as I could that night, I couldn’t come up with a better plan. Zachary would have been wasted at second base given how much ground he covered; and while I had already decided to use him at third base at times and he was open to that, there just wasn’t another position that would make the best use of him. He was a natural at shortstop, just like Ethan.

And then there was the promise I had made the first day we met; that the best player would start no matter what. To me nothing had changed. It was still the right approach; believing that as I did, I pulled Kevin aside after practice and spoke to him again.

“Look, Kevin, I haven’t told Zachary this because I wanted to talk to you first. But I plan on starting him at shortstop next Sunday and probably most of the time after that as well. I should be able to get you in at shortstop later in the game. I’ll move Zachary over to third when I do that. His arm is strong enough to handle that position just fine.”

“Like Zachary, I’m willing to move you into some other position so you can play the entire game, preferably second base or somewhere in the outfield if necessary. That would be the best thing for the team, but it really depends on whether your dad is fine with that. If shortstop is the only position he’s willing to let you play, I won’t be able to use you the entire game. Zachary’s earned playing time at shortstop and it wouldn’t be fair not to let him play there.”

“Um, well, thanks; thanks for telling me that, Coach,” he stammered. “I understand; and, well, ah, I’ll . . . I’ll mention that to my Dad and see what he says. Maybe if I explain it better to him, he’ll let me play some other position.”

“I really would like to play the whole game, Coach,” he added, and by now his eyes were pleading with me. “It’s not that big a deal where I play. I understand you want everyone to play and I’m fine with that. I do too. It’s just that, you know, my Dad really wants me to play shortstop. That’s where he used to play when he was young.”

“I understand, Kevin,” I replied. “Like I said before, I would be happy to talk to him about all of this. But, if not, let me know. I’ve talked to Zachary about playing a couple different positions and he’s fine with that, but I won’t be telling him he’s going to start at shortstop until Saturday.”

“Okay, thanks, Coach. I’ll see you tomorrow night.”

****

Wednesday evening’s practice was not one of our best and eventually I decided to cut it short. The boys had tried to stay focused and give me a good practice, but it was obvious they were anxious to get over to the Municipal Building to try on their uniforms. They were off like a pack of wild animals the moment I told them they could leave.

By the time I eventually got there, clothes were flying in every direction as each of the boys tried to find the right size. From what I heard, Billy had already taken the smallest of everything available and they were still way too big for him. But if his mother was like the rest of the moms, she would work some magic and it would fit perfectly the day we played our first game.

For now he was content to just stare at himself in a mirror in his spanking new uniform.

“Oh wow, oh wow; I don’t believe it,” I overheard him saying from just beyond the wall where he was standing. “I’ve never, ever, been on a real team before. This is too much. If I die tonight, they’ll find me in this uniform tomorrow morning and everyone will know I died the happiest dude who ever lived.”

He was hyperventilating and that made me smile, as did the response he got from Tavaris Thomas, our first baseman and the tallest boy on the team.

“If you die tonight, little man, you’ll die a virgin and I can tell you right now you definitely won’t die the happiest dude in the world.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a solution for that you know,” Billy responded. “Not that I would ever do anything wrong with her, but you could put in a good word for me with that younger sister of yours so she would go on a date with me.”

“Like I said, I wouldn’t touch her, but I’m desperate, Tavaris. Hell, I’m almost to the point of asking you out on a date; if I do, you can be sure you’ll have a good time.”

“You’re crazed, dude,” Tavaris replied. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before we ever go on a date together, that’s for sure. If you’re that desperate to lose your virginity, ask Zachary for a date. He would appreciate your interest a lot more than me.”

“Maybe I will, Tavaris,” Billy said. “You’re not the only good-looking dude in town you know. I like Zachary. He’s a nice guy and I don’t care if he’s gay. He’s a great player, that’s for sure; maybe even better than you.”

“You could be right about that,” Tavaris responded. “Not that it would bother me if he was better. We’ve become really good friends and he makes me work harder at my game. I’m glad he’s on the team.”

“Yeah, me too,” Billy said. “He’s been helping me out a lot lately. I’m finally able to stop a ball hit in my direction and I don’t even throw it to you like a girl anymore.”

Tavaris just laughed and pulled Billy’s cap down below his eyes so he couldn’t see where he was going.

I remember being happy at having overheard that little exchange. To me it was still another proof the boys had come together as a team. Whatever they may have thought at the beginning, it seemed to me they had accepted Zachary as their teammate by now.

They weren’t blind. They could see how good he was; and they weren’t stupid either. They knew they were a better team having Zachary as a teammate; a lot better team.

Within an hour the whole thing was pretty much over and everyone was scattering in a million different directions. I was standing there chatting with Coach Lodge when Ward Bell, the head of the Parks and Recreation Commission, wandered by.

“Looks like a hurricane hit this place,” he said, smiling. “I hope they display as much enthusiasm on the field next Sunday. It won’t do for us to get beat by Lewes. My life will be hell for the next month if we do.”

“Oh, I think the boys will play with a lot of enthusiasm,” I said. “I don’t how good they’ll play, but we won’t lose because of a lack of enthusiasm.”

“I think they’re really enjoying it and I’m grateful to the Park Commissions along the peninsula for sponsoring this league. I get to see how much difference it makes in their lives every day. We’re going to have a lot of fun playing together this summer. Like I said, we may not be all that good, but these boys are learning a lot of valuable life lessons.”

“You’re going to be a very good team, Hunter,” Coach Lodge interjected. “You need to stop worrying about that. Worrying can be contagious at times and you don’t want the boys to believe anything other than they’re invincible. Whatever happens, they’ll be winners for investing the time and energy; and they’ll be better ball players too for all the work you and that assistant of yours have put in on this. So don’t spend too much time worrying about the wins and losses. They’ll take care of themselves.”

“That’s a wonderful sentiment, Hank,” Mr. Bell replied. “But I head up this Commission and have to get the money out of the town council every year to pay for these uniforms and all of the rest of it; the bats, the balls, etc. And I can assure you doing that is a hell of a lot easier if we field a winning team. So, unlike Coach Lodge here, son, I’m looking forward to a big victory over Lewes next Sunday.”

“Do we have a starting lineup, young man?” he added, looking at me intently.

“I’m pretty close,” I responded. “There may be a tweak or two between now and Sunday, but I’m pretty certain who’ll be starting at the different positions.”

“Good,” he replied. “I’m glad to hear that. The fact is I got a call yesterday from Glenn Evans. He was going on and on about his son Kevin not starting at shortstop. I told him that couldn’t be true and he needed to calm down. I assume I was right about that. Was I?”

“Um, well, actually you weren’t, Mr. Bell,” I responded. “Zachary Taylor is going to be starting at shortstop this summer although I plan to move him to third base later in the game so I can give Kevin some playing time at the position as well.”

“That can’t be right,” Mr. Bell said. “Kevin? Not starting? I mean, the boy is the starting shortstop on the high school team. Why wouldn’t he be starting for us as well?”

“Kevin’s a pretty good shortstop,” I volunteered. “But Zachary’s better. I asked Kevin to move over to second base because I think it’s a better position for him. But his Dad won’t let him do it. The truth is his Dad has forbidden him from playing any position on the team except shortstop. That’s a shame because I would like to play Kevin the entire game. As it is, he’ll only be playing about half.”

“How can this other boy possibly be better than Kevin?” Mr. Bell replied, still not persuaded by what I had said. “Both of those boys are on the high school team. But Coach Samuels starts Kevin and I’ve never even seen him play that other boy at all. That should tell you something right there.”

“Reed Samuels has been coaching almost as long as you have, Hank,” he said, turning to Coach Lodge. “I mean, he’s not some rookie coach. He’s been there forever and he knows his baseball. If he thinks Kevin’s the best, I think that should be good enough for us as well.”

“Look Ward,” Coach Lodge responded. “I’ve been to a lot of the practices and Hunter’s right. He’s right that Zachary is the better shortstop. It’s not even close. And he’s right that Kevin would be better served playing second base. But you know how his Dad is. And since his Dad is on the School Board and involved in all the decisions that get made over there, I imagine that has something to do with why Kevin starts and Zachary rides the bench; plus there’s that other thing.”

“You’re missing the point, Hank,” Mr. Bell replied. “Glenn is an important person in this town. He’s not someone we should be antagonizing. It’s only a game after all and a summer game at that. What’s the big deal who plays shortstop? Why not put that other . . . that other . . . why not put that Taylor boy at some other position if he’s as good as you say? That would allow Kevin to play shortstop like his father wants and still let you play that other kid.”

“I don’t disagree with Zachary playing more than one position,” I interjected. “Most of the boys will have to do that if everyone is going to play; and I plan to let Zachary know Kevin is going to get some starts at shortstop while he plays third base at the beginning of a couple of the games. But this is the first game of the season. I want the player who earned the start to be out there at the beginning; and Zachary’s the best shortstop and earned the start.”

“That may be, young man,” Mr. Bell replied, visibly annoyed, “but he’s also . . . he’s also . . . well, you know what I mean; he’s different from the rest of the boys. He’s different and just having him on the team at all doesn’t sit well with some of the older members of the Commission. I’ve heard a lot of bitching about that and I’ve done my best to serve as a buffer between you and them. One of them has even been after me to have you get rid of that Taylor boy entirely.”

“I don’t think that’s the right thing to do, but I can tell you right now this decision of yours to start him at shortstop instead of Kevin isn’t going to sit well with them; not at all. I hope you’ll think about that between now and Sunday. At the least, maybe let Kevin play the first four or five innings at short. You can use that other boy at third if you want and then make the switch late in the game.”

“Keep in mind you wouldn’t be coaching at all because there wouldn’t be any team except for the members of this Commission,” he added. “Think about it, son.”

With that, he turned around and walked abruptly away. He was unhappy, no doubt about it, and I knew what he wanted me to do. But I didn’t see how I could do it.

By now everyone on the team knew how good Zachary was and they expected him to start at shortstop on Sunday even though I hadn’t announced the starting lineup; even Kevin expected that and wasn’t resisting the idea. If I backed off now and played Kevin, the boys would know why I was doing it and any respect I had built up with them would be damaged; perhaps permanently damaged.

Heading for the door, Coach Lodge followed behind me.

“So what are you going to do, Hunter?” he asked as we stepped outside.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m very grateful to the Commission for sponsoring this team. It’s good for the boys and I don’t want to do anything to damage that down the road. But not starting Zachary? That would be wrong, Coach. You know that. He’s earned it and every boy on that team would agree, including Kevin if pressed.”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should just offer my resignation. Maybe that would make everything easier. You or someone else could take over the team and make the change if that’s what they want. The whole thing would go down easier with the boys that way. But I don’t think I can be the one to do that. I don’t think I can be the one to tell Zachary he isn’t going to be starting. It isn’t right.”

“And I don’t think you can quit either, Hunter,” Coach Lodge responded. “What kind of message would it send to the boys if they saw their coach quitting because someone was pressuring him? When whoever the new coach was ended up starting Kevin at short, the boys would know why you quit. Do you really want those boys to think of you as a quitter, Hunter?”

“The truth is they relate to you a lot more easily than they did to me. You’re younger. You understand them better than me; and they like you. I would be pretty shocked if you quit and let them down like that.”

It made me recall the time Ethan had told me he wasn’t going to play either after I didn’t make our high school team. I had told him I wouldn’t want a best friend who was a quitter; and I didn’t want these boys to think I was a quitter either.

“You’re right, Coach. Should I go back in and tell him I’m not changing my mind?”

“I’ll take care of that for you, Hunter,” Coach responded. “I’ve got your back and not just with Ward. I’ve got your back with the entire Commission. I don’t think any of them would want me out there campaigning against them come Election Day. I have a few friends in this town and I don’t think any of them would be very happy once I told them the truth.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it.”

****

Win or lose, it had been a longstanding tradition started by Coach Lodge to take the boys to Baltimore after the season was over and before the school year began. While there they would get to watch the Blues play a game, tour the birthplace of Babe Ruth, and spend a night at the Inner Harbor taking in the rest of the big city sights.

The Parks and Recreation Commission paid for the bus that would take the team to Baltimore; and while it wasn’t part of their official duties, both the Coach and Assistant Coach had always volunteered to chaperone the boys and keep them out of trouble. I wanted to continue that tradition, mostly for the sake of the boys but also because I was secretly hoping the Blues might call up Ethan for an end of season look.

It was a long shot. It would probably never happen. But if it worked out somehow and I got a chance to introduce the boys to Ethan in the clubhouse, it would be the thrill of a lifetime for them.

Whatever happened, the cost of tickets to the game and some of the other sights plus food and a night at the hotel fell to the boys; and since some of them would never be able to afford to go if that was the case, it had been another tradition for the team to hold certain events during the summer to raise money for the trip so no one was left behind.

The leadoff event had always been a car wash; and while coaches weren’t required to participate, Coach Lodge had always done so. I wanted to do that as well and had arranged to take a couple of hours off during the middle of the day to help the boys out. One of the first ways I planned to do that was by driving my Chevy to the event and purchasing a car wash like everyone else.

The event was held on the Friday before the season kickoff and I was one of the first to arrive. While I was exiting my Chevy one of the boys manning a hose turned it on me. I protested and he claimed it was an accident. But seeing how wet I already was, the other boys rallied behind their teammate and began using everything in sight to hose me down.

Fortunately, like the boys themselves, I had come wearing a swimsuit, this one a lot more conservative and modest than the one I usually wore. It was a fun afternoon and the turn out from the community was great. The boys raised a lot of money and I was happy for them. I was looking forward to the trip myself. Ethan probably wouldn’t get called up, but just the possibility made the whole thing more exciting for me.

We held our final tune-up on Saturday morning. I went over our game plan for Lewes the next day and spelled out how I planned to utilize everyone during the course of the game. I told them my plan was subject to change depending on circumstances so they needed to keep themselves prepared for anything.

Later, after we had finished up, the girls packed up the gear and loaded it in my car. By now it had become a ritual and the boys did most of the actual lugging. It was one of those rituals that combined an element of innocence with a touch of naughtiness. I found the whole thing amusing but healthy.

Soon enough the boys scattered in a million directions. Cameron, Zachary and I were just about to get into the car when an older dude approached.

“Are you Hunter Allen?” he asked, looking at me.

“I am,” I responded, holding out my hand. “And you are?”

“Glenn,” he responded, not taking the hand I had offered.

“Glenn Evans, Kevin’s dad. Could I talk to you?”

“Of course,” I responded.

“Privately,” he added, looking over at Cameron and Zachary.

“Sure,” I said, handing the keys to Cameron. “Why don’t you guys take the car back to my house and I’ll meet you there in a few minutes; that is, assuming it isn’t going to take too long,” I added, looking over at Mr. Evans.

“It shouldn’t,” he said.

“Um, well, sure, but we can wait if you want, Hunter,” Cameron said, looking at Mr. Evans.

He was concerned and I could understand why. Glenn Evans was a big man, well over six feet; and he had packed on a few extra pounds over the years, more than just a few if we were being totally honest about it. He was pretty heavy.

“No, that’s okay, Cameron,” I responded. “Everything’s going to be fine. You guys run along while I talk to Mr. Evans.”

With that the two of them scrambled into the car and drove off, leaving me and Mr. Evans alone.

“Kevin just told me he wouldn’t be starting tomorrow,” he said, and I could see he was struggling to remain calm.

“Um, well, that’s right,” I replied. “He won’t be starting, but he’ll definitely get some playing time at shortstop, Mr. Evans. You can count on it.”

“My son isn’t some second-string shortstop,” he responded, “someone you put in at the end of the game with the rest of the losers. My son should be starting, not mopping up.”

“I wish it was that easy, Mr. Evans,” I said. “The truth is . . .”

“What have you got against my son, you little son of a bitch?” he suddenly screamed, lurching at me in a menacing way.

I remember stepping back. We were alone now and he was visibly agitated and I wasn’t certain what to do.

“I don’t have anything against your son, Mr. Evans,” I responded. “Kevin’s a fine boy and a very good player. He brings a lot to this team. You should be proud of him.”

“Why the fuck are you sitting him on the bench then?” he asked. “He told me he might not be starting a couple of days ago and he just confirmed it when I stopped by to pick him up. If you didn’t know it, my son’s the starting shortstop on the high school team. And he’s not going to start on some piss poor summer league team? Give me a break; that doesn’t make any sense.”

“I’m not sitting him on the bench, Mr. Evans,” I responded. “You are. I would love to play Kevin the entire game, including some time at shortstop, but he says you’ve forbidden him from playing any position other than shortstop and we have another shortstop who’s a very good player as well.”

“Yeah, that little homo, Taylor,” he spit out. “I know all about that little queer. We have to carry him on the high school team because that foster mother of his talked to the American Civil Liberties Union and they’ve been on our case about it. But they can’t make us play him and our coach doesn’t because the kid has no talent.”

“What would you expect from some dick sucking faggot?”

“Okay, Mr. Evans, I’m trying to talk to you reasonably,” I replied, “but if I hear any more garbage like that I’m out of here. Our rules prohibit anyone from abusing a player and that applies to parents and fans as well; and it includes verbal abuse like that.”

“Is he sucking your dick or something, Allen, you little asshole?” he screamed. By now the veins on his head were throbbing real hard and I wondered whether they were about to explode.

“I hear you’re queer too and I’m going to talk to the members of the Commission about that.”

“You don’t have to bother, Mr. Evans,” I said. “I’ve already told them I’m gay so it won’t come as a surprise to anyone. And like I said, I’m out of here. I’m not going to put up with this kind of abuse.”

“You’ll be sorry, you fucking dickhead. My kid is the starting shortstop in high school. Everybody knows what he can do. Just because that other kid’s sucking your dick doesn’t give you the right to sit my kid. You’ll be sorry you ever tangled with me. I guarantee it, you fucking queer.”

By now I had turned my back on him and was walking away, but could no longer restrain myself.

“Your son deserves a better dad than you’re proving to be this afternoon,” I said. “He knows Zachary’s the better shortstop. He’s willing to play second base, which would suit him better, or any other position he’s asked to. He’s a team player and he deserves the chance to be himself, not a pale imitation of some sick, twisted, bastard like you.”

He lurched toward me and took a swing, but I was able to step aside.

“I’m sorry,” I said, mad at myself for letting him get my goat. “I shouldn’t have said that so I apologize, but nothing has changed as far as I’m concerned. Even though he may not start, Kevin will get to play shortstop tomorrow.”

****

But it seemed like I was wrong about that the next day.

The season inaugural of the Peninsula Baseball League always brings a big turnout, even bigger this year because we were playing Lewes, our next door neighbor to the north and traditional rival.

That brought out a lot of dignitaries from both towns, including the heads of both Commissions. They had already placed a friendly wager on the outcome and there was a lot of joking about that; and while there was too much speechifying for the boys on both teams, I was grateful for the delay because Kevin was nowhere to be found.

I kept looking for him, but finally it dawned on me what was happening. Kevin had worked hard. He had earned the respect of his teammates and he had proven himself to be a team player. And now, to avoid seeing his son not start, I was certain his father was refusing to let him play at all.

It bothered me. It bothered me a lot, but there was nothing I could do at the moment.

“Okay, change of plans,” I said just before the game started. “Zachary, you’ll be playing shortstop the entire game unless Kevin shows up. Gene, you need to plan on playing third the whole game as well. I may have to make some other adjustments as well, but that’s it for now. Let’s have a good game.”

That’s how I thought the afternoon would play out. But to my surprise and astonishment, Kevin did show up later that day. It was about the fourth inning when Billy spotted him approaching on foot.

“Hey, isn’t that Kevin?”

And sure enough, it was. He wasn’t wearing his uniform, just his cap; and later, at the end of the inning, we had to huddle up and surround the two of them in the dugout when Billy took off his shirt and pants and offered them to Kevin. They were short and a little tight and Kevin’s clothes too big for Billy. But somehow they made it work.

“Thanks, little man,” Kevin said, tousling Billy’s hair. “I owe you. I owe you big time.”

“Hey, what’s teammate good for if he isn’t ready to get naked for one of his buddies?” Billy responded, causing the rest of the guys to laugh.

I put Kevin in at shortstop, moved Zachary over to third, and made the rest of the adjustments I had been planning on originally. It wasn’t until the top of the seventh inning that his father showed up looking for him. By that time Kevin had already driven in the go ahead run for our team in what had been an otherwise close contest.

“Get over here right now,” his father screamed through the screen that separated the players from the adults. “I told you you’re not going to play on this team and I mean that. Get over here; right now!”

He was fuming and Kevin looked over at me, uncertain what to do. I didn’t know what to tell him, but fortunately the umpire came to my rescue.

“Hey, hey, cut it out,” he said, moving over in our direction and positioning himself in front of Mr. Evans. “You need to take a seat and calm down, Glenn; either that or you need to leave, your choice. I don’t put up with this kind of nonsense from anyone in the middle of a game.”

“I’ll see you later,” Mr. Evans said, glaring at his son in front of the rest of the boys and the crowd; and with that he turned and stomped off, pretty obviously frustrated. I remember just shaking my head.

After the game was over, I pulled the guys together. We had won. It was the best kind of win, hard fought, close and against a traditional rival. Everyone on our team had contributed to the victory, but now I had a tough decision to make. Many years ago Coach Lodge had started a tradition, one in which baseballs were awarded to the two players who had made the biggest contributions in the game.

I could have awarded those balls to any number of players that day and I was determined everyone on the team would earn at least one before the summer was out. But it seemed to me that one event had been decisive in our victory.

“Okay, I’m awarding two game balls today for outstanding play,” I said. “The number two ball goes to Kevin Evans. He would have gotten the number one ball, but he was a little late,” I added, grinning at him.

“And the number one ball, for the player who did more than anyone else to help us win today, goes to . . .”

By now everyone was on tiptoes. They were thinking it would go to Zachary, Tavaris or Angel, our starting pitcher, all of whom had played outstanding games.

“The number one ball goes to Billy Barnes for service above and beyond the call of duty,” I added.

“Oh wow, oh wow; I’m going to die,” he managed to get out just before everyone on the team piled on top of him.

Later, after most of the boys had scattered, Kevin approached me.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to make the next game, Coach,” he said. “Next time he may make me stay in the house so I can’t slip away like I did today.”

“I hope not, Kevin,” I responded. “You’re too important to our team. We would miss you a lot. But everyone will understand if that happens.”

“That was so cool,” Zachary told me later on the drive back to my place; “giving those games balls to Kevin and Billy. If no one ever told you before, you’re a pretty nice guy, Coach Hot.”

Then, leaning over from the backseat, he gave me a quick peck on the cheek. I almost lost control of the car at that point.

I didn’t expect to see Kevin back the next game, but again I was wrong. I had spoken to Coach Lodge and Mrs. Williams after the game to let them know the whole story and why Glenn Evans had behaved so badly.

I don’t know what happened exactly, but later I heard the two of them had taken it upon themselves to speak to Mrs. Evans. Whatever the reason, Kevin played with us the rest of that summer and he made the switch to second base seamlessly.

It turned out to be one of the biggest reasons for our success that year.

6 thoughts on “Chapter 32

  1. Hunter is really a coach. He learned a great deal because he had to cope with Kevin’s dad. In the end, you see who really ruled the family when Kevin’s mom got wind of what her husband was doing. I guess he was trying to be in control of something. You provided another great chapter. Billy was a key player helping the team. It’s amazing how nice boys can play together with the right leadership.

    Enjoy your time off. Have a wonderful Christmas and I wish you the best for the New Year. I will watch for the next chapter.

    George K

    1. Thanks, George. Hunter seems to be growing in confidence ever since he came out to Cameron. He’s doing what he enjoys and he’s pretty darn good at it. Only one thing seems to be missing for him.

      Hope your holidays are happy as well. The next chapter will need to cover a lot of territory, but hopefully it’ll be a good one.

  2. Once again you have told us a great story and I admire the way that Hunter stood up to Kevin’s dad . That father is a bully and I dislike all bullies. zachary was a little bold giving a kiss like that, but it was just right. Billy is a lovely character and I hope we hear more about him.

    Have a great Christmas holiday

  3. OK. You win, Kit. You finally made me cry at the end of this wonderful chapter.

    It’s exciting to think that in some world out there a coach with his heart in the right place could take a bully like Kevin and patiently cultivate his better side until he represented the best impulses of this entire team. How fun to see a kid like Billy win the season’s first team ball. And how courageous of Coach Hot to stand up to both the commissioner and the berserk father.

    This chapter represents the best themes of all your works, Kit. Compassion. Responsibility. Courage in the face of daunting challenges. Pride in who you are and what you stand for.

    I’d be proud to play on your team. Guess I already do, in a way. :-).

    Did I catch a little foreshadowing about Ethan and Hunter possibly catching up with each other in Baltimore? I’m ready for that!

    1. Sometimes I foreshadow, Dean, but I never tell. You’ll just have to keep reading.

      And as for the rest of it, this is about as good as it gets as compliments go. Thank you.

      The thing is, no one is perfect. We forget Hunter spent much of his life trying to figure out who he was as a person and how to express the love within him.

      No longer compelled by fear to hide the truth from himself, he’s like a flower that’s blossomed and brings joy to those around him.

      Everyone follows a different path on their journey through life and some never make it to the promised land. It’s important to appreciate what’s happened in Part III to understand what takes place in Part IV.

      Foreshadowing indeed 🙂

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