me, banging my fists on the table: I! WANT! GINNY! BAKER! BACK!
one up from jackie robinson.
Thank you, Pitch.
@alwayskels: Can we get Ginny acting out in the space between her dad dying and reporting to the minors. Ginny’s first time with a college guy who’s back home in Tarboro for the summer and introduces her to all sorts of fun and risky things.
I’d like to apologize for taking so long. Especially with all the work that you put in to the #RenewPitch campaign. I’m sorry that you had to wait until after we got this news, but I do want to thank you for pushing so hard to get this show on people’s radars. For drawing so many people into this fight. For not giving up even now. Thank you!
Ginny sighs, barely restraining the urge to thump the back of her head against what is supposed to be a soothing and inoffensive wallpaper. It’s not she has anything against the pattern, just the fact that it covers the walls of her doctor’s waiting room.
There’s just something about waiting rooms. They kick the background stress that she’s mostly learned to ignore right to the forefront of her brain, worse even than game day nerves.
Even though this clinic is supposed to have a highly selective clientele, and therefore highly discreet practices, she’s still been waiting for fifteen minutes. Her knee jiggles up and down and she doesn’t bother stilling it, too wrapped up in quieting the anxiety that had been building since she walked in the door.
What is with the wait? What kind of awful news are they trying to figure out how to tell me? she wonders, chewing on her lip and really wanting to get up and pace and knowing she can’t. Because what she really wants is to get out of this situation without attracting any more attention than what’s already on her. Ginny’d managed to avoid making small talk with the two other people in the waiting room so far, but one of the guys keeps darting what he thinks are subtle glances in her direction, his phone held at an angle that is only natural when taking a picture. The last thing she needs is him tweeting her oncoming meltdown along with whatever furtive photos he’s already managed to take.
She can practically see the ESPN coverage now: Has Ginny Baker lost it? After the pitcher’s still undisclosed injury, she’s exhibited some worrying behavior. Read more for an in depth look!
Before Ginny can spiral any further, imagining what they’d say about her on Good Morning America or The View, a nurse steps into the waiting room and calls her name.
As it turns out, Ginny’s anxiety is mostly unwarranted. Her doctor had just been stuck in traffic and doesn’t have any terrible news to deliver. So after confirming that her elbow does, in fact, feel better and hasn’t suffered any unexpected setbacks in her PT sessions, her doctor signs off on her trainer’s proposal without much fuss.
The proposal that would let Ginny start throwing again.
After weeks of physical therapy and the monotony of working on her dry mechanics, they’re finally going to let her pick up a ball again.
It’s a good thing, she tries to convince herself.
Unsure of how relieved she’s supposed to feel, but definitely grateful to get out of the doctor’s office, Ginny doesn’t think twice before she’s back out in the fall afternoon.
From behind her mirrored sunglasses, Ginny takes a surreptitious look around and breathes a sigh of relief when it’s clear the band of paparazzi she’s been trailing the past month aren’t anywhere to be seen.
A little flutter of excitement lights up her stomach.
The sudden lack of surveillance has Ginny smiling as she climbs into her car. She knows that she should’ve called the car service, with its intimidatingly big SUVs, instead of taking the shitty little Solara she found on Craigslist, but she’s been driving herself everywhere she can lately.
It’s time that she can be alone by choice.
Strangely, it’s better than the nearly suffocating loneliness she’s felt ever since September. Ever since her injury, it hasn’t mattered how many people she’s with, Ginny has felt disorientingly isolated. Alone in a crowd,
It’s not something she’d ever thought she was going to feel again.
Shaking her head, she pulls out of the parking space and onto the road. There isn’t anywhere she needs to be until brunch with Blip, Evelyn, and the boys.
There are probably healthier ways to cope than trying to outrun her anxiety, but Ginny figures her car goes even faster. She can leave logical thinking in the dust, too.
At least as long as the I-5 is calling her name.
Tarboro, North Carolina
If the battery of therapists and counselors Ginny’s been roped into seeing are to be trusted, there are five stages of grief.
Respectfully, that is pure, unadulterated bullshit.
Ever since her pop died, Ginny’s been uncomfortably numb. She knows she should be feeling other things, that the shock should’ve worn off by now. Sometimes, she even thinks she does. The dull buzz that makes her head pound: that’s rage. Confusion is the tangle of thoughts that clog up her brain and make it impossible to think. And heartbreak, interestingly, isn’t to be found anywhere in her chest. It’s the hollow swoop of her gut every time she forgets, for just a moment, and then has to come back to reality.
Has to remember that her father is dead in the ground.
They’re, objectively, awful things to experience, but they provide something of a break from the sense that she’s been swaddled too tightly in bubble wrap, so Ginny starts to look forward to feeling them.
They’re a nice way to break up the monotony. Of both her emotional numbness and the complete lack of anything going on in her life.
It had been decided that given her good academic standing and the trauma she’d just endured, Ginny could complete her senior year remotely. As long as she finishes her assignments and passes her finals, she’ll still graduate in two months with the rest of her class.
What this means, though, is that Ginny spends long hours alone in the house or biking around the neighborhood, trying to figure out what she’s supposed to be doing.
In the present general sense or with her future specifically.
Not that she’s the only one anxious about this. Ginny can’t count the number of times in the past two weeks, ever since Will went back to take his finals and get ready for summer session, that her mom has tried to start a conversation about the future. Which isn’t comfortable for anyone involved.
It’s not like Ginny knows what she wants to do. Between NC State and the Padres scout’s card has been burning a hole in her pocket ever since—
Ginny sighs and pushes herself up from bed, unwilling to go through the memories again. The latest shrink says that avoidance won’t work forever, but it’s working pretty well at the moment.
She paces her room, carefully not looking at the poster over her bed.
Things had been so simple. When the words “San Diego Padres” came out of the scout’s mouth, Ginny hadn’t been able to stop the impulsive thrill that ran down her arms. To play for his team—well, his farm team, at least. It was practically a dream come true.
Which, of course, quickly turned into the worst kind of nightmare.
She hasn’t been able to look at the poster.
(Has checked several urges to rip the damn thing off her wall along with every other bit of baseball memorabilia in sight. Just go on a rampage and destroy every last thing that reminds her of— Well. She doesn’t. It would only leave her room sadder and emptier than even she feels.)
Hasn’t been able to put on her glove, either.
Her bag is still sitting in the corner of her room where her mom had left it a week ago, beginning to gather dust for the first time in its existence. Ginny can’t remember a time since she sprained her wrist in sixth grade that she’s gone so long without picking up a baseball or swinging a bat or even watching a game.
There’s part of her that itches to get back out there. Even if it’s just tossing the ball around in the backyard.
Kind of hard to toss the ball without anyone to catch it, though.
Ginny sighs and slumps at her desk. The unsent email she’s been trying to write for days glares back from the screen. Truthfully, she doesn’t even know what she wants to say to Jordan. It’s mostly a lot of questions. Why did he leave? Why didn’t he tell her? Did he think it was his fault? Was he still her friend?
When the questions begins piling up in her brain, an unending litany that feels like it’ll burst out of her ears, splash down to the carpet, and rise and rise until she’s drowning, she opens a new tab. The blank web page doesn’t silence the crush of her thoughts, though. If anything, it just amplifies it, all that blank space to fill.
Before she knows it, her fingers fly over the keyboard.
The familiar layout of Facebook isn’t surprising, but Ginny frowns at it anyway.
Quickly, she dismisses all of her notifications, sure that they’re either invitations to play Farmville—pass—or more falsely sympathetic comments on her wall—hard pass.
Instead she scrolls down her feed, not looking for anything in particular, just something to keep her distracted. It’s not that hard. It’s actually pretty easy to get pulled into whatever petty bullshit the rest of her classmates are dealing with. And it’s not like finding out about it all on Facebook is all that different from how Ginny usually gets her gossip: third-hand and overheard in the dugout or on the bus to and from away games.
Almost without her permission, she stops scrolling at a comment posted to Will’s wall a few days ago.
hey man, idk if ur in town but jesse’s mom’s out of town and he’s throwing a party this weekend. lmk if u or ur sis wanna come
There are a few comments and likes, mostly agreements and a few late condolences, but nothing from her brother. Ginny idly hopes it means he’s been too busy studying to check Facebook recently.
More importantly, though, something perks up inside her. It’s strange enough that Ginny has to take a moment to process it. She reads over the post again and that odd little stirring doesn’t go away.
Not once in her high school career has Ginny gone to an unchaperoned party. She doubts they’re anything like Mean Girls or Sixteen Candles try to make them seem, but maybe it would be nice to find out for herself.
Still, she shakes it off. What’s the point of going to a party where people are just going to stare at her and whisper behind her back, make her feel even more singled out than she does already? Besides, now really isn’t the time to be going out and having fun, even if Ginny kind of doubts she’s even capable of having fun any more.
No. She has better things to do with her time.
She tells herself that even as she closes the browser and pushes away from her desk. She tells herself that as she crosses the few feet to her bed and flops back onto the unmade sheets.
Staring up at the ceiling, knowing she won’t do anything else all day, she gives up on believing it.
Much as she might want to, Ginny can’t just take off up the Pacific Coast Highway. For one, she doesn’t have her phone charger with her, and if she disappears for the second time in four months without a working cell phone, there’s a good chance Amelia would murder her.
Of course, she’d have to get in line behind Evelyn.
Which is the second thing. She’s supposed to be having brunch with the Sanders clan this afternoon, and if she doesn’t show up, Ginny’s sure she’ll be guilted into several evenings of babysitting as payback.
And much as she loves the boys, she’s not sure how good she is at being Fun Aunt Ginny lately.
Even with good news from the doctor, she feels restless and unrooted. Like she might blow away with the slightest gust of wind.
She can’t decide if that means she should keep her windows rolled down.
Not that her friends (or anyone, really) need to know that.
Which is why she stops by Evelyn’s favorite bakery for cupcakes before swinging over to the Sanders home. Sugar highs are pretty good distractions for two seven-and-a-half-year-olds and remembering a hostess gifts makes it seem like she’s not clinging to the facade of normalcy by the skin of her teeth.
Just as she’d planned, she’s greeted enthusiastically at the door by Gabe and Marcus, followed shortly by their mother.
“C’mon in, Ginny,” Evelyn smiles, giving her a quick squeeze. She lights up at the distinctive yellow box in Ginny’s arms, whisking the desserts off to the kitchen. Probably to arrange them artfully on a plate because Evelyn Sanders is all about presentation.
For their part, the twins drag her past the kitchen island and into the living room, eagerly jabbering about the new video game they have and how their dad hasn’t let them have a turn yet.
Sure enough, Blip leans intently forward on the couch, eyes tracing the scantily clad archaeologist on the screen.
“You nerd,” Ginny teases. “You would go for Lara Croft.”
His grin is bright enough to earn an automatic smile in response. For once, the stretch of her mouth doesn’t feel forced.
“Don’t hate on Lara, now,” he warns, finally surrendering the controller to his sons. He stands, grimacing as his back cracks.
“How long has it been since you last moved?” she laughs incredulously.
“He didn’t come up to bed until 3:00 AM,” Evelyn chimes from the kitchen.
Blip just shrugs, dropping an arm over Ginny’s shoulders and steering her over to his wife. She lets herself be led, sinking into the comfortable familiarity of her friends.
Everything’s going fine—Ginny sets the table and Evelyn unveils a truly unnecessary amount of food for five people while Blip gets the boys washed up. The conversation flows easily enough, though Blip and Evelyn do most of the heavy lifting there. Ginny’s starving, having been too nervous to eat much of anything before hitting the doctor’s office, and falls on her food eagerly.
When she slows, though, her stomach finally appeased enough to eat at a normal pace, Ginny notices the lull in conversation. Well, in the audible conversation, at least. Because both Evelyn and Blip are deep in a silent one, communicating with only subtle glances and facial tics. It would be fascinating and kind of funny if Ginny didn’t feel a mounting sense of dread rise in her stomach. Maybe she should’ve waited to devour her food…
In the end, Blip must draw the short straw because he’s the one who speaks.
“How was the appointment?” he asks, concern coating his tone.
“It was fine.” Ginny waves him off, fork slicing through the air. The twins giggle as a bit of lettuce threatens to go flying. She turns to them, eager to change the subject. “How was your week at school?”
Both Marcus and Gabe fall over themselves to tell her all about rehearsals for the the second grade play. They’re almost enthusiastic enough for Ginny to miss the look that Blip and Evelyn trade.
“So, any other plans for the day, then?” That’s Evelyn, apparently willing to let the subject drop.
Ginny doesn’t believe it for a moment, but answers, anyway. “I’ve got a meeting with Amelia at 4:00. I think she has a couple more endorsement deals to go over and a photo shoot she wants me to book.”
“That’s good, right?”
She shrugs in response. It’s definitely good for her bank account, which has taken something of a hit with all the specialists and trainers she’s had to see. She’s less sure it’ll be good for her headspace, but Ginny’s also not ready to go back to being agentless again, so she’s not planning on making a fuss.
Even if Amelia doesn’t have a lot of baseball know-how, there isn’t anyone Ginny would rather have navigating the ins and outs of her current celebrity. Because if anyone knows a thing or two about celebrity, it’s Amelia Slater.
Then, the worried expressions on her friends’ faces pop back into her mind and she forces a smile. “Yeah, it’s good. Might as well do something with my down time.”
The furrow in Blip’s brow eases and Evelyn smiles back. Ginny’s glad. They’ve worked through enough shit since the season ended to have to deal with her stuff, too.
That’s all on her.
She just wishes it didn’t feel like such an uphill battle.
Tarboro, North Carolina
Ginny doesn’t think her mother knows what she does with her nights. She knows for a fact that the bottle of sleeping pills in the upstairs bathroom is lighter and lighter every week, so it’s not all that surprising.
Still, she can’t imagine that her mom would be all too happy to find out her youngest child and only daughter creeps out of the house most nights to bike aimlessly around the neighborhood. Which is why Ginny’s so careful to avoid the creaky board that runs the length of the hallway and sneak out the back since its hinges don’t squeak.
Because if she didn’t get this strange, starlit time to herself—
Well, she doesn’t know what will happen, only that it won’t be pretty.
And sure, it’s hard being on the roads, nearly freezing at every set of oncoming headlights, but it’s harder to startle awake, shaking and sweating, from seeing them in her dreams. No, better to be scared of something real rather than whatever her brain has dredged up.
She tilts her face into the the cool night breeze, coasting for a few feet before starting to pedal again.
It’s been quiet for a Saturday night, only a few cars sharing the streets with her. Only a few instances of her heart lodging itself in her throat. It’s not so late, either. There are plenty of lights still on in the houses Ginny bikes by. Happy families in each one, she’s sure.
Ginny knows that her family wasn’t some model of domestic bliss, but it had been at least easier to pretend before—
The dull throb of a bass line spills into the spring night, pulling Ginny away from things she’d rather not think about. While she’d been stewing in self-pity, she’d failed to notice the growing number of cars parked on a street populated by houses that all have their own driveway. The bass grows louder, accompanied by the indistinct chatter of a crowd.
Someone is having a party.
It’s not until she sees the mailbox, “Hernandez” painted on the side in a kid’s sloppy letters that she even remembers the post on Will’s wall. At the time, she hadn’t even remembered which of Will’s friends was named Jesse, but now she had a distinct memory of riding along in the car on the way to a birthday party. Pouting as Will climbed out next to a mailbox festooned with shiny mylar balloons because she wasn’t allowed to go inside with him.
The same mailbox she’s looking at now. Just minus the balloons.
Before she’s even realized she’s made the decision, Ginny’s abandoned her bike on the curb strip and is walking into the party.
Honestly, she’s not sure what she’s expecting, but given all the noise spilling onto the otherwise quiet street, it wasn’t the fairly quiet collection of people that greet her.
Well, “greet” might be an oversell.
A few guys and a girl look up at her entrance, nodding their acknowledgement of her before going back to whatever conversation they’d been having.
Ginny’s not sure what to do with that. It’s not as if she has a lot of experience with house parties.
She knows enough not to hover at the door like a weirdo, and instead ventures further inside the house. The steady beat of music still pulses through the air, so it’s not as if the party’s over. There have to be more people somewhere.
Sure enough, the kitchen is far more lively than the front room, practically crammed full of partygoers. There’s a line for something, so Ginny joins it, taking a moment to survey her surroundings.
She only recognizes a few faces, which she guesses makes sense if this is a party for people Will’s age. Nearly everyone’s got a can or red cup in their hand. Through the sliding glass door to the porch, she can see a veritable mob of bodies in the backyard bopping along to a song that’s suddenly more than an indistinct bass line. Ginny doesn’t recognize it, but doubts that it matters.
Beyond the makeshift dance floor, warm light and a hazy fog spills out of the detached garage as the side door opens and shuts to admit someone.
“You want one?”
Ginny’s attention snaps back to her immediate surroundings and lands on a guy holding out a dripping silver can to her. In front of him is a big cooler, half full of ice and more cans. So that’s what she’d been waiting for.
She takes the offering with an uncertain smile and a, “Yeah, thanks,” before slipping out of the kitchen and into the backyard. Without thinking about it, agonizing over the years she’d listened to coaches and teachers and—well—Ginny pops the tab and takes a swig.
The slightly bitter, sour liquid spills across her tongue, making Ginny wish she’d turned down the beer when she’d had the chance. That doesn’t keep her from taking another sip, though. Somehow, this one doesn’t taste quite as bad. Another swig and she’s almost used to the taste.
Before she knows it, the can is empty and her head is bobbing along to the beat, watching the crush of people dance.
Ginny likes dancing. In theory, anyway. She’s still never been to a school dance, but she likes flailing around her room whenever she can’t stand the thought of sitting still to study for one more minute.
And maybe it’s the beer she’d just downed, hitting her mostly empty stomach and spiraling straight into her bloodstream, or maybe it’s the fact that she doesn’t want to feel so fucking lonely anymore, but Ginny steps onto the lawn, pushes into the wall of bodies, and joins in. It’s not belonging, not even close, but God, it feels good to even feel this close to other people right now.
She lets the music carry her away.
It loosens something in her chest, makes her feel a little more normal. Or at least less on edge.
Enough that she doesn’t really even mind all the attention she’s drawing.
Although, that might have something to do with the fact that it’s not the kind of attention that she’s gotten so used to. The appreciative glances and smiles she draws are nothing like the snide whispers that follow her on the field and at school. Most of the admiration in Ginny’s life has come from adults, not her peers.
It’s a nice change, if she’s being honest.
Mostly, she ignores the looks and the offers to dance, though she does join in with a group of laughing girls for a few songs when one of them twirls her around without warning. She shies away from guys, though, especially when their focus is decidedly south of her face. That’s not what tonight is about. Not that she actually knows what tonight is about.
(Freedom, maybe. Or something that feels an awful lot like it.)
That changes, though, when she spots a very familiar face as she’s leaving the kitchen to go back to dancing, another beer in hand. It stops her cold.
Leaning against the porch railing, surveying the makeshift dance floor is Scott Elling.
A throb of interest pushes at her stomach, enough to make Ginny sidle up next to him, tilt her head, and look up at him through her lashes. This is how people flirt, right? she thinks.
(She’d always liked Scott. He was the first person she’d ever had an actual crush on. The first person she’d met, at least. To her eyes, he’d been totally dreamy. Cute and nice and a pretty good catcher. Not good enough for a full ride anywhere, but good enough to lead their small town’s Varsity team. She’d never thought she had a chance with him, but maybe things are different two years down the line.)
Thankfully, what comes out of her mouth is the slightly cooler, “Hey.”
He doesn’t startle, like he knows she’s been there the whole time and only now has chosen to acknowledge her. For a long moment, he just considers her, clearly trying to put a name to her face. Finally, he gets it, his wide mouth curling in a grin. “Ginny, right? You played a couple games with the Varsity team when I was a senior.”
She smiles and almost feels like it makes it to her eyes. “Yeah, that sounds right.”
“Heard you got scouted at the state finals.”
Her smile freezes, but she still manages to say, “That sounds right, too.”
Scott nods, and his eyes take on a look that Ginny’s all too familiar with. It’s the look everyone gets just before they say, “I’m so sorry about your father.” She’s heard it more times than she can count in the past few weeks. Sometimes, she’s sure she’ll scream if she hears it one more time.
Not eager to test her theory, Ginny leans into him and presses her mouth against his. It’s impulsive and more than a little reckless, but if he pulls away, the first words out of his mouth aren’t going to be what they would’ve been. And if he doesn’t, well. It’s pretty hard to offer condolences when your mouth is otherwise occupied.
He tastes like salt and beer, but she guesses it’s better than the blood she usually tastes when her pop comes up in conversation. Her hand lays itself on his hip and he finally presses back. When she pulls away, she bites her lip, the picture of nervous anticipation.
“You wanna get out of here?” she asks, pitching her voice low and sultry.
It must have worked because Scott nods eagerly. “Yeah. Yeah, let’s go.“
As she helps to clear the table of brunch dishes, Ginny feels her phone start to vibrate. She sets down the stack of plates and fishes the thing out of her pocket.
The name flashing across the screen should make her smile. It doesn’t.
It probably means something that a call from the guy she’s dating fills her more with exhaustion than anything else.
Still, she answers because she’s not a monster.
“Ginny!” he greets enthusiastically. It almost makes her feel bad for her own lackluster greeting, but he doesn’t seem to notice. “What are you up to tonight?”
“Um,” she hedges, unsure of whether or not she wants to agree to a Noah plan without knowing all the details first.
“Because I heard that Arcade Fire is playing a secret show up in Berkeley tonight. Even if it’s just a rumor, it should be fun to check out. You in?”
Ginny’s not sure she can even name a song by Arcade Fire.
Sighing and trying to sound genuinely bummed, she says, “I don’t think I can. I’ve got meetings later this afternoon and need to head into Petco to kickstart my training.”
He accepts the brush off easily enough, switching gears and latching onto that last bit. “Right! How’d the appointment go?”
As vaguely as possible, Ginny gives him a rundown. It’s not like he actually understands anything about her training process, the details would just go over his head. To be fair, if he gave her anything more than the most basic explanation of his work, she’d be lost, too.
Still, he sounds excited when he says, “That’s awesome, Ginny! You’ll have to—” he cuts off as something on his end of the line catches his attention. All Ginny can make out are muffled voices before he’s back. “Sorry about that. There’s some kind of glitch I’ve got to take a look at right away. Talk soon?”
“Yeah, talk soon. Bye, Noah.”
He hangs up and Ginny puts her phone back down, maybe a little more forcefully than she intended.
“Trouble in paradise?” sing songs Evelyn, having apparently already loaded the dishwasher and sent her boys to the backyard to play.
Ginny sighs, slumping against the kitchen island. It comes as no surprise that Evelyn’s sussed her out. Still, it’s a little embarrassing to be read so easily.
“Is it wrong to say I’m using him for his body?”
Evelyn’s nose wrinkles. “I feel like there are other assets of his you should exploit first.”
A bright, unexpected peal of laughter bursts out of Ginny. She claps her hand over her mouth, quaking a little with the force of her amusement. For her part, Evelyn just grins, leaning in conspiratorially.
“C’mon. Tell me I’m wrong,” she eggs Ginny on. “The boy looks like a strong gust of wind would snap him in half. If his body’s all you’re using him for, then it’s no wonder you’re having issues.”
“Appearances can be deceiving,” she says, knowing the last few fits of giggles make it hard to pull off the prim tone she’d aimed for.
Evelyn just rolls her eyes. “Yeah, but are they? I can respect that you’re less,” she pauses, searching for a word, though what she settles on makes Ginny snort, “candid than I am, but you’ve always given up the goods eventually. Here I am, weeks into this fling, and I’ve gotten nothing about this guy from you. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Which makes me think there’s not much to tell in that department.”
Ginny sighs, wishing, not for the first time, that she’d befriended less perceptive people.
The fact of the matter is that Noah’s fine in bed. She usually enjoys herself and he always checks to make sure she’s satisfied. Which, okay, kind of kills any of the romance she might have felt, but it’s not as if it’s that big of a deal. She gets off. He gets off. It all works out.
Even if Noah still feels more like a friend that she sometimes has sex with rather than the guy she’s actually dating. Or would be dating if she ever agreed to any of his outlandish plans.
“I don’t know Ev,” she admits. “I want to like him more than I do, but he can be so intense. And not in the way that you want to hear about.”
“Would you rather keep things casual?”
“I think we are,” she says. “I mean, we haven’t talked about anything important. But it’s been so long since casual was even an option for me—”
“I’m gonna need you to stop right there,” her friend interrupts. “You just turned 24. It has not been ‘so long’ since you last did anything, okay?”
Ginny rolls her eyes, but nods anyway. Evelyn’s not wrong, after all.
“Fine. Then trust me when I say that I’ve done casual and this doesn’t feel like it.”
“Well, do you want it to?”
And that’s the question, isn’t it?
Tarboro, North Carolina
It turns out, neither Ginny nor Scott really have anywhere to go. Ginny’s mom is hopefully sleeping at home and Scott’s back in his parents’ house for the summer. They satisfy themselves with a quick, sloppy make out session in the slightly cramped front seat of his car, long enough for even Ginny to feel the effects of her beers wear off. Which she doesn’t even mind because Scott’s hands and lips make her feel pretty giggly all on their own.
When he finally pulls away, Ginny has to blink out of the pleasant, dreamy haze. The first thing to come into focus are his swollen lips. She has to check the urge to reach out and touch them. She did that.
Scott smiles. “I should probably get you home, huh?”
A quick check of the dashboard clock—3:12 in the morning—confirms that. So, only pausing to load her bike into the back of his hatchback, they cruise off into the early morning.
Back at her house, Scott climbs out of the driver’s seat and insists on unloading and steering her bike up the driveway himself. Ginny doesn’t know what to do other than let him. A boy walking her home for the first time? That’s the kind of normal experience she’s always wanted.
(Even if she hadn’t expected to do it after an illicit visit to a party or letting his hands under her shirt in his car.)
He even kisses her goodnight after trading phones for each other’s number, promising to text her tomorrow.
Ginny stands in the driveway and watches him drive off. Stands there until she can no longer even hear the rumble of his motor.
Honestly, she’s not even sure how she makes it back in the house, up the stairs, and finally into her bed. Only knows that she hasn’t managed to wake up her mother judging by the lack of infuriated shouting.
For once, she sleeps without dreaming.
And when she wakes up, after the first solid night’s sleep she can remember in weeks, there’s already a text message already waiting on her phone.
hey 🙂 had a fun time last night. wanna hang after school sometime this week?
Before she can second guess herself, she taps out:
love to. lmk when ur free 😉
As it turns out, being home from college and without a summer job leaves a guy without a lot of free time. Scott starts coming over nearly every day, either to hang out or pick Ginny up so they can ride around town. Or, more often, find a place to park and talk.
Or not talk.
Which, thankfully isn’t just confined to Scott’s car. As fun as the whole teenage rebellion thing is—sneaking out with a boy, making out with him in his car—she’d really rather not get caught making out in that car.
Well, good thing there’s an entire empty house to make use of.
Sometimes, they sit in the living room and watch anything that isn’t baseball. Scott doesn’t ask when she changes the channel the first time, but he also doesn’t forget. Ginny’s grateful, even as she tries not to think about the fact that not so long ago, it was her and Jordan sitting here.
More often, though, she’ll lead him up to her room.
And. Ginny’s never given much thought to her virginity. Come on. She’s had other things to worry about in her life.
But when Scott’s got her sprawled out on her bed, his hands on her waist, making their way under her t-shirt, it’s hard not to think about it.
Which is why, one early afternoon, she puts a condom from the stash Will thinks he’s hidden so well in his hand. She doesn’t want to think about it. Not now and not in the future.
Besides, she likes Scott. This is what girls do with the boys they like, isn’t it?
He’s sweet and can make her laugh, which really no one’s been able to do lately.
Mostly, though, she likes that he doesn’t make her talk. It seems like everyone— her mom, the grief counselor, her few friends—wants her to talk about the things that she’s feeling and thinking all the damn time when Ginny would just rather forget. No, Scott is definitely not interested in what she has to say, and she doesn’t even really mind.
The giddiness she feels hanging out with Scott is practically foreign. Ginny’s never felt this strange mix of rebellion and elation and excitement before.
And so much fucking better than that sense-muffling numbness she’d been forcing herself to slog through.
The problem, of course, is that the giddy lightness gives way all too easily to the heavy, draining nothing. It doesn’t matter what trouble she gets up to with Scott and his friends—parties with beer, late night convenience store trips after she gets high for the first time, bonfires, all the games of truth or dare and seven minutes in heaven and spin the bottle she never got to play. It’s all so much fun while it’s happening. Ginny smiles and laughs and feels so blessedly normal, she’d cry if she weren’t sure she’d run out of tears.
She’ll go to bed on a high and wake up back in the depths of her apathy. She’ll chafe under her mother’s worried glances and the crushing silence of the house.
But things are better when Scott’s around. She’s better. Feels more human, at the very least.
And at this point, that’s all Ginny wants.
By the time Ginny gets back to her hotel room, she’s exhausted. Not just from playing what was, in retrospect, a too rowdy game of tag with the Sanders boys, either. Much as she loves them—and their parents—it has been so draining to be around people lately. Shouldering their concern, even when it’s coming from a place of genuine affection, has been like a second, unseen injury she’s had to deal with. She has to move carefully, always mindful that one wrong step will tear off the scab, inviting more worry. And Blip and Evelyn are masters of affectionate worry.
She’d kind of like to collapse face first on her mattress and sleep for the next fourteen hours.
But, of course, she has to meet with Amelia before that can happen.
To be perfectly honest, Ginny’s still not sure how she feels about having her agent back. Sure, there’s no one else she’d rather have on her side in business dealings, but that doesn’t soothe the sting of her abandonment. Even if Ginny’d been the one to tell her to go in the first place.
Just another thing to work through.
At precisely 4:00, there’s a sharp rap on the door.
Ginny doesn’t even bother to check the peephole. Only one person in existence can make her presence felt so clearly with one knock.
“Hey, Amelia,” she greets, smiling wanly.
Amelia’s eyes flick up and down her form, assessing, cataloguing, and finally taking on a worried glint. Her eyebrows draw ever so slightly closer together and her perfectly lipsticked mouth purses, but she doesn’t say anything about what she sees. Ginny’s not sure whether or not she should be grateful.
“How was your doctor’s appointment?” the blonde asks, settling onto the sofa and digging her tablet out of her briefcase. Right to the point, then. “No problems?”
Ginny sits down next to her, shaking her head. “Nope. No problems.”
Amelia’s eyes narrow. “You don’t seem that excited.”
“I don’t know if months of excruciating physical therapy and strength training is something to be excited about.”
All she gets in response is a flinty-eyed squint. Somehow, her agent manages to pull it off.
“It’ll be good,” she says, closer to honesty, “to get back in form. Good but hard.”
“You’re no stranger to hard work, G.”
They share a quick smile, Ginny looking away when she realizes how long it’s been since she and Amelia last genuinely smiled at each other.
She clears her throat and asks, “So, what’ve you got for me?”
And they get down to business.
In spite of her injury, there are still plenty of people who want a piece of Ginny Baker. There’ve been tons of requests for photoshoots, for everything from GQ to Harper’s Bazaar. Not to mention all the offers she’s gotten for TV shows, and not just filmed interviews. Apparently, there are a couple sitcoms that want a cameo from her. Amelia gives her the scripts to go over, but even a cursory glance doesn’t fill her with hope.
Seeing Ginny’s wrinkled nose, Amelia holds her hand out with a wry smile.
“Don’t feel like you have to say yes to any of those. I’m sure you’ll get better offers.”
Ginny’s nose doesn’t unwrinkle at that prospect and her agent’s head tilts to study her.
“Or we can look into other options. I know you passed on the memoir, but there are other projects we can line up.”
“Is there—” Ginny pulls at her lip, thinking. She begins again, “Is there anything I can do that’s not about me?” Amelia frowns at that and Ginny doesn’t know how to explain better. Everything she does is about her. Still, she tries. “Like volunteering or something? I don’t want to do a reality show or a podcast or anything else that’s just about building my brand or whatever.”
She would love to say that the Ginny Baker brand can go straight to hell, but it’s basically the only thing she can leverage into making it back into the lineup come spring. For better or worse, it’s gotten her this far.
Maybe at some point it will stop feeling like a costume she sometimes wears. Maybe it’ll start feeling more like just another facet of her.
Amelia considers for a long moment, calculating potential positives no doubt.
“I’ll look into it,” she eventually replies, collecting her things and standing. Apparently that’s the end of it. She gives Ginny a last hard look at the door. Ginny, well used to being studied, has come to expect this treatment when people leave her company. Like they’re not sure if they should be leaving her at all. What she doesn’t expect, though, is for her agent to give her a quick, almost brusque hug before heading for the elevator.
It’s so far out of left field that Ginny stares after Amelia long after she’s gone.
When she finally manages to get a grip on herself, she shakes her head and closes the door.
As she’s done so many times in the past few weeks, Ginny drifts into the bathroom. It is, objectively, a strange place to spend more time than necessary, but it’s not her fault that the architects of the Omni put a window in there with a view of Petco Park.
Before today, though, it felt so much further than the one block that separated them.
But today, after receiving her doctor’s news, it feels within her grasp.
And for the first time since she collapsed three outs away from a no-hitter, Ginny’s ready to reach out for it.
But first, a nap.
Tarboro, North Carolina
For the third time today, Ginny’s phone buzzes in her pocket. She ignores it.
Instead, she stares at the card in her hand, the embossed San Diego Padres logo on it nearly worn away from the number of times she’s run her fingers over it. Joe Amazzo, Scout, Southeast Division it reads in dark blue.
How is just this little bit of card stock so much more appealing than answering Scott’s call?
It’s strange, but she doesn’t think she’s supposed to find teenage rebellion boring.
It hit her sometime this weekend, wedged onto a couch between Scott and one of his friends in someone’s basement, having just finished her turn at spin the bottle. Just two weeks ago, the thrill of kissing a stranger had been enough to send her into a fit of giggles that lasted the whole night. Now, she’d just sat down from having her tongue in another girl’s mouth and she didn’t really feel anything. Just sweaty and a little headache-y from all the noise and smoke hanging in the air.
Going to parties, making small talk with people she doesn’t really know and probably won’t remember in a few years, drinking shitty beer, and coming home smelling like smoke after making out with Scott in the backseat of his hatchback; none of it feels particularly exciting anymore, and it’s only been three weeks.
Morning doesn’t even have to come for the gray haze of apathy to take over now.
It’s time to turn the page on this short chapter.
So, sitting on the back porch’s steps, overlooking the yard where her pop taught her everything he knew, Ginny pulls out her phone and dials.
“This is Joe Amazzo,” comes a slightly familiar voice down the line.
“Hi, Mr. Amazzo,” she says, feeling too young for this. “This is, um. This is Ginny Baker?”
“Oh, I’d almost given up hope of hearing from you.”
“I’m sorry about that. My dad—” she cuts herself off, unsure of how much the scout already knows. He works in the southeast, but there’s no reason that he would’ve paid attention to the news out of a small town like Tarboro. “There was a death in the family.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Ginny,” he says, and the understanding in his voice makes something ache inside her. “Are you calling to let me know you’d rather not be considered for the draft?”
“The opposite, actually.” This is what her pop would want.
There’s a long pause and she has to check the urge to see if the call is disconnected.
Finally, Mr. Amazzo says, “That’s good to hear. When I saw your reel, I knew that I wanted to see your arm in action. Man, am I glad you did. That game you threw for the state championship was masterful.”
She says all the right things, thanks him for the compliments, but she’s stuck on something.
“Wait, you saw my recruitment reel?”
He chuckles. “A lot of us have. You’ve caused something of a stir in the front office, young lady.”
Ginny knows how the scouting process works. Getting her noticed was practically her pop’s second, unpaid job, and he always made sure to keep her updated. At seventeen, she’s been to her fair share of combines, though those were mostly for scouts from college programs, a launch pad to bigger and brighter things. She got into those on the strength of the video she and her pop had spliced together sometime in her junior year. They’d added footage to it as necessary, as she got a better handle on more pitches than her fastball, curve, and screwgie.
What she hadn’t really realized, though, was that that tape had made it’s way up the chain. That someone who actually works for an MLB team had seen it. More than one someone, apparently.
She doesn’t divulge any of this to Mr. Amazzo, instead breathing out a stunned, “Wow.”
“Now, do you have an agent?”
“Um,” she stutters. “Well, my dad would’ve…”
He makes a sympathetic noise, but doesn’t offer any of the usual comments. “That’s not a problem. What about other offers? Scholarships, other scouts?”
“I have a full ride to NC State,” she admits. The slight whine of the screen door alerts her to the fact that she’s no longer alone on the porch, but Ginny keeps her attention on the conversation.
“A good school,” the scout acknowledges, “but not one with a great track record of sending its alums to the show.”
Ginny knows this, but there hadn’t been that many schools willing to offer her a full scholarship to play ball, even with all the recruitment camps she’s attended.
Besides, “Well, I hadn’t really thought that a pro club would scout me right out of high school. I figured they’d want to wait and see if I’d be worth the gamble.”
“That might be true with other ball clubs, but like I said, you’ve caused quite a stir in San Diego. Even if you hadn’t given it much thought, how does it sound now? Going pro and signing with the Padres?”
“It would be an honor to play for San Diego,” she says, ignoring her mother’s presence hovering behind her. It becomes harder the longer she has to, so it’s a good thing that the call ends without too much more fuss.
The silence stretches out until Ginny can’t take the weight of her mother’s silent disapproval for one more second.
“What?” she asks without turning around.
Her mom sighs, the floorboards creaking beneath her feet as she steps closer. “Ginny bean, don’t you think you should consider—”
“I might not get drafted again, Mom,” she sighs, finally craning around and peering up at the one parent she has left. “If I go to NC State, there’s nothing to say that I’ll catch the eye of another scout or that I’ll even be able to play by the time I’m 21. This is what dad would want.”
Her mom doesn’t argue with that. Because there’s no part of it that’s untrue, particularly where her husband’s wishes come into play. That doesn’t mean that she’s convinced, though.
“Just make sure you think about this, baby. Make sure it’s what you want.”
Rather than roll her eyes or ignore the advice, Ginny does. She thinks long and hard about it for a week. She thinks about it through the long graduation ceremony she sits through. She thinks about it on the nighttime bike rides she’s resumed. She thinks about it all the way up to the moment her phone begins to vibrate late in the evening on June 8th.
For a minute, she just stares, not recognizing the number, but knowing all the same who was on the other end. What news she would get.
If only she would pick up the phone.
Heart in her throat, she answers.
“It’s my pleasure to inform you have been selected by the San Diego Padres in the 27th round of this year’s Rule 4 Draft.”
Anything else the unfamiliar voice says fades away into a muted murmur. The details about her contract and deadlines and all the minutiae don’t matter. Not when she’ll have to go over it all when she signs the thing anyway.
And there’s no way she’s not signing.
Because for the first time in weeks Ginny has a path to walk again. That path, for better or worse is the same one her father set her down when she was four years old. Even if he’s not here, she is.
And she is going to make him proud.
She knows she’s not supposed to be doing this.
Not without the supervision of a trainer or the pitching coach, at least.
But standing in Petco’s pitching lanes, Ginny finds that she likes being alone here as much as she likes driving alone in her car.
Besides, there’s something right about taking this moment to herself. The moment where baseball comes back into her life for the second time.
In the corner, waiting patiently, is the same cart of baseballs that had stood silent witness to her throwing frenzy the night of her failed start.
Warily, Ginny picks one from the pile. There are plenty of newer balls in the bin, but the slightly cracked leather feels right in her hand. Like that, a chain reaction goes off inside her—her jumbled emotions untangling into something that feels much closer to order. There are still a few knots to work through, but it suddenly feels so much easier to breathe. To exist, even. Ginny wants to laugh or shout or jump, do something to mark the occasion.
She doesn’t, just turns to the mound.
The last piece settles back into place as she climbs up the hill. Even if she’d maybe rather be out on the field or even in the bullpen, there’s something right about standing here. With a glove on her left hand and a ball in her right, Ginny feels like she knows how the world works again.
“Baker,” comes a gruff, familiar voice from the door. Ginny hadn’t even realized how much she missed it until she hears it again. “Are you supposed to be doing that?”
Ginny turns and tilts her head to regard her captain. He’s leaning on the railing, squinting at her worriedly, his gym bag slung over his shoulder. She looks back at the ball in her hand and smiles. Just a little, but the fact that it’s there is all that matters.
“Just got cleared today,” she tells Mike, rolling out her shoulders and setting herself on the rubber.
“Screwgie,” he says, before she can even deliver. Ginny whips around, a sure balk in a game, but it’s not like there’s an umpire to call her out. Mike shrugs at the question plain on her face. “You drop your hip a little when you’re gonna throw a screwball.”
Ginny frowns and goes back through the setup to see if he’s right. Just as she rocks back from her lean in, she feels it. On cue, Mike chimes, “There.”
She tosses him an exasperated look. “You couldn’t have let me know I’ve been telegraphing my pitches sometime during the season?”
He shrugs. “It’s not that obvious. Takes some looking to really see it.”
“All I’m hearing is that you’ve been staring at my hips all season,” she snorts, resetting for another pitch.
When Mike doesn’t reply, not even after she leaves her slider hanging, she spares him another glance.
He’s already looking back, his head tipped to the side curiously as he watches her. Even in the low lighting of the pitching lane, Ginny can see how intently he’s studying her.
She swallows down the wave of—something that wants to capsize her. As much as she knows she should look away, break eye contact, Ginny can’t bring herself to. After a beat too long, Mike straightens and clears his throat.
Ginny digs a toe into the ground.
She’s not sure what she’s expecting to find when she looks up, but it’s definitely not Mike climbing down the stairs, glove in hand.
“What are you doing?” she demands, pushing aside the intense moment with him the way she’s sure she’ll have to push many moments aside in the future.
“C’mon,” Mike grins, apparently willing to follow her lead, “would you really rather throw at the mat than an actual catcher?”
Ginny considers for a moment. “You sure your knees can take it, old man?”
He rolls his eyes and, God. She really did miss him. Attitude and all.
“As long as you don’t make me jump all over the place trying to wrangle your wild pitches, rookie,” he tosses over his shoulder as he strides to the back of the alley.
She gives him a sarcastic, “Hah hah,” as he sinks into his crouch and Mike just flaps his mitt at her impatiently.
As Ginny leans in, she inhales smooth and steady, only releasing the breath when she straightens and sets for the pitch. It’s an automatic response, trained into her lungs from years and years of practice. Usually that final breath before the wind up is her last chance to calm her nerves, force herself to relax.
Tonight, though, she doesn’t even need it. Her body sings as muscles tense and coil exactly the way they’re meant to. Everything, from the dirt beneath her feet to the ball in her hand, feels right.
The only thing that’ll feel better is finally getting that ball from her hand to the mitt sixty feet away.
So, she winds up and lets it fly.