Crushing on Him (Men of Summer 0.50) - Page 6

Screaming and cheering commenced with Reese thrusting her arms in the air, demanding we celebrate, and the two people who’d raised me yanking me in for a huge group hug.

Then my grandpa played his word. Strike. “Call lots of those, son,” he said, pride in his voice.

“I will,” I said, and it felt like a promise. To him, to me, to my family. To do everything with this opportunity.

The next week, I packed my bags to head to Bakersfield, California, home of the Cougars Triple-A team. I was on my way to play professional baseball.




I moved in with a hip relief pitcher named Sullivan. We shared a tiny apartment in downtown Bakersfield, which meant there was a laundromat, a 7-Eleven, and a couple of sandwich shops near us.

Translation: Not much to do.

Hence, we played Xbox a ton when we weren’t on the field, along with another guy on the team who hung out with us a lot. A funny ladies’ man of a centerfielder named Miguel. They’d both been in the minors for a couple years, hoping to get the call. I was the hotshot new guy who’d gone high in the draft. Still, the three of us became friends as we played our hearts out, hoping for that moment when we’d move to the next stage of our careers.

As we neared the end of the first season, Sullivan marched into the apartment one evening, strode straight over to the Xbox, and turned it off.

“What’d you do that for?” Miguel asked, since he was at our place that evening.

“It’s time to go out,” Sullivan announced.

“And why is it time to go out?” Miguel countered.

Sullivan stared at us, bug-eyed. “Because we need to celebrate. We’ve had a great season. We have an awesome chance at getting called up. Let’s go out tonight and celebrate being this much closer to going to Arizona for spring training,” he said, holding up his thumb and forefinger to show a sliver of space.

“That’s the only goal,” I said, setting the console down and pushing up on my feet.

We went to a bar in downtown Bakersfield, and a couple of local ladies came up to me, wanting to flirt.

I smiled and chatted, but I didn’t want to lead them on. “My friends might be more your type,” I said to a pretty blonde.

She pouted, set a hand on my shoulder. “But you’re mine.”

Sullivan laughed, tossed his head back. “Sweetheart, you’re not his.”

“Ohhhh.” Understanding dawned on her.

I just shrugged and smiled.

“Well, do you think your friend is cute?” she asked me, hooking a thumb at Sullivan.

I cracked up. “I’m not going to answer that. That’s for you to find out.”

And they did, as Sullivan and Miguel bought drinks for the ladies.

After thirty minutes, it was clear there wasn’t much there for me. I didn’t want to pick anyone up anyway. “I’m going to hit the road,” I said.

“G, you are the best wingman ever.” Sullivan offered a fist for knocking.

I knocked back, then took off.

I went home alone. I didn’t mind. There would be time for men later in my life. I didn’t need to be hooking up in the minors. All I needed was to continue on my epic tear on the diamond. To do right by my family. To do right by myself. And to show the world what I was capable of.

That night, as Sullivan and Miguel had their fun, I settled into the couch and tuned into the Cougars’ game as they played the Aces. I leaned closer, intensely studying every pitch.

Guessing what the catcher would call for.

How the batters would do.

Late in the game, Declan came to the plate again, and I drew a deep breath, narrowing in on his stance, recalling his performance this season.

The pitcher went into the windup and threw a slider.

And holy shit!

Declan connected hard.

The ball soared all the way over the fences for a grand slam, clinching a playoff slot for the Cougars.

I cheered, stoked for my team.

Yes, that was my fucking team.

Afterward, the press wanted to talk to the shortstop who’d clobbered that ball and sealed the spot in the divisionals.

“Just happy to put the team ahead,” Declan said with an easy grin to one reporter.

“Most of your home runs come when your team is behind. You’re getting quite a reputation for being a clutch home-run hitter,” the reporter said.

Declan’s smile didn’t waver. “I’m happy to have that rep.”

Then he looked directly at the camera and flung a happy grin its way. “Hi, Mom.”

And he walked off.

My stomach flipped, because wasn’t that all kinds of endearing?

I heaved a happy sigh, glanced around, and checked my phone. Sullivan had sent a text saying don’t wait up.

I replied with: As if I would.

I headed to the bathroom, stripped out of my clothes, and turned the water on high and hot.

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