“I love it. I love everything about the game.”
“Do you ever wish you had done something else?”
I think about her question and wonder what else I could’ve done. If my dad and I hadn’t turned to tossing the ball in the backyard, where would we be? For us, it was therapeutic and a way for me to express how angry and hurt I was that my mom had died. The harder I threw, the better I felt. The more my dad cringed when he caught the ball, the more satisfying it was that he was hurting as much as I was.
“I don’t know what else I would’ve done, honestly. Baseball is what I know. My dad used it as a tool to help me cope with my mom’s passing, and before I knew it, I was trying out for these elite baseball clubs and making all-star teams. College and major league scouts would come watch my games in high school, and I thought, ‘Wow, this could be a career for me.’ I was drafted out of high school but chose to go to college first. I wanted something to fall back on in case baseball didn’t work out.”
“What’s your degree in?” She turns and looks at me. The moon is casting enough of a glow that I can make out her facial features. Now would be the perfect time to lean over and kiss her, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not what she wants from me.
“Well, the only thing that made sense.”
Ainsley holds her hand up. “Don’t tell me, it’s something to do with sports.”
I nod, holding back laughter. “Yeah, broadcasting. I figure I can become a commentator or something when I retire.”
“Interesting,” she says, turning back toward the ocean.
I lean into her, bumping her with my shoulder. “Don’t be like that.”
“Like I took the easy way out with my degree, or my career isn’t the same as a doctor or whatever.”
“Is it, though?”
“Baseball is America’s game. It doesn’t know social class, race, or any other classification. It’s a game every one can play and afford to participate in. You don’t have to have straight A’s to go to college to play ball. Hell, most players come to the majors right out of high school. It’s a game for everyone.”
“A game that you make millions of dollars at.”
“It’s no different than being an actor. We bring entertainment to people.” I counter her claim.
She seems to ponder this before nodding. “The ticket prices for your games are outrageous.”
“That’s on the owners, not me. The players don’t set those prices.”
Ainsley turns to face me. “But you do. You get paid millions of dollars to play the game you all agree that you love, and people can’t afford to go to your games. If you didn’t make so much, more people would be able to go watch you.”
“True, but the same could be said about doctors. If they didn’t charge so much, or insurance companies, for that matter, more people would be able to get treatment.”
She doesn’t know that my mom couldn’t get the treatment needed because we couldn’t afford the more expensive drugs, or the specialists. The insurance my father had simply wouldn’t cover the expenses.
“I don’t like this argument,” she says.
“Me neither. I think we should talk about something else.”
“Like what?” she asks.
Taking her hand in mind, I kiss the top of it before meeting her gaze. “Like you going out with me.”
She shakes her head.
“I know, you don’t date athletes, so think of me as a sports broadcaster.” I waggle my eyebrows at her, and she laughs.
“You’re hard to resist, Cooper Bailey.”
With those words, I pull her closer. “Then stop resisting me, Ainsley.” This is my chance, and I take it. My lips brush against hers lightly, testing her resolve. She’s either going to punch me, push me away, or let me continue to kiss her.
The winter was long, but thankfully we had very little snow, and now the day that we’ve all been waiting for has arrived.