Before I take my seat, I smile at the man who is sitting next to me. Both teams are warming up, and it takes me a minute to spot Cooper. Deep down I’m hoping he sees me.
People file in all around me, excited for the game. I am, too, as this is my first professional game, spring training or not.
The National Anthem is sung, and the starting lineups announced. The Boston faithful cheer for everyone, and I make sure to whistle for Cooper when his name is called.
I do it again when he runs out to center field.
Watching him jog gives me the perfect opportunity to stare at him. There’s something about a uniform, be it sports or otherwise, that really makes a man look fantastic. I try to snap a few pictures of him, but they’re blurry, and I realize that, if I’m going to come to any more games, I need binoculars so I can fully pay attention to him while he’s in the outfield.
Loud music plays as the first batter comes up to bat. The first pitch and he’s swinging, and Cooper is moving into position. He catches the ball, easily from what I can gather, and everyone goes crazy. The announcers say a few nice things about Cooper, all of which I happen to agree with.
It’s the third inning before Cooper gets his turn to bat. The man next to me has a few choice things to say about him while he’s standing there. Every pitch sparks a new comment, and he writes down a note. I hadn’t seen him do that for anyone except Cooper.
When Cooper strikes out, he grumbles a long line of expletives and writes a few more notes down.
“I take it you’re not happy?” I say jokingly.
He glares at me and shakes his head. “No, I’m not. He didn’t waste years of training to strike out to this pitcher. He’s not focused on the game.”
“Do you know Cooper?”
This time he looks at me, the scowl meaner than before. “I’m his father.”
I slink back in my chair and focus on the game. It’s probably a bad time to introduce myself as Cooper’s friend, and by his attitude, I’m not sure there will ever be a good time.
Everything in my life was lining up perfectly until I got the call from my dad. Things with Ainsley are moving along nicely, and Diamond informed me that I was starting the first game. These are two very important and hard-earned moments in my life. I never took into consideration that my father would head to Fort Myers to watch me play. Honestly, the idea never even occurred to me that this would so important to him that he’d take time off from work. I figured he’d wait until I was in Boston before he came to watch. That was an error on my part. He was coming to town, and I couldn’t very well tell him not to show up.
I can’t stomach the thought of him meeting Ainsley, because he won’t approve of her. To this day, I have yet to bring a girlfriend around because his thoughts are always the same: They either want me for my money or they’re a distraction. He can’t see that they want to be with me for me. He only sees that they’re around me because of my career. And that’s not how I see Ainsley.
I don’t believe she’s the type to be with anyone for money. She certainly didn’t even want to go out with me, but I whittled her down with my charm. I’m not sure that will be enough, though, if my father said something to her.
When I come in from warming up, my stomach drops instantly when I see Ainsley sitting next to my dad. I was tempted to call her and ask her not to come, but I don’t think that would’ve gone over very well. The last thing I want to do is give her an excuse to stop seeing me. It’s my plan to see as much of her as I can before we head back to Boston. After that, it’ll be a mutual decision on how to proceed.
I had every intention of making sure Ainsley knew I saw her in the stands until my dad showed up. I can’t put her through his wrath. It would be unfair, and I need time to talk to her about him.
Throughout the game, I struggled. I struck out three times and hit into a double play. This isn’t the time for me not to be at my best when I’m up to bat. Having a nonexistent batting average to start my season isn’t exactly how I want things to go. The only aspect of my game that didn’t suck tonight was my fielding. No one could get anything by me, and I saved two home runs. Unfortunately, we lost four to seven, and Hawk Sinclair is pissed.
The clubhouse looks like a war zone with stools in locations they shouldn’t be, the laundry bucket is tipped over, and there is a lot of yelling coming from Diamond’s office. Sinclair was upset when Diamond took him out of the game. Since it’s our first preseason game, Sinclair needs to save his arm for when our games count. He’s already in the rotation as a starter. He has nothing to prove. Where I have everything.
By all accounts, we should’ve beaten Minnesota. We have the better team on paper and should be a contender for the American League title this year. We can’t lose games. Come out strong and finish stronger: That should be our motto. I know I need to do my part as well.
“Hey, rookie, we’re going out tonight. You in?” Travis Kidd asks as he walks by buck-ass naked.
“Nah, man. Thanks, though.”
“You sure? Guerra and Wilder are coming.”
An empty apartment sounds like bliss. “My dad is here. I need to hang with him.”
There could be ramifications for not going out. Not from the organization, but the players. I don’t want to be seen as someone who doesn’t like to have a good time. I’d love to go out, bond some more with the guys, but I have a pressing issue to take care of. We all have someone overbearing in our lives; mine just happens to be my father.
I shower and change, preparing to face the inevitable. I have to choose between Ainsley and my dad, at least for tonight. With my cell phone in my hand, I text my dad.