Okay, as I’ve said before, I’ve always loved baseball, it’s in my blood, but I have to say that what really made me fall in love with it forever was by watching Little League games. I was never very good at sports myself. I was the girl picking flowers in the field at the soccer game instead of chasing the ball. I was the one who always struck out swinging. Not to mention I was that child that ducked and covered when a ball came my way in volleyball.
However, when my little brother made the All Star Little League team I was hooked. It didn’t matter that by then I was a teenager who probably should’ve found cooler things to do if I was in any way normal, thankfully I’m not. Instead, I went to my brother’s games. I was the one who had to report on the progress with the game when I showed up late to find out that my mother had gotten every spectator kicked off the field because of her rant to the umpire. (She has never and will never change.)
I loved the chaos of Little League games, like the time an ice cream truck showed up mid-game and both teams left dust on the field in their effort to mob the truck first. Or the time one kid ran the bases backward. I loved how my little sister had to stop at each base and hop on it, she couldn’t run through it to the next one to save her life. (She ended up marrying my brother’s teammate from his All Star days.) Or how my son had to slide into each base and unfortunately fired up the rest of the team to do the same much to the coaches’ dismay.
I also loved the brilliance those kids could show sometimes. The way that I would sometimes forget I was watching kids play because they made it look so freaking flawless. Freaking kids. It blew my mind. Some games I will never forget. I won’t forget their passion, or their love of the game. I won’t forget the hours my brother logged in at the local batting cage, or how supportive those owners were of our county’s Little League team. Or how the local minor league team gave each team a chance to play a game on the “big field” and each time a chance to interact with the players at a game. My son stood with the second baseman during the National Anthem.
These are all memories that have lasted a lifetime and they definitely were an inspiration behind my story “Wild Pitch.” In it best friends and ex-Major League players Ruben and Alan coach rival Little League teams as they start their own All Star season.
“The one constant through all the years… has been baseball.” — Field of Dreams
Baseball, America’s Pastime, carries with it a mythology like no other sport, entwined with the ups and downs of the nation. In Playing Ball, authors Shae Connor, Kerry Freeman, Marguerite Labbe, and Kate McMurray explore the love for baseball and among the men who play it, from the 1920s through modern times. These four stories tell the tales of baseball men who find love off the field, whether with the heir to a baseball empire, a sports reporter, a fan, or even each other after their playing careers come to an end.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE BY SHAE CONNOR
College student Toby MacMillan, grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan, works with the team’s locker room crew during the baseball season. It’s there that he meets Caleb Browning, who’s getting his first shot at the big leagues, and Toby, who’s been trying to keep his sexuality under wraps, finds himself smitten. An innocent dinner soon turns into a not-so-innocent night together in Caleb’s bed, but Toby quickly calls things off, afraid of the ramifications of their tryst.
Unable to avoid each other because of their jobs, the two men develop a tentative friendship, but it soon becomes more. After Caleb takes a fastball to the head during a game, Toby’s presence at his hospital bedside catches the attention of more than just the medical staff. Their budding romance hits the news, and Toby’s grandfather threatens to cut Toby out of team ownership unless he denies it. Facing a choice between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it, Toby has to decide if he’s ready to make a stand.
WILD PITCH BY MARGUERITE LABBE
For as long as Ruben Martell has known him, he’s been in love with his best friend Alan Hartner. They played together, traveled together and publicly dueled on opposite teams. Now years later they’re both retired from the Major Leagues, are running a business together and coaching rival Little League teams. And in all those years, Ruben hasn’t given up hope that Alan might return his feelings one day, but now he’s starting to believe that Alan will never chose to move beyond the memory of his late wife.
Alan quit the game at the height of his career to take care of his sons and the one constant he’s been able to rely on is Ruben. In all that time he has tried to forget about the night everything changed, only being with Ruben on a day-to-day basis is weakening his resolve. They’d stepped over the line before and it had hurt their friendship and left Alan with a guilt he didn’t know how to handle. Alan doesn’t want to do anything to jeopardize that friendship now even if it mean denying the feelings he’s kept locked away for so long.
ONE MAN TO REMEMBER BY KATE MCMURRAY
In the summer of 1927, all anyone in New York can talk about is Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ Murderer’s Row, the unstoppable batting lineup that no other team can beat. Skip Littlefield, an infielder for the less flashy New York Giants, is happy to let the Babe take the spotlight, even as he starts hitting as well as Ruth himself. Sports journalist Walter Selby has gained a reputation for being something of a dandy. He’s a force to be reckoned with, too, as one of the most dynamic voices in the daily papers. And now he can’t help but notice the talented first baseman helping the Giants race for the pennant. Then he meets the man and is left breathless—Skip is talented, soft-spoken, and also incredibly handsome. And Walt quickly comes to understand why Skip wants to stay out of the spotlight.
Against the backdrop of the lights of Times Square, the excitement of the era, and some of the most incredible baseball anyone has ever played, Skip starts to fall for Walt. But no one can know. Skip’s only hope is that the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from the quite romance blooming between Skip and Walt, or else Skip’s whole career and everything he loves is at stake.
ONE LAST ROAD TRIP BY KERRY FREEMAN
After the last game of his major league career, Jake Wilson is hitting the road, and he’s making a few stops along the way. He has an ex-wife with a new life in New Mexico, a son following in his footsteps in Oklahoma, a daughter with an announcement in Tennessee, and the gamble of a lifetime in Georgia. In 2,500 miles, his life will completely change, and he can only hope that his visit to his first love will cause everything to change for the better.
EXCERPT FROM WILD PITCH
The sun beat down on the diamond and the air had dust kicked up from dozens of cleats. Though it was warm, it wasn’t as humid as it would be back in Florida. Most winters, Ruben couldn’t figure out how he’d ended up in Vermont, of all places, but he loved the summers, even if they were too short. He loved the mist on the mountains on quiet mornings and the view from his house of the picturesque lake. Even more than that, he loved the community in this small town and their passion for the local Little League teams.
Ruben looked around at the ring of expectant young faces covered in sweat, all with streaks of dirt embedded into their uniforms. Was there any better sport than baseball? Despite everything that had been dragging him down and his argument with Alan, it hadn’t been hard to throw himself into the scrimmage, not with all these boys looking to him and his assistant coach, Laurie, for direction.
“That was a great scrimmage, guys. You keep that heart when the games begin, and we’ll take this the whole way.”
“Coach Hartner has got real good hitters on his team,” Sammy said as he looked back at Alan’s team, huddled by the other dugout.
“And we have good hitters on ours too. Don’t let him psych you out, now.” Ruben tugged on the bill of Sammy’s cap. “Besides, if you keep pitching the way you do, you’ll leave them swinging at nothing but air.”
“Hey, Coach, you gonna do the game ball this year?” Christian chimed in, setting his glove on his head like a makeshift baseball cap. Ruben refrained from shaking his head as he struck a pose. The kid was a good player when he focused on the game instead of midfield song and dance antics. His biggest hurdle was the need to be constantly doing something.
“Absolutely.” Ruben retrieved one of the balls they’d used in practice, the pristine white of the leather all but gone behind ground-in dirt. He signed it and tossed the ball to Laurie to sign as well. He gave one ball away at the end of every scrimmage and game, and made sure all the kids got one over the course of the season. “Okay, this ball goes to Parker. You’ve showed the most improvement since we started practice and you kept your head in the game today.”
“Wicked!” Parker’s face lit up as he caught the ball, and his teammates congratulated him before racing off to raid the cooler for their drinks and snacks. For a few minutes there was nothing but chaos as parents packed up their folding chairs and tried to get their kids’ equipment sorted out. Ruben glanced across at the other dugout and picked out Alan’s familiar figure as he shoved spare bats into the duffel bag.
AND THAT’S NOT ALL!
To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL and our blog tour, Shae, Kate, Kerry, and I have put together a pretty awesome giveaway.
Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren, and swag from all four authors.
Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.
The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013. To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.
But there are some rules:
You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.