Home > Behind the Plate (The Boys of Baseball #2)

Behind the Plate (The Boys of Baseball #2)
Author: J. Sterling

Prologue


The Summer Before Junior Year of College

Chance

The airport was too bright, light filtering in from every direction as I looked around at the sheer amount of people rushing in and out, avoiding touching each other like they had the plague. Why was everyone always in such a hurry?

My phone buzzed in my hand, and I looked down, seeing a text from Cole Anders, wishing me good luck. I was surprised that he remembered I was leaving today.

Cole was my teammate at Fullton State, and he had just gotten drafted for Houston. I couldn’t have been happier for him for getting the chance to pursue his professional dreams, especially after all the shit he’d gone through last season in order to get there.

I typed out a quick reply, telling him the same thing back, and shoved my phone in my pocket when it buzzed again.

I pulled it out, pressed on the screen, and saw a picture of Mac’s face zoomed in way too close. Mac Davies was another teammate of mine, but he was also my closest friend. He was currently driving to Washington state to play baseball for the summer there, and I knew he was bored traveling by himself. I sent him a picture of me flipping him off, and my mom swatted my hand.

“Really?” she pretended to scold me, but I knew she didn’t really care.

“It’s just Mac,” I said, like that should excuse my behavior.

“I like Mac. Don’t be mean to him,” she chastised, and I rolled my eyes, apparently a trait I’d gotten from her since my dad brought it up each and every time I did it.

“I like him too. That’s why I’m mean to him.” I smiled, and she shook her head, her eyes starting to water.

“Mom, no.” I stood in the airport with my baseball bag slung over my shoulder as I watched my mom’s bright green eyes fill with more tears. “Please don’t cry. Dad, help!” I turned to look for my dad, willing him to come and get my mom, but he was preoccupied with my little sister, Jacey, who wasn’t so little anymore.

My mom wiped under her eyes and smiled. “I’m fine. I’m sorry. It’s just always emotional when you leave for the whole summer.”

“I’ve been doing this every year since I was a freshman,” I reminded her, but it was no use.

I’d been invited to the most exclusive baseball programs each summer since I started playing college ball. I knew how lucky I was to have this chance and how most other guys would kill to be in my position, but I also knew how hard I’d worked for it. Invitations like this didn’t get handed to guys who couldn’t play the game, no matter what your last name was. I’d earned the right to be on that field with the best of the best, but some players never saw it that way. To some guys, I’d always be riding my dad’s coattails, and nothing I did could change their minds.

“I know. It’s still hard though. Wait until you’re a parent. You’ll see,” she said before her expression changed, and she swallowed. “No. I mean, do not be a parent. Just say no. Not yet. No kids for you. You’re still a kid.”

She kept saying all the things she’d told me a million times before, and my dad finally decided to walk over and save me from the lecture starting that was all his fault, it was about to happen anyway because of his past.

My mom tended to absolutely freak out whenever the thought of baseball groupies going after her only son shot into her mind. It was like she was catapulted back in time, her face twisting, eyes narrowing, heart breaking. I knew far too much about my parents’ dating history and the things that they had gone through when they were my age. But I wasn’t my dad. At least, that was what I’d been told a thousand times by everyone who had grown up with him. Apparently, not sleeping with the entire female population made me nothing like my old man.

I’d started keeping girls out of my life once I realized that some of them were exactly like the ones my parents had always warned me about. I’d grown up hearing stories about females with malicious intent, but it never really sank in until it started happening to me in high school. It scared the living shit out of me to realize the things that girls were capable of doing and saying, the lies they were willing to spread just to escape their reality and hopefully gain a part of mine.

There was a time when I was stupid and naive and believed that people meant the things that they said, but I learned that wasn’t true time and time again after getting burned by females I’d genuinely liked and thought they liked me back. They didn’t. At least, not really. They liked the idea of me being a famous baseball player with a lot of money. They wanted a part of that, and I wanted none of them So, I had become untrusting and closed off. All I wanted to do was play professional baseball, and I did not want my future derailed in any way.

My dad was Jack Carter, former Major League Baseball player—on and off the field—and all-around legend at Fullton State. He cast a long and wide shadow, but to be honest, I never felt like I lived in it. Where Jack Carter was one of the best left-handed pitchers anyone had seen in years, I was one of the best catchers on the field. You tried to steal on me, and it was to your detriment. Take too big of a lead at first base, and I was going to throw your ass out before your fingers even reached back for the bag. I had a cannon for an arm, and I wasn’t afraid to use it.

My dad wrapped his arms around my mom and planted a kiss against her head. “What’s this about Chance having kids?” He gave me an all-knowing look, clearly getting joy from riling my mom up. It was one of his favorite pastimes, teasing her.

“I was just reminding him that he’s not allowed to have any,” my mom spoke up, and Jacey laughed.

“Ever. I’m not allowed to have any ever, apparently,” I added, not that I had a problem with that, to be honest. I couldn’t even imagine finding someone who looked at me and didn’t get dollar signs in their eyes.

My dad stepped away from my mom and toward me, putting his hand on my shoulder. “You know she just worries.”

“I know.” I narrowed my eyes. “Because of you.”

“Well, I wasn’t as smart as you are,” he offered with a shrug, and Jacey busted out laughing again.

“What are you laughing at, Squirt?” I turned to face her and rubbed my fist on top of her head, messing up her hair.

She used to let me do it when she was younger, but now that she was fifteen, she hated it.

“He called you smart. We both know that’s a lie.” She maneuvered herself out of my grip and started straightening her blonde hair.

“What do you know about it?”

My little sister was far too fluent in sarcasm and being a smart-ass. I wanted to get pissed at her for it, but it usually made me laugh. My sister and I had a great relationship. I wasn’t sure if it was the six-year age difference or just our personalities, but we always got along. Except for when she started crushing and flirting with my friends. I wanted to lock her in her bedroom and never let her out.

“I know you can’t pass math.” She stuck her tongue out and ran a few steps away, so I couldn’t reach her. “Sucks to be dumb!”

I swiveled my head toward my parents, knowing that they had ratted me out to her. What she had said was the truth, but still. I’d delayed retaking this math class for as long as I could, and I couldn’t put it off anymore. If I didn’t pass this class this coming fall semester, I wasn’t going to be eligible to play … in my freaking draft year.

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