Rounding Third - Michelle Lynn

Chapter One


I’m back.

A thrilling and exhilarating rupture of pure pleasure ignites through me as the ball sails over the fence line. I circle the bases while my teammates crowd home plate to congratulate me on my twentieth home run for the year.

My eyes seek out Gus in the stands, a scout who’s been following me for two years. Gus is my angel. He’s kept tabs on me since I pushed aside my scholarship to Vanderbilt to play ball at Millcreek Junior College. Our smiles could compete for whose is wider because we both know what my killer game tonight means—I’m in.

The person who holds my future is seated right next to Gus. The short-statured Bud Lipton is the head coach for the Ridgemont Tigers Division One baseball team. He might not be smiling like Gus, but his signature curt nod in my direction speaks more than a cheesy smile. It says the third baseman spot is mine.

My throat locks up as I think of seeing two familiar faces on the Ridgemont campus, but I need to “face my past in order to soar toward my future”. Words of my preacher father, not me.

On my way back to the dugout, my eyes cast down to the dirt to stop the haunted memories of her jumping up and down with every one of my home runs in high school. Her long brown hair, pulled tight in a ponytail, would swing back and forth as her breasts jiggled under her I Love My Ballplayer T-shirt. Her blue eyes would reveal everything she felt, including heartbreak. The choking sensation grows tighter with the assurance that I’ll be close to her again, but my father’s advice rings in my ears once more. I’ve let the past dictate enough of my future. The time has come for me to face my mistakes and claim my girl.

We win the game, eight to two, mostly due to me. I’m not bragging, only stating a fact.

I’m out of the shower, wrapping my towel around my waist, when Coach Fritz calls me into his office. Tossing on a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, I pad into his office, noticing Coach Lipton and Gus seated in the small space. I inhale my last breath as a starved man. This is my moment to feast on my future. The moment that I should have claimed as mine my freshman year of college, has arrived.

“Crosby,” Coach Fritz starts talking.

My mind is running in overdrive.

“You know Gus, and this is Coach Lipton from Ridgemont.” He points to the two men in front of him, as though I don’t know who the all-star player turned coach of division one champs, two years running, is.

Coach Lipton stands, holding his hand out. “Lynch, we’re impressed.” His face is stone-cold, showing no signs of being impressed.

Was it my hitting, my fielding, or my ability to erupt from a mound of ashes with a few stubborn embers that continue to glow?

Needless to say, my past follows me, and everyone’s familiar with the story of the kid who held his dreams in the palms of his hands, only to demolish his future before he had the chance to claim it.

I shake his hand. “Thank you, sir.”

He stuffs his hands into his pockets, his lips not wavering from their firm line.

“When Gus suggested I come down here”—his eyes search the room for some recognition to which small town he’s in, and he quickly finds the name of our junior college printed behind Coach Fritz’s desk—“to Millcreek, I thought he was crazy. But, when he told me it was to see Crosby Lynch, how could I pass that up? You’ve been a mystery to me, boy.”

I take a deep breath, pushing back the emotions wanting to flood out. “Thank you for making the trip,” I comment to veer this conversation in any direction other than my past.

“Pleasure is mine. Let’s cut the bullshit. You know you have a spot. I know you have a spot. Our third baseman, Mike Ripley, signed a contract with the Cardinals, so you need to report to campus by the third week in August. The team captain, Braxton Brentwood, will contact you about lodging. See you on the field September fourth.” He curtly nods his head and strolls out of the room.

“Thank you, Coach,” I call out before inhaling oxygen, finally able to fill my lungs.

Then, the name of the captain echoes in my head. Brax is the team captain? I knew I’d be facing him if