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


The Summer Before Junior Year of College


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